For many parents, the first car ride home with their newborn is a mixed bag of emotions, ranging from joy to anxiety. It’s a journey filled with various responsibilities, including ensuring their safety when riding in a car on New York roads and highways.
New York has rules that guide parents and guardians on securing their little ones while traveling in a car. These regulations mandate car seats or boosters for children up to 8 years of age.
Understanding these laws, ensuring your child is in a suitable car seat, and taking proactive measures can help you prevent accidents and minimize injuries if a collision occurs.
The New York DMV lists the state’s car seat laws for children 8 and under. According to the law, parents or guardians must ensure the following:
- Babies and toddlers under the age of 2 must be secured in a rear-facing car seat (unless the child exceeds the car seat manufacturer’s weight or height limitations)
- Children between 2 and 4 years must sit in a child safety seat
- Children between 4 and 8 years should use a booster seat
The state requires that all car seats comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213.
When used correctly, car seats can reduce an infant’s risk of fatal injury by 71%. Unfortunately, around 46% of car seats are used incorrectly, which can mean they are the wrong size, outdated, or don’t meet FMCSA standards.
For babies, consider the following when choosing a car seat:
- Choose the right type. The NHTSA lists three types of car seats for infants — rear-facing, convertible, and 3-in-1. Familiarize yourself with different car seat models and choose the one that complies with New York’s laws and fits your baby based on age, weight, and height.
- Check the expiration date. Car seats have expiration dates, usually around 6-10 years after manufacturing. The seat’s integrity can degrade over time, especially if it has been exposed to direct sunlight, temperature fluctuations, or has been in a previous collision. If the car seat is older than the manufacturer’s expiration date, it’s time to get a new one.
- Install it correctly. Ensure the car seat fits in your vehicle and you can install it properly. Not all car seats fit all cars; test the fit as soon as you get it and have it inspected in one of New York’s car seat safety inspection stations.
Driving requires undivided attention, especially when you have precious cargo on board. It can be distressing to hear your baby crying from the back seat, but trying to address it while driving can injure both of you. Instead, do the following to minimize distractions or help your baby without putting either of you in danger:
- Resist immediate attention. Attending to your baby while driving can compromise focus and increase the risk of accidents. Even a brief look or reach to the back can cause a momentary lapse in concentration, potentially leading to dangerous situations.
- Pull over safely. If you need to attend to your child, find a parking lot, rest area, or wide shoulder on highways to pull over safely. Always ensure you’re away from the flow of traffic.
- Prepare a baby emergency kit. Combining essentials such as diapers, wipes, an extra set of clothes, water, and non-perishable baby food into a baby emergency kit can help you address your baby’s needs once you pull over.
- Plan your trips. Before hitting the road, ensure your baby is well-fed, changed, and comfortable. Familiarizing yourself with the route and potential rest stops can help you prepare, avoiding the need to pull over unexpectedly.
As unthinkable as it might seem, parents or caregivers may unintentionally forget an infant in the car, especially those who are sleep-deprived or out of their routine. These oversights can have tragic consequences, especially in extreme temperatures, with an average of 38 children under 15 dying yearly in the U.S.
To prevent this tragedy, take the following steps as part of your car safety routine:
- Maintain a routine. Keeping a consistent routine can help in preventing forgetfulness. Ensure clear communication when there’s a change in who’s dropping off or picking up the baby.
- Place a reminder in the back seat. Leave an essential item, like your purse, briefcase, or cell phone, next to the baby. This prompts you to check the back seat each time you exit the car.
- Use technology to assist. Set a reminder on your phone or use apps like Kars 4 Kids Safety, specifically designed to alert you about checking the back seat.
- Establish a check-in system. If your child attends daycare, ask them to contact you if your baby isn’t dropped off as expected.
- Get adequate sleep. Lack of sleep can impact memory and judgment. Ensure you’re getting enough rest, especially during the initial months of your baby’s life, to stay alert and attentive.
- Always double-check. Even if you’re certain you’ve dropped your baby off, make it a habit to always look in the car before locking it.
Parenting comes with many responsibilities, and ensuring safe car travel is a top priority. It’s not just about adhering to New York’s stringent rules; it’s about taking extra steps to ensure your baby’s safe and comfortable.
If you or your child is hurt in a collision, speak to one of our compassionate car accident attorneys at Catalano Law. We can help you determine a fair settlement for your injuries and seek compensation from the driver who caused the accident.
Contact us today to set up a free consultation for your case.