What Does Louisiana Law Say About Child Seats and Restraints?
Louisiana’s law about child seats in cars is RS 32:295 “child passenger restraint system”. The law requires all persons under 18 years of age to use the appropriate restraints in the car. These range from a backward-facing infant seat to a seat belt. The law creates some exceptions.
Do I Go to Jail If I Break This Law?
No. Improperly restraining a child is a misdemeanor. The law sets a maximum fine for a first offense of $100. This number rises to $200-500 for second offenses. For a third offense and beyond, it is $500 plus court costs. If you are in an accident, a child is actively harmed, and you are at fault for not having the child properly in a car seat, you can face additional charges.
What Are the Exceptions?
Emergency vehicles, such as ambulances, are exempt from following the child safety seat law. If either the driver or the child is experiencing a life-threatening emergency, they are exempt. In the case the child is incapable of being restrained (such as some special needs children), they are exempt. If there are more children than safety devices, the unrestrained child must be in the back seat. Taxis are not required to have car seats, but the State highly recommends that you bring one with you.
What Are the Best Recommendations To Meet the Requirements of Childseat Laws?
The following are the child seat and restraint rules by age and size:
- Under 2 – rear-facing seats
- Ages 2-3 – forward-facing seat with harness
- Ages 4-8 – belt-positioning booster seat
- Ages 9+ – regular seat belt
- Ages 13 and under – must be in rear seat
When the child reaches the weight or height limit of the child restraint system set by the manufacturer, they may move up a seat category.
Also, if a child can be in two categories, adults should place them in the more restrictive one. Small children may fit in a seat meant for kids younger than they are. They should use the smaller seat as long as they meet the seat’s height and weight requirements.
How Are the Police Enforcing the Louisiana Childseat Laws?
An officer can pull you over and issue you a ticket as a primary offense if a passenger below the age of 18 appears not to be restrained at all in the vehicle. However, this is a secondary offense if you restrained the child but did so improperly: an officer can only issue a ticket if they have pulled you over for something else.
How Can I Tell If an Adult Seat Belt Fits My Older Child?
If all of the following apply, then the child is large enough to use an adult seat belt without a booster seat:
- the child sits all the way back against the vehicle seat
- the child’s knees bend over the edge of the vehicle seat
- the belt fits snugly across the child’s thighs and lower hips, and not the child’s abdomen
- the shoulder strap snugly crosses the center of the child’s chest and not the child’s neck
Can I Get Help Setting Up This Child Seat or Booster?
Louisiana has over 600 locations with Child Passenger Safety Technicians. The Louisiana Highway and Safety Commission has published a list of them by parish. In addition, the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration website offers much information about car seats and provides links to obtain a virtual inspection if you cannot show up somewhere in person.
How Do I Tell If the Manufacturer Has Recalled My Child’s Safety Seat?
The U.S. Department of Transportation maintains a website listing recalls of safety seats and all things that affect cars and driving. The National Child Passenger Safety Certification also keeps a list of child car seat recalls. Register your car seat with its manufacturer. They will contact you in case of any problem with the safety seat, including a recall.
What Are Common Problems When Installing Child Safety Seats?
Not installing child seats tight enough in the car. When installing, be certain to press down on the seat with one hand. Use the other hand to tighten the straps and belts.
Buying a used seat. Never buy a used seat, even if its date has not expired yet. You can never know if that seat has been in a crash or not. You may make a personal exception for family and friends close enough that you would know about any accidents they had been in.
I Was in an Accident. Do I Have To Replace the Car Seat?
No, not according to the law. Louisiana has no law stating that one must replace a car seat after an accident. However, it is always a good idea to replace a car seat with a new one after an accident. The accident may have caused the safety features to be used or to go off and lose their effectiveness.
What If I Have No Back Seat?
Children under 13 should always ride in the back seat. If no back seat is available, as in some trucks and sports cars, the child can ride in the front seat if they use appropriate child restraints. If an infant is in the front using a backward-facing child seat, remove or turn off the airbag. An airbag striking a backward-facing child seat could kill the child.
My Child Was in a Car Seat. What If They Still Got Injured in a Crash?
Injuries can still happen, even if you seat your child perfectly and strap them in. Children who are still growing can experience injuries differently. Take your child to the emergency room if the crash or accident has injured them and let the doctors decide.
If your child was injured despite being in a safety seat, call Morris & Dewett to see what your legal options are.
Couvillion, Ellyn. (July 28, 2019). “New Louisiana child car seat law goes into effect soon; here’s a breakdown of it.” https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/new-louisiana-child-car-seat-law-goes-into-effect-soon-heres-a-breakdown-of-it/article_93534970-ae3e-11e9-9fbe-c34a5d840fbf.html
Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. “Child Passenger Safety.” https://www.lahighwaysafety.org/our-programs/child-passenger-safety/
Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. (2023). https://www.lahighwaysafety.org/media/gvvkz3s3/all-fs-july-23.pdf
Louisiana State Legislature. RS32.295. http://legis.la.gov/Legis/law.aspx?d=88231
National Child Passenger Safety Certification. https://cert.safekids.org/
National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration. “Child Seats and Booster Seats.” https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/car-seats-and-booster-seats#installation-help-inspection
U.S. Department of Transportation. https://www.nhtsa.gov/