July 30, 2019

This Thursday, Louisiana's revised car seat law will take effect. Here’s what every parent and guardian needs to know — even those with children aged 13-18.

State legislators this year tied child passenger safety more firmly to a car seat's height and weight limits, after 110 children below the age of 14 died in vehicle crashes in Louisiana over the past three years, according to an article from The Advocate.

Under the restrictions, children age 12 and below must be restrained in the rear seat. In general, the new law, which amends previous legislation and is based on standards adopted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, requires that:

  • Children under 2 must ride in rear-facing child safety seats.
  • Children ages 2-4 must ride in a forward-facing seat with an internal harness           if they have outgrown a rear-facing seat.
  • Children ages 4-9 must ride in a booster seat secured with a lap/shoulder belt.
  • Children ages 9-12 can ride without a booster seat if their knees bend over the         front edge of the seat, their back is against the seat back and the seat belt                 crosses their chest and not their neck.
  • Any child under the age of 13 must be in a rear seat when available.

Police are also instructed to enforce the new law like the old law: If a passenger below the age of 18 doesn't appear to be restrained anywhere in the vehicle, the violation is a "primary offense" and a driver can be pulled over for that alone. If a motorist is pulled over for something else and a child is found to be restrained improperly, a ticket can be given for that as a "secondary offense."

Driving with a child passenger under the age of 18 who's not secured in any type of child restraint draws a $100 fine for a first offense, with the fine going up for any subsequent offenses.

Drivers stopped for a moving violation and found with a child in a restraint that is not age- or size-appropriate may be cited for that as a secondary offense and can be fined up to $100.

A list of places where parents and guardians can get help installing child safety seats is available on the Facebook page of Buckle Up Louisiana, run by the University Medical Center in New Orleans.

The Louisiana State Police Facebook page is another place where parents can ask questions and get information on the new law, Act 51, which was signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards in June.

The individual State Police troop headquarters also provide regular child safety seat inspections. The troops also provide this service by appointment.  

Dr. Dawn Marcelle, the administrative medical director of the Louisiana Department of Health's Region 2, which includes East Baton Rouge and surrounding parishes, told The Advocate that the new law is something that's "dear to my heart."

"Injuries are a leading cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 14, and a significant part of that is due to multi-vehicle crashes," said Marcelle, who is a pediatrician.  

"It's up to us (adults) to make these best-safety decisions for (child passengers) because they can't," she said.

Convertible seat: May be used rear-facing (5-30 pounds) or forward facing to 40 pounds. Combination seat: May be used forward facing with internal harness to 40 pounds, then the harness is removed and it may be used as a belt-positioning booster with vehicle lap-shoulder belt to 80/100 pounds. A child who, because of age or weight, can be placed in more than one category shall be placed in the more protective category. A child under the age of thirteen should ride in the rear seat position in the vehicle, if rear seats are available. Always read car seat instructions and the vehicles owner’s manual for installation guidance. For more information, visit safekids.org or dps.state.la.us (click on Highway Safety) or call 225.925.6991 (LHSC) or 504.568.2508 (SAFE KIDS).

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