Like every other state, Arizona has strict, enforceable car seat laws to help keep children safe in the event of a car crash. Failure to abide by those laws could result in devastating consequences if an accident occurs. If your child suffered an injury caused by a defective car seat or a negligent driver in a car crash, you might have the opportunity to recover financial compensation for your losses. Consider everything you need to know about Arizona car seat laws and your right to damages.
What Are the Basics of Arizona Car Seat Laws?
Arizona bases child seat laws on the child’s size and age. While car seat manufacturers will provide specific instructions for their individual seat designs, the general requirements fall under three age ranges: children less than 5 years of age, children 5 years and older, and children 8 years old and up. The restrictions at these ages state:
- Children under 5 must be in a rear-facing, forward-facing, or booster car seat in accordance with safety standards.
- Children aged 5-8 must use a restraint seat, such as a booster until they are at least 4’9″.
- Children 8 years and older can use a standard seatbelt in the car.
The idea is that children cannot rely on the seatbelt alone until their bodies are large enough to wear it properly. Additionally, size always trumps age when making decisions about car seat safety. For example, the law may allow you to transition your child from a forward-facing car seat to a booster seat. However, if they are small for their size, you would benefit from keeping them in a forward-facing car seat until they get bigger.
Reducing Risk by Following Arizona Car Seat Laws
Car seat laws exist for the protection of children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children in car seats are between 71% and 82% less likely to suffer an injury than children who use a seat belt. Additionally, using a booster seat reduces the chance of sustaining a severe injury by 45% compared to using a seat belt alone.
Thousands of children aged 12 and younger suffer severe injuries in car accidents every year. Often parents could prevent injuries if they practiced car seat safety at every age.
What Are the Stages of Cars Seats?
Vehicle restraint for children comes in four stages: rear-facing and then forward-facing car seats, booster seats, and seat belts. Consider the age, weight, and height requirements as well as recommendations for each stage, and ensure you thoroughly read the instructions for your child’s car seat.
Stage 1: Rear-Facing Car Seats
Maricopa County, Arizona car seat laws require children to use a rear-facing car seat from when they are newborns to 2 years old. After that, you can choose between a convertible car seat and an infant seat. An infant seat is a good option for the first few months because you can carry it outside the car while your child is small.
Important things to note about the rear-facing stage include:
- Harness straps should always go below the shoulders.
- Rear-facing is the best position for protecting the neck, head, and back.
- The harness chest clip should be at armpit level.
- Rear-facing seats should always be in the back seat.
Convertible car seats allow you to use the same seat in rear-facing and forward-facing positions. In addition, many models convert from the infant stage to the toddler phase and even into a booster seat, making them a good investment for new parents.
Stage 2: Forward-Facing Car Seats
When your child turns 2, you can face their car seat toward the front of the vehicle. The harness straps and chest clips should remain in the same positions. Forward-facing seats have a tether strap at the seat’s top for better security. Like a rear-facing car seat, forward-facing seats have a five-point harness, which is essential until the child is at least 4 years old, regardless of size.
Stage 3: Booster Seats
According to Arizona car seat laws, height and weight dictate when your child is ready for a booster seat. Some elements to consider include the following:
- Your child’s head should be lower than the headrest while using a booster seat.
- Your child should be at least 4’9″ in height.
- Use a booster with a high back if your vehicle does not have headrests in the back seat.
Shoulder belts are essential for booster seat safety. If your vehicle only has lap belts in the back seat, you can ask a local car dealership to install them.
Stage 4: Children and Seat Belt Usage
Seat belt usage starts with a booster seat. However, when can your child transition to only the seat belt for safety? Typically, you can get rid of the booster seat between ages 8 and 12. The reason for the age gap is that your child’s knees should be able to bend over the seat’s edge before you remove the booster. That can occur at different ages depending on the child’s height.
Other important tips include not allowing your child to ride in the front seat before age 13 and ensuring the seatbelt shoulder strap does not go under the armpit. You should also instruct your child never to place the belt behind their back.
Should You Replace a Car Seat After an Auto Accident?
Arizona car seat laws do not include specific requirements for replacement after a collision. However, using a damaged car seat will result in penalties if caught. If you experience a minor car accident where the vehicle sustained minimal damage, your seat is likely safe for continued use, unless you have a car seat with airbags. A minor collision would be an accident where the car was still operational, the door near the car seat sustained no damage, and no one suffered injuries.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends you replace any child restraint seat following a crash resulting in moderate to severe damage. However, check the safety manual for your particular car seat, because some manufacturers still recommend replacement after any crash.
What Are Common Car Seat Defects?
Car seat manufacturers create consistently design new features or upgrade existing ones to make their products safer and more effective at protecting children in the event of an accident. However, there are still many reasons a car seat could be ineffective:
- Improper installation is the most common cause of defective car seats.
- Not properly maintaining a car can compromise its effectiveness.
- Defects in the design or assembly of a car seat are the manufacturer’s liability.
Car seats age and depreciate like any other object. Over time, the straps can become worn and fray or break. A weakened belt could completely derail the safety features of a car seat in a moderate to severe collision.
Defects in the design of a car seat can cause harm to a child during an accident. For example, a failed latch or unstable harness would ultimately compromise the structure’s purpose, potentially causing a child to eject from the seat in a crash. Children can even get tangled in the seatbelt if a booster seat design does not properly hold the strap.
Legal Action for a Defective Car Seat
If your child suffered an injury because of a defective car seat, you might be able to hold the manufacturer liable for damages. If there was no recall already issued for the seat, you should report the incident and the defect to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Then you can file a personal injury claim to recover your losses.
Do You Have a Personal Injury Claim?
Personal injury law is separate from Arizona car seat laws. Product liability is a component of tort law, which allows victims of bodily or psychological harm to file a claim for their losses against the party responsible. According to product liability law, car seat manufacturers owe a duty of care to consumers, meaning they have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their products before allowing distribution.
If your child suffers an injury caused by a defective car seat, whether an auto accident occurred or not, you can file a claim for the following:
- Medical expenses related to the child’s injuries, including the cost of medications, medical devices, inpatient and outpatient care, rehabilitative treatment, and surgeries
- Income lost if you had to stay home to care for the child
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering
- All other related out-of-pocket expenses
If the defect occurred during a car crash, you have the right to file a claim against the at-fault driver for any damages related to the accident. This would be a separate case, allowing you to recover the cost of repairs for your vehicle and your own medical expenses if you suffered injuries.
Are There Exceptions to Arizona Car Seat Laws?
Parents will not face penalties for not obeying the car seat laws in Arizona under specific circumstances. For example, if your vehicle does not have sufficient room for multiple full-sized car seats, you could potentially use that argument to avoid fines. Other exceptions to the car seat laws include:
- You needed to transport your child in an authorized emergency vehicle to receive medical care.
- You drive an older vehicle manufactured without seatbelts.
- You must transport your child during a medical emergency and do not have time to strap them into a seat correctly.
- You drive a commercial vehicle with a CDL license.
Additionally, there are no car seat laws for recreational vehicles. With each of these circumstances, there are situational factors to consider.
More FAQs About Arizona Car Seat Laws
As a concerned parent, being well-informed about the laws that protect your children in the car is critical. You can access information online and locally with the right resources.
Are There Exceptions to the Age Requirements for Car Seats?
Most manufacturers agree that size is more prevalent than age regarding car seat safety. If your 8-year-old child is still under 4’9″, you should keep them in a booster seat. Similarly, if your child is significantly taller than the average child, talk to your local police department about whether it is safe to turn them into a forward-facing position before age 2.
Where Can You Go for Help Installing Your Car Seat?
First responders, such as police officers and firefighters, can assess your car seat installation to look for mistakes or defects in the equipment. You can go to a police or fire station or call (602) 543-8687 to speak to someone at the Child Safety Seat Hotline.
What Is the Best Position for a Car Seat in the Vehicle?
The safest position for your child is in the middle of the back seat. Children using a car or booster seat should never sit in the front of a vehicle.
Where Can You Find Information About Child Car Seat Recalls?
The Consumer Product Safety Commission is in charge of issuing notices for product recalls. Some factors that can cause a recall include the materials used to manufacture the car seat, whether the product caused injury to a child, and how long the company waited to take action. Under Arizona car seat laws, you can contact the manufacturer for a refund or replacement.
Is Rear-Facing or Forward-Facing Better?
Keeping your child in the rear-facing position as long as possible is always the safest option. However, when their legs bend significantly at the knee when in a rear-facing seat, it is likely time to change to a forward-facing position.
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help With a Case Involving Arizona Car Seat Laws?
Personal injury lawyers help auto accident victims daily. Due to unique circumstances, car accident cases or issues surrounding car seat laws in Arizona can be complex. You may have a claim for damages following an accident and not know it. That is where a legal expert can step in and guide you to the most appropriate legal option.
If you have questions about a personal injury or auto accident case involving a car seat, contact MDK Law Group to schedule a free consultation today.