Virginia Car Seat Laws: What You Need To Know!

virginia car seat laws

Thousands of children in Virginia suffer injuries in vehicle accidents. In many of these cases, improper child restraints have led to the most devastating injuries. It’s essential for the safety of your child to understand and obey the Virginia Car Seat Laws.

Since vehicle accidents can occur at any time, no matter how defensive a driver you are, it is crucial to understand how you can best protect your children when they are traveling in a motor vehicle. Choosing the right type of car seat is vitally important.

The Statistics Are Alarming

Vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death for children between 3 and 14 years old. In 2021 in Virginia alone, motor vehicle accidents injured 2,486 children under 14, with 22 deaths due to those injuries.

Most children who suffered minor injuries from their accident had protection from adequately installed child safety seats and adult seatbelt restraints. According to the CDC, a properly-installed child car seat can reduce vehicular child injuries by 71 to 82 %. These statistics show that adhering to the Virginia car seat laws can reduce your child’s risk of life-threatening and debilitating injuries in a car accident.

Common Injuries Caused By Defective Child Car Seats

While many adults will come out of vehicle accidents with some bumps and bruises, children in defective car seats with recalls can suffer a range of injuries. Some may be minor, but others can result in lasting damage.

Car seat defects can range from faulty adjusters to broken or weakened frames to faulty buckles or latches. Below are just a few common injuries if your child is involved in an accident with a defective child restraint device.

  • Head Trauma: If a rear-facing car seat or a forward-facing one has a faulty base or frame, the car seat may dislodge during the accident resulting in head trauma, which can leave lasting consequences, such as traumatic brain injuries.
  • Broken Bones: Improper placement of harness restaurants or broken buckles and clasps can lead to broken bones as the child may be partially thrown but tangled in the loose restraint.
  • Internal Bleeding: A faulty harness clip or one improperly positioned can result in internal trauma, leading to bleeding.
  • Spinal Injuries: When your car seat does not have the proper padding and head restraints for your child’s age, the child’s neck can be violently thrown. This motion can lead to spinal cord damage and head injuries.

Steven M. Oser, P.C., a Virginia car accident lawyer and personal injury attorney, knows that child vehicle safety is of the utmost importance and understands how quickly a defective car seat can result in injuries. If your child suffered injuries in an auto accident, we’re here to help. Contact our office today to schedule your consultation.

Understanding Virginia Child Car Seat Laws

Virginia’s Child Restraint Device Law

The Virginia Department of Transportation has updated its child safety seat laws and has issued the following regulations in recent years. Under Virginia’s Child Seat Law:

  • All children under eight years of age must be in an age-appropriate and weight-appropriate child restraint device. These devices must meet and function appropriately under the Department of Transportation standards. If you are unsure how to install your car seat correctly, your local fire department or a child passenger safety technician should be able to assist.
  • The type of safety restraint used should reflect your child’s height, weight, and age. It also will need to be installed in the proper location in the vehicle. Both forward-facing and rear-facing car seats should be in the vehicle’s back seat whenever possible. If a child must be in the front passenger seat because there are no back seats, you must turn off the passenger-side airbag.
  • All children under the age of 2 will need to continue to be in a rear-facing seat unless they have reached the minimum weight limit for a forward-facing safety seat as indicated by the car seat manufacturer.
  • Children are never allowed to ride in the rear cargo of a vehicle.
  • The only vehicles exempted from child seat safety restraints are school buses, farm vehicles, and limousines. However, lap belts are strongly recommended for children riding in limousines.
  • Citations are given for violating the child restraint law even if no other violations have occurred.
  • The initial fee for failing to have a child in the proper child restraint device is $50, while subsequent fines can run up to $500.

Do Virginia Car Seat Laws Require A Specific Kind Of Car Seat or Booster Seat?

Types of Car Seats

An essential part of raising safe kids is following the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for car seat types based on age, height, and weight requirements. You will need to make sure that your child is in a car seat appropriate for their age and build and one that fits in your vehicle.

Rear-facing Car Seats

Rear-facing car seats protect children two years old and younger. They have a harness designed to move with your child to protect their still fragile spinal cord and neck in a crash. There are three basic types of rear-facing child restraint devices on the market.

  • Infant Car Seat: These seats are rear-facing and often designed to work as carriers. They are small and portable but will only typically last until your child is one-year-old.
  • Convertible Car Seat: These seats are for children up to two years old. It has the needed harness but can be both rear and forward-facing. They accommodate larger children, allowing them to stay rear-facing up until two.
  • All-in-One-Seat: For many people, the best investment is an all-in-one car seat that comes with a harness and teether and is both rear-facing and forward-facing. They also are designed to convert to a booster seat when your child gets older.

Forward-facing Car Seat

Forward-facing car seats have a harness and tether, which limits your child’s movement in a crash and limits the car seat’s movement. While convertible and all-in-one car seats can convert to forward-facing car seats, combination seats are another forward-facing option. These seats are forward-facing seats that convert into a booster.

Booster Seats

Boosters seats no longer have the harness and are designed to raise your child so that the lap and shoulder safety belt will fit correctly across your child’s chest and hips. Combination seats and all-in-one seats eventually convert to booster seats, but some seats function only as booster seats.

  • High Back Booster Seats: Ideal for cars with lower back seats and no headrests, high back booster seats provide neck and head support for your child while ensuring the safety belt fits appropriately.
  • Backless Booster Seat: These seats do not have a back and provide no additional head and neck support. They work well in vehicles with headrests that can provide this support.

What Are The Virginia Car Seat Laws?

Children will need to be secured in a rear-facing car seat until they are two years old or reach the minimum weight requirement for the forward-facing car seat. They will need to ride in a forward-facing or booster seat up until the age of 8.

What Age Can Children Move to Booster Seats in Virginia?

Though not specified in state law, children are advised not to be moved to a booster seat until they reach five years of age or 40 pounds and can sit properly during the whole duration of the drive.

What Are the Weight Requirements for Car Seat Laws in VA?

Virginia car seat laws focus primarily on the child’s age and not the weight. However, the car seat manufacturer will have recommended weight limits for transitioning from an infant to a toddler seat and from a harnessed seat to a booster seat.

When Can a Child Be Forward-facing in Virginia?

A child can be placed in a forward-facing car seat in the back seat of a vehicle once they have reached two years of age or the minimum weight requirement for the forward-facing seat.

What Are the Virginia Car Seat Laws for Children Under 14?

In Virginia, children must be in a Virginia Department of Health-approved child restraint system until they reach eight years of age and must have a safety belt that fits securely after that age.

Are There Exemptions to the Virginia Car Seat Laws?

Limousines, buses, and farm vehicles are exempted from Virginia car seat laws. You can also receive an exemption for child safety restraint requirements for children between the ages of 4 and 8 if you have a written statement from your child’s physician stating that their height, weight, or other physical issues would make a car seat impractical.

What Happens if I Fail to Adhere to Virginia Car Seat Laws?

Aside from the increased risk of injury, failing to adhere to Virginia Department of Transportation child car seat safety laws results in a fine. The first violation will result in a $50 fine, and the second could result in a fine of up to $500.

Steven M. Oser is a Virginia personal injury lawyer who knows the importance of car seat safety and understands that accidents and injuries can still occur. If you or your child have suffered a personal injury from a vehicle accident and live in the Suffolk, Windsor, Franklin, Ivor, Wakefield, Waverly, Surry, Smithfield, Courtland, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, or Hampton Roads area, contact us at (757) 539-4127.

Steven M. Oser knows how to handle your car accident, motorcycle accident, truck accident, or any type of personal injury case successfully. Please fill out our online contact form, or call us for your free case evaluation.