NJ Amends State’s Child Passenger Restraint System and Booster Seat Law

carseatLegislation “to bolster car safety for young children” has been signed into law. The bill was sponsored by Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). 

“With advances in research and car safety technology, recommendations to protect children in motor vehicles are always changing. Just look how different things were just a decade or two ago,” said Lampitt, who chairs the Women and Children Committee. “Incorporating the latest recommendations will help ensure that we’re doing all we can to protect young children in automobiles.”

The law (A-3161) amends the state’s child passenger restraint system and booster seat law to implement the latest car seat safety recommendations.

Under current law, every person operating a motor vehicle equipped with safety belts (other than a school bus) who is transporting a child under the age of eight years and weighing less than 80 pounds must secure the child in a child passenger restraint system or booster seat.

The new law amends this law to specify that when being transported in a motor vehicle:

§ A child under the age of two years and weighing less than 30 pounds must be secured rear facing in a child passenger restraint system equipped with a five-point harness.

§ A child under the age of four years and weighing less than 40 pounds must be secured:

* in a rear facing child passenger restraint system, equipped with a five-point harness until he outgrows the height or weight limitation for rear facing imposed by the manufacturer of the child passenger restraint system, at which point he will be secured forward facing; or

* in a forward facing child passenger restraint system equipped with a five-point harness.

§ A child under the age of eight years and less than 57 inches in height must be secured:

* in a forward facing passenger restraint system which is equipped with a five-point harness, until he outgrows the height or weight limitation imposed by the manufacturer of the child passenger restraint system, at which point the child is to be secured in a rear seat, in a booster seat; or

* in a rear seat, in a booster seat.

The law also requires the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety to print and distribute materials advising the public as to the changes in the law.

Finally, the law amends the penalty amount to reflect the current penalty assessed for a violation of the act and removes the provision that a fine must be suspended by the court if the motor vehicle operator was using a child passenger restraint system not in current compliance with the law, but which was compliant at one point in time.


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  1. Whoever wrote these laws abviously doesn’t have kids…what 7 year old will sit in a car seat?! My 5 year old doesn’t fit into the biggest car seat. Perhaps a booster with the car seat belt makes more sence.

  2. “…removes the provision that a fine must be suspended by the court if the motor vehicle operator was using a child passenger restraint system not in current compliance with the law, but which was compliant at one point in time…”

    So, in other words, you MUST buy the latest seats for your kids, even though you have an older one that was usable before. This law brought to you by the “child seat companies” who PAID politicians to write the law. What’s next – you must buy a new car because yours don’t have a “back-up” camera?

  3. Who Ever signed on to this law doesn’t belong in power. They don’t have any clue what they are talking about. This law is can dangerous and impossible. All these legislators are trying to do is fool everyone that they Care for children.They are not fooling anyone.

  4. just another money maker for the Democrats. Car seats are a good idea but the fines are just to make money….. When are we going to get rid of these know better than us Democrats??????

  5. This is complete stupidity. A 4 year old child can’t be rear facing unless their legs are folded like an accordian.

  6. Everyone needs to calm down and read the law again. It isn’t all that different than what already exists. The only reason I think it’s a silly because why bother with a more stringent law when the old law wasn’t enforced. If I’m reading it correctly, the law basically states:
    1. Under 2 is backwards. Everyone already knows that’s way safer.
    2.under 4 is backwards OR forwards in a car seat (not booster) . Again, everyone knows this is necessary. Just because they don’t do it doesn’t mean they’re right, and they know it.
    3.under 8 AND 57 inches in a booster. What’s the big deal? Boosters cost $14. If you have a large 7 year old, he won’t need to be in one.

  7. We’re not getting any safer were just getting a lot dummer. But no worries I’ll just carry on with common sense & let em fine me to the moon. Who cares it’s only money.

  8. Definitely a start! AAP and NHTSA recommendations state rearfacing as the safest way for children under four to ride, and the ONLY safe way for children under two. Kids should then remain harnessed until safely booster-ready, minimally age 5 and able to sit 100% correctly, 100% of the time, in order for the seatbelt to do its job. Boostered until the adult seatbelt fits, usually between age 10-12.

    There are inexpensive seats that will get any child safely AND comfortably to the next stage.

    We are charged with caring for the bodies G-d gave us. Our children are the most precious things we have, so when scientific FACT states this is how we keep them safe, of course that’s what we do!

  9. Btw, according to NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), between 70-90% of carseats are used improperly. A (usually FREE) meeting with a CPST can ensure you know how to correctly use your seat to keep your children safe. No one plans for the worst case scenario, but carseats are lifesaving devices, not “baby gear”.

  10. This is great news, hopefully other states will follow. Yes your 5 or 7 year old will sit in a car seat if you tell them too. Graduating to the next seat because your child hits the minimum requirement is not always the best thing. So many times children sit improperly in a booster seat. Why take any extra risks with your child’s safety?

  11. Thank you SA – Child Passenger Safety Technician. You are 100% correct! Plenty of big kids ride rear facing and even more ride in a forward facing harness or properly fitting booster seat until they are 10-12 years old. Let’s make this safe choice more common, one state at a time 🙂

  12. The first few commenters are ignorant. Educate yourselves. Learn what’s FACT. A parent’s utmost responsibility is to keep their child safe. Making proper car seat decisions is the easiest way to do that. I feel sad for the children whose parents cannot be bothered.

  13. my youngest (average size child) happily sat rear facing to age 5 when he out grew the height limit of his seat. At 6 he is forward facing in a 5 point harness. Just last week he asked to be turned back rear facing. My 11 yr old is still bolstered, my 14 yr old was bolstered to 12, my 16 yr old out grew the seats at the time at 10 (she is very tall). It can and does safely work.

  14. The whole compliance with current laws basically means not expired. Because am expired seat used to be compliant but is no longer compliant. Its common sense. They expire because the material breaks down not just the plastic, but the harness too. Also, the safety features are continually updated and bettered to help make for a safer ride for our children.

  15. I have 4 children. I am pleased with the changes. My almost 12 yr old has been out of her booster for less then 6months. My 9 & 6 yr olds are both in 5 point harnesses and my 3 yr is still rear facing. Once the current seats are outgrown or expire we will be getting seats to harness longer. I am the parent and I say what goes for my children not the children. I do wonder if these laws will be grandfathered for the children who have moved forward facing or out of a harness already.

  16. So basically:

    Under 2: rear facing

    Under 4: FF harness booster unless your child fits RF within the height/weight restraints of your seat.

    Under 8: FF in a harness booster unless they exceed the height and weight limitations otherwise in a belt booster unless they exceed the limitations for that seat.

    The law is making it illegal to move your child into a more advanced configuration if they still fit the height/weight limitations of the seat.

    No need to go buy new seats as long as yours aren’t expired. You just can’t decide to turn your child FF just because you feel like it. If the fit RF, they stay RF.

    Ionce you get past the legal language it’s a pretty simple, incredibly fantastic law

  17. This law is intrusive to a parents rights to choose what is best for THEIR child. If you want your kid to be 8 in a 5pt harness RF, fine. But don’t make a law intruding on my rights to decide when my child will move to a less restrictive seat.

  18. @dad of 2, SCIENCE decides what’s best and safest for your child. You obviously know nothing of car seat and car safety if you think this is intruding on your rights. The only thing this intrudes on is your ability to make your child LESS safe in the car.

  19. You are the parents. It is your job to keep your children safe but unfortunately many people don’t do their job properly and refuse to research. If the kids don’t like their seats, well, that’s just something they’ll have to deal with. If your 5yo has never been in a seat without a harness, he won’t know differently. If your 3yo has never been forward facing, she won’t know differently.

  20. Yes, a law that actually finally follows NHTSA recommendations based on best practices! I don’t understand how anyone can get so upset about a law that actually looks at what’s known about car safety statistics and up to date recommendations based on science. The whole “my kid is too big” argument gets old fast, since I have a boy who is off the chart for size and they do make seats for bigger kids. He’s in a combination seat that Britax makes with high height and weight limits and 4 now; it’ll last him at least 3 more years for his size.

  21. I just can’t believe how many people care more about convenience than their own child’s safety. I will be keeping my daughters rear facing until they hit the weight/height limit. My almost 3 year old sits very comfortably rear facing at 80th percentile for height and at 32 lbs.

  22. Wow I didn’t know there were so many left thinking liberals reading this site. The next law will be that you have to keep your dogs strapped in rear facing until they turn 4

  23. Oh and for under $100 you can find a harnessed seat for kids ages 3-7 to use (cheaper options exist too).

    Harmony Defender = $87-$98
    Evenflo SecureKid = $92
    Evenflo Sureride = $80

    No need to spend $400 or complain about it.
    If you really, truly can’t afford it, look up a SafeKids coalition near you and ask about subsidized seats:


  24. This is great! I don’t know how people can complain about laws that will keep your child safer. My tall, almost 5 year old is in a britax 5 point harness and will fit in there for quite a long time. There are big seats out there.

  25. Wow! What a ploy! And the sheep are falling for it! How much is a rear facing car seat? My 2 1/2 year old wod be squished like a pretzel! How is that safer? Not only to we follow big pharma, but not let’s follow what the car seat manufacturers are saying!! It’s all about the $$! #1 cause of death in children under 5 is drowning. Let’s br awareness to that!

  26. Josh- their feet go ANYWHERE they want! Kids are extremely flexible- watch how they sit when out of the car. Their skeletons haven’t fully developed, which is why these stages of safety are so important- and is also what makes them so comfortable in weird positions that would make and adult cry for a chiropractor. Sitting rearfacing is like having your own personal La-Z-Boy recliner in the car.

    I’ve seen kids sitting in the living room watching TV while sitting in a shoebox. Yes, a shoebox.

    Bzymom- rearfacing seats that will last most kids to roughly four years old start at $44. Kids are quite comfortable rearfacing, and under two years old they are 532% safer. That is scientific fact. Should there be awareness for other causes of death and serious injury? Absolutely! But this certainly is a leading cause, and so very easily prevented. Kids skeletons are NOT tiny adult skeletons.

  27. About time! Studies have shown this is safer for children for a long time. My 8 year old and 5 year were both rear facing until 3. They are both in forward facing, 5 pt harnesses now. They have no complaints because we explained to them that this is the safest for them. People need to stop being stubborn. It takes a couple minutes to buckle them in properly. My kids even do it themselves. You may think you are the safest driver but other people are not and you cannot prevent them from getting you into a serious accident. A couple minutes vs a lifetime of possible regret and loss.

  28. Shocked by how many of the commenters above are emotionally reacting to this law in the wrong way. It is more than 500% safer rear facing till they reach the height or weight limit. It doesn’t mean you need to buy a new car seat, it just means you need to keep them rear facing longer. This has nothing to do with politics or ulterior motives of politicians or car seat companies. It’s a law designed to save stupid people from being stupid. Think about it… a broken leg in an accident is a lot better than your child losing their life because you thought their legs would be more comfortable forward facing. I don’t understand why people cannot grasp this concept and continue to turn their kids around too soon. Be a good parent and protect your children. Learn the facts on car seat safety and stop commenting and reacting based on your emotions.

  29. Many of you keep referring to the NHTSA and their looking out for our well being with their guidelines. Did you allready forget the huge airbag recall that is out there that they missed by automakers?? They make huge mistakes too. We shouldn’t let government continue to decide what’s best for us all the time. Unfortunately a lot of the time it can be proven to be wrong down the road. Whatever happen to free thinkers anymore??

  30. I sure as hell this ridiculous law didn’t pass! The government should be more concerned with how kids are being treated when parent refuse the useless PARCC testing, now that is what they should focus on.
    This is bull and I will make reaearch and pray the Governor did not sign this!!!!!

  31. Chris,

    The recommendations are made by NHTSA and the manufacturers are simply making new seats that meet that not the other way around. And it doesn’t have to be ridiculously expensive to follow recommendations. For example, the Cosco Scenera Next retails for about $60 and can be used to rear-face a child to 40″ and 40 lbs which will get the average child to at least age 2 easily. For a higher weight rf seat, the newest Safety Firsr Advanced Air will get kids to 50 lbs and 49″ rear-facing which would mean any big kid can rear-face til 4. For a combination seat (harnessed booster), you can spend as little as $100 for a Harmony Defender over $300 if you choose a more expensive seat. It’s not about being sheep but about doing your research. In our country, there is a high rate of child mortality due to a child being in the wrong seat or an improperly used seat. In Sweden, where children all rear-face until 4 at minimum, there is next to no mortality in accidents for them. It’s based on physics in how force is applied and the way a car seat cradles a child’s body and absorbs the force. If you don’t like it then you’re welcome to do as you please I will pray for you that you’re never in a severe accident with your children.

  32. ALL manufacturers have recalls. NHTSA and other oversight agencies issue recalls as the manufacturer defects and issues arise. I’d be FAR more concerned if there were no recalls, as that would mean no oversight!

    Child restraint laws in general are around twenty years behind research, scientific fact, and the availability of appropriate seats. Far from meaning the laws shouldn’t change; it’s high time they finally did.

    And who says you need a Britax? All seats pass the same testing, with no ratings or rankings.

  33. What child will sit in a booster seat until they are 58 inches? Mine, because I am the parent and he can’t be responsible for his own safety. He does not think about car collisions, crash forces, and seat belts that can do more harm than good if they are not properly placed on low on a child’s hips or are hitting the neck (the purpose of a booster seat is to help the adult seat belt fit properly). That falls on me. My 9-year-old is in a booster seat and knows he will be for four more inches of growth. You are the best safety advocate for your child. This should not be their choice, this should be you wanting your child to survive a collision.

  34. I have seen a 2 to 4 year old involved in car accidents that were facing rear and have had broken hips from the way they are facing and how their legs are like an acordian. And not to mention my family just bought 3 new car seats for different vehicles that dont work rear facing for my 2 year. Whos paying for the new rear facing seats that they need now?

  35. Its clear that most people commenting on this post do not know anything about car seat safety. Rear facing until age 2 or even age 4 is not impossible or dangerous. And also they make car seats now a days that go to 90lbs in the harness, so to the person who said her 7 yr old would never fit in a harness, unless your 7 yr old is over 90lbs they will fit in a harness.
    People saying a rear facing 2 yr old is dangerous is completely wrong and uneducated. Look up Joel’s Journey its about a 18 month old who had his neck broken because he was forward facing in a minor car crash. Yes he is lucky to have lived but many don’t. Rear facing properly is not bad for the legs or hips, parents just need to learn to use their car seats properly!

  36. My daughter is under 2 and is forward facing because she is tall for her age. My son has been in a forward facing booster since he was about 4. I refuse to turn my daughter around to rear facing and make her uncomfortable when the guideline used to be a year old. My children are my business.

  37. Kara, if you really did see toddlers badly injured from rear facing it’s likely they wouldn’t have even survived in a forward facing seat. I’m a conservative (for whoever made the comment about all the liberals reading this) who has felt very strongly about car seat safety long before I became a mother. I don’t need a law to tell me to keep my kids safe and my 90 percentile nearly 3 year old is COMFORTABLELY and happily rear facing.

  38. I agree that this is legislation bought by the owners of the car seat companies. My children are older so this does apply to me, but I would think most children over the age of one are to long to be rear facing.

  39. There is no way that keeping a child’s legs folded up against the rear of a seat in a rear facing seat is safer for a child. In a serious collision from the from front or rear, this will break legs!!! I promise that the “Science” that says so comes from a company that makes money selling child seats. You want to really keep your kids safe in an automobile? The most important piece of safety equipment is a safe, attentive driver!! My children are much safer because when I am driving, I drive safely!!! Stop rushing, put the cell phone down, get rid of distractions and follow the rules of the road.

  40. The National Institute of Health studies prove that there are actually more leg injuries FORWARD facing. There have been NO leg injuries caused by rearfacing. The safest driver in the world cannot control all the other drivers on the road, nor the weather, road conditions, etc.

    NHTSA, the AAP, and NIH do not sell carseats. They state the facts and set guidelines based on years of research and crash testing.

  41. Maybe if any of you idiots bothered to read the law instead of commenting that my kids are too big to fit into a rear facing car seat should notice that it CLEARLY states until the child is too long to fit would realize what is goinG in. Read the entire article first before commenting.

  42. @Michelle. Broken legs are way better than dead child. My 9 year old is still in a booster. My child will rearface as long as possible. Its for their safety, not your convenience.

  43. i will never understand why some parents are so adamant about turning their children forward facing so early. All the comments about forward facing being more comfortable, safer, whatever the hell else, those people obviously never did any research whatsoever.

  44. The government has mandated that all kids must eat vegetables at every meal and only 6 z of chicken a day and red meat is outlawed. Science has proven that it is safer for your kids to do this. Obesity is an epidemic in this country and unless government fixes this it will only get worse.

    OK point is that you are sheep. Where in the NJ constitution is it written that government is in charge of our kids seat belts? I don’t really care what you do because in my car my super tall two year old is in a booster, My 10 year old sits in the front and my 7 ear old has no booster. So bite me & put the phones down when driving you (moderated).

  45. I cannot believe the number of ignorant comments… you’re better off having a child with broken legs from a wreck then a broken neck… rear face until 2, 5 point harness until 4, booster until 57 inches AND 80 lbs…

    It’s your kids safety on the line…buy a graco nautilus!!! It will take your kid from 2-8+.

    My 6 year old is in a belted highback booster and 8 year old in a regular booster. I already lost 1 family member in a car accident.. it’s my job to keep them safe

  46. What’s the point? I see people with unrestrained toddlerspasspolice all the time. I see the same thing at preschool and K dropoff. No one does anything, it’s silly to write more laws, rather than enforcing what’s in place. And fines are stupid. How about info and a coupon for $10 off an appropriate seat?

  47. I for one have four children ranging from 14 to 2 years of age. My daughter is in a forward facing car seat as all my other children were. I am not going to make her hurt her legs by putting her rear facing. This is a case of people needing to fight the tickets they get. Having laws in place to keep our children safe is fine, but stop with the overkill

  48. I also love how parents allow their young children in the front seat. My kids are both in car seats in my car and my patents cars. They are 8 and 4. Some of their friends do not use car seats at all. It’s crazy. Do what is safest for the kids. I bought the baby car seat that grows with the child. My 4 year old is still in 5 point harness, it will soon transition into the booster with a seat belt because of her height and weight. But, the seat grows with her. My 8 year old fits in the car seat with a regular seat belt.

  49. Wow. Reading all these comments really saddens me. The laws are being put in place to keep our children safe. Everyone that says that their children are safe because they drive safe are plain old stupid. Accidents are exactly that. You don’t know when they will happen, to whom or who will be at fault. It is a fact that the necks of children under the age of 4 are not fully developed and are at risk of internal decapitation in the event of an accident in a forward facing car seat. You, and only you, will be at fault for putting your child’s life in danger. The fact that so many people can’t understand that fact is horrifying. I truly hope that none of you lose a child because of your own stupidity.

  50. Really people fighting about seat saftey for our children, what about the other dangers why dont you direct your energy on keeping your kids safe from stupidity.

  51. Just for the record, I am a right wing, republican voting, Christian conservative and also happen to be a child passenger safety technician who believes in extended rear facing and harnessing to the max limits of the seat before switching to a booster. This isn’t about parenting “rights” this is about requiring parents to put safety before convenience. And yes, your dog should be buckled up too, they can become a projectile and kill people as they fly through the car.. But, of course, that’s probably just a conspiracy theory started by the local pet store to promote car harness sales.

  52. Wonderf job, New Jersey! I hope Texas follows shortly!

    My very tall 16 mo is so uncomfortable rear facing that he often falls asleep 😉

  53. Maybe I don’t understand but my son is a yr old & in the 95 percentile for height he is so uncomfortable & scruched up rear facing. I have both rear and forward facing seat and he doesn’t even fit rear facing, I can’t imagine a 4yr old rear facing. He is not a large child but is tall.

  54. May be a silly question but have always been confused on this. My kids are tiny. If my 10 year old still isn’t over 57 inches, is he supposed to be in a booster? Who can I call for clarification on these issues in the future? Thanks for any input.

    • Lori, kids are ready to move out of a booster into the adult seatbelt when they pass the “Five Step Test”:

      -Shoulder belt flat against shoulder, fully in contact with the body
      -Seated fully against back of vehicle seat, not slouching forward
      -Lap belt over hips/thighs, not on the abdomen
      -Knees bent beyond edge of vehicle seat with feet flat on the floor
      -Stay in position for entire ride, every time

      This generally occurs around 4’9″.

      Some adults may not fully 5-Step. Since you have a post-pubescent adult skeleton, this isn’t an issue. A very small teen/preteen should remain boostered until clearly undergoing puberty, when the skeleton strengthens. There are very discreet boosters that can help give a safe belt fit for those older boostered kids.

      You can always direct questions to a certified CPST near you- search here to find a tech near you: http://cert.safekids.org/find-tech-0

      Tina- take a look at how kids sit when out of the car. Weirdest positions you’ve ever seen, limbs situated in ways that would make an adult cry. Kids are extremely flexible and will make themselves comfortable. There are seats on the market today that will COMFORTABLY and safely rearface any child to 4 years old; it’s just a matter of figuring out which seat will work best for that child’s growth patterns.

  55. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer me! I’ve argued with my ex (& lost) for years on this. I now have a surprise 9 month old bonus baby who had reconstructive skull surgery at 4 months. With everything he’s been through I do every/any thing to keep him safe. If his growth chart continues to mirror his older brothersaid you have just saved me from countless questions!

  56. Justwokdering – please Rerrad the law – the second paragraph on this section states that a 5- pt harness if under 8, under 57″ and fits the seat manufacturer’s requirements.

  57. I can’t believe people are actually following these idiotic guidelines. I don’t know one one single child over the age of 7 in any sort of booster seat. Complete overkill designed by insurance companies and car seat manufacturers and the uneducated follow line sherp. These are probably the same parents who sue to remove monkey bars from schools and petition schools go ban dodge ball.

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