In order to help decrease the incidence of serious injury and death to children who are involved in car accidents, Ohio requires children to use safety seats while traveling.
Q: When am I required to use a safety seat for my daughter?
A: If your child weighs less than 40 pounds or is less than four years of age, she must ride in a safety seat.
Q: When may I use a booster seat for my daughter?
A: Your child may ride in a booster seat if she is between four and seven years of age and less than four feet, nine inches (57 inches) tall. Children eight years of age or older may use a standard adult seat belt.
Q: Is my child required to be in the back seat of the car?
A: No. Your child may be seated in the front seat or the backseat of the car. Though Ohio does not require your child to be in the back seat, most pediatricians and related experts agree that your child is safest when seated in the back seat.
Q: What penalties might I face if my child is not properly seated?
A: First time offenders will be guilty of a minor misdemeanor and face a minimum fine of $25 to a maximum fine of $75. Repeat offenders will be guilty of a fourth degree misdemeanor, which can include a maximum punishment of up to thirty days in jail and a $250 fine.
Q: What if I can’t afford a proper safety seat?
A: If you cannot afford a safety seat, your local police department, fire department, church, or hospital may provide you with one at little or no cost.
If you purchase a used safety seat, inspect it thoroughly and contact the manufacturer to ensure that it has not been recalled. You can sign-up for monthly recall alerts at http://www.safekids.org/our-work/recalls/2010/ .
Q: Where can I get help properly installing my car seat?
A: Some local hospitals, police departments, or fire departments are staffed with safety seat technicians who will help you install your child’s safety seat properly. There are also safety seat inspection stations throughout the state. Find the site nearest to you at http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/childps/CPSFitting/Index.cfm. Make sure that you are ready for National Seat Check Saturday, September, 25, 2010.
Q: What is the specific law that speaks about car seats in Ohio?
A: In Ohio, the law regarding car seats is spelled out in the Ohio Revised Code, Section 4511.81, entitled, “Child restraint system - child highway safety fund.”
Q: Are car seat laws the same in every state?
A: No; every state has its own law regarding car seats and restraints. If you are traveling, make sure to learn about the laws of the states through which you will be traveling.
This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). It was prepared by Lima attorney Nicole M. Winget, who focuses on criminal and family law, and Matthew Gwin, a student at the University of Dayton School of Law.