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Virginia Child Passenger Safety Laws

November is Child Safety Protection Month. It is a good time for parents and other adults who care for or transport children to review the Federal and Virginia laws enacted to protect children from a range of Virginia Child Passenger Safety Laws - Altizer Lawdangers. Today, we want to look at the Virginia laws intended to protect children when in a vehicle.

Children should always be placed in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of the car. Babies can be killed by a deploying airbag if placed in the front seat. This should be continued until either the age of 2, or the child reaches the height or weight limit for the device/seat.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), use of an approved safety seat, properly installed, reduces the risk of death in 71 percent for children involved in vehicle crashes. The reason for the reduced risk is that the seat supports the infant’s upper body and protects his/her head, neck, and spine. The seat also diffuses the shock of the impact and further protects the child.

  1. Child restraint devices are required in all vehicles for all children through the age of 7. These devices must be properly used and approved by the Department of Transportation standards. The only requirement is based upon age – there are no exceptions based upon height or weight. Drivers who fail to comply with this law (Code of Virginia Article 13 – Section 46.2-1095) can be stopped and ticketed.
  2. Rear-facing car restraint devices may be placed only in the vehicle’s back seat. If the vehicle has no rear seat, the restraint may be placed in the front seat only if there is no airbag on the passenger side of the vehicle or if the airbag has been deactivated. Drivers who fail to comply with this law can be stopped and ticketed (Code of Virginia Article 12 – Section 46-2-1095).
  3. Children between the ages of 8 and 17 must be correctly belted with the vehicle’s safety belts in all vehicles manufactured after January 1, 1968. Drivers in violation of this law can be stopped and ticketed. (Code of Virginia Section 46.2-1156.1)
  4. No child or youth under the age of 16 years may be transported in the rear cargo section of a pickup truck. There are some exceptions for particular parades and for farming operations. (Code of Virginia Section 46.2-1156.1)

Fines and penalties:

  • $50 for failure to have a child in a child restraint device or car seat.
  • Up to $500 for a second or subsequent time on different dates.
  • $20 civil penalty fine when drivers transporting a child exempt from the laws due to medical reasons fail to carry a written statement of the exemption.

If a family cannot afford to purchase an appropriate child seat, there is help from Virginia Department of Health, Division of Injury and Violence Prevention. Call 800-732-8333. These programs are funded by fines and penalties assessed for violations of the child safety laws.

Every parent and grandparent should know these laws. They must also ensure that any other driver transporting a child clearly understands the requirements, and that they will observe the laws and protect their children.