Louisiana just did a thing.
Louisiana just passed a law that increases the age a child must be properly restrained in a car seat.
Louisiana’s new laws will now reflect the Academy of American Pediatrics’s recommendations for child safety seat use.
It’s a pretty big thing, actually.
Such a big thing that only 12 other states are doing it. According to www.saferide4kids.com, a site that has compiled all states’ car seat laws, the only other states that follow all of the AAP’s recommendations are California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, and Washington D.C.
(Although many states do require children 8 and under to use a booster seat.)
So provided Governor Edwards approves the new law, this is what you can expect come August 2019 for car seat requirements:
1. Children must stay rear-facing until age two (at least).
Our current laws, like many other states, only require babies to be rear-facing until age one OR until they reach 20 pounds.
In a crash, a rear-facing car seat will absorb most of the force while still supporting the head, neck and spine.
So keeping your child rear-facing as long as their car seat manufacturer’s guidelines permit is the safest way for your child to ride. Many car seats have increased the weight maximums for their rear-facing car seats, making it possible for your child to stay rear-facing for even longer.
2. Children over age two who have outgrown their car seat’s weight/height maximums can turn forward-facing.
Again, many rear-facing car seats today will hold children well past the average weight of a two-year-old. And keeping them rear-facing as long as possible is not only the best practice and safest option, but it will soon be the law.
3. CHILdren over the age of four who have outgrown their seat’s weight/height maximums can transition into a booster seat.
Like many infant seats, convertible car seats have increased the height/weight maximums to make it possible for most children to stay in a 5-point harness convertible seat well past the age of four.
If, however, your child has outgrown the height/weight maximum for their seat, they can start using a booster at age four.
When my four (almost 5) year old’s convertible car seat expired (it was a hand-me-down from his older sister…most last much longer), a certified car seat technician told us that if we insisted on getting a booster seat for him, we should get a booster with a 5-point harness. She pointed out that many four-year-olds (and kids much older in fact), do not sit properly in a booster seat with a lap and shoulder belt. They flop around, move on strap behind them, slouch, etc. In the event of a crash, that misuse could be deadly.
So now he is happily in a “big boy seat” but still securely fastened in a 5-point harness, keeping his wild boy behaviors from putting him in a dangerous position. When he is able to ride correctly 100% of the time, his seat will transition into a regular booster that uses a lap and shoulder belt.
4. Children under the age of 9 must be restrained in a booster seat (if not a convertible, 5-point harness seat) until they outgrow the height/maximum for a booster seat.
This is a big one. My 7-year-old has been complaining for a while that she is the only kid in her class who still has to ride in a “baby seat”. It’s really embarrassing for her when a friend’s parent picks her up and she has to get in with her booster seat.
Many of her friends stopped using a booster seat after age 6, which is what Louisiana’s current law allows for. However, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s most recently released study, only one child between the age of 9-12 (much older than Louisiana’s current law requires) who was properly restrained in a booster seat died in a car crash in the 2017 crash statistics. On the flip side, 40% of the fatalities in the same age range were children wearing adult seat belts.
Booster seats will hold children up to 100 pounds, although many newer models will hold children up to 120 pounds. So even if your child is over the age of 9 and is still under 4’9 and 100 pounds, he or she must stay in a booster seat once this new law goes into effect.
5. Children under the age 13 must ride in the back seat (if it is available).
So theoretically, a child who is over age 9, more than 100 pounds, and taller than 4’9 could ride in the front seat IF all the back seats were taken. Otherwise, he or she has to stay in the back. This will probably be another hard pill to swallow for many pre-teens, but I’d rather have a mad pre-teen than a dead or severely injured one. (Plus, they are going to be mad no matter what you make them do, so you might as well keep them safe while doing it!)
So if you were planning on transitioning your child into the next level of car seats soon, you should hold off on doing that, unless their new seat will still meet the requirements once the new law goes into effect. Because nobody wants to tell a 7 year old he has to get back into a booster seat when he has been riding without one for some time.
If your child has already transitioned and the new law will require them to return to a more protective seat, starting now would be better than springing that unwelcome news on them the last day of July. (Can you imagine…summer ending AND having to get back into a “baby” seat?? Oh the horror...)
And if your child is having a hard time accepting the new rules, consider having him or her watch the videos at www.boosterseats4safety.org. They can see what would happen if they were in a car crash and were not riding in a seat appropriate for their height and weight.
Whether they accept it willingly or not, remember that these new laws are based on several decades of data proving that being appropriately restrained makes your child 70% more likely to survive a serious car crash. Every transition into a less protective car seat restraint decreases your child’s safety making them more susceptible to serious injury or even death.
As a parent, I know I would much rather have my child mad at me for making them get back into a car seat than know that my child died or was seriously injured when I could have done something to prevent it.