While I am normally writing article on criminal defense topics involving drugs, guns and DUI, I sometimes receive questions outside of the criminal defense arena. There is never a bad time to talk about child safety! As a parent myself I always make sure that I stay up to date on changes in healthcare and other safety issues. Sadly, most child safety laws and regulations were created because of unfortunate accidents involving children. There is a lot of information about child seat regulations and it’s my hope to clear up maybe misunderstanding with this short piece.
While this article doesn’t focus on the criminal charge of endangering the welfare of a child (EWOC). If a parent or anyone with a child in their cars fails to follow the law regarding safety seats, this is a common charge. Ignorance is not a defense and a person commits EWOC if he knowingly endangers the welfare of a child by violating a duty of care to that child. EWOC can be a misdemeanor of the first degree or a felony of 3rd if it committed as course of conduct. If you have questions about criminal charges in Pennsylvania, I’ve written a short article which you may find helpful. Again, ignoring the child safety law could lead to this charge so if you are reading, listen up!
In Pennsylvania children under the age of 4 must be properly restrained in an approved child safety seat. Children between the ages of 4 and 8 must be restrained in an appropriate booster seat and children between the ages of 8 to 18 must wear a seatbelt. Newborns up until 1 year should always ride in rear facing car seats. There are approved infant only seats which can only be used for rear facing as well as convertible (3 in 1) car seats which allow you to use the seat for a longer period of time.
Between the ages of 1 and 3 your child can and should often remain in the rear facing position until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seats manufacturer. This is considered the best way to keep your child safe and you can convert to a forward facing seat once your child exceeds the height and weight limits. For ages 4 to 7 your child would remain in the forward facing car seat with the harness and once he or she outgrows the forward facing car seat (exceeds height and weight limits) you can move into a booster seat but still keep the child in the backseat.
For ages 8 to 12 keep your child in the booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit into the seatbelt properly. A seatbelt first properly when the lap belt lies snugly across the upper thighs and not on the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snuggly across the shoulder and chest and not across the neck or face. Your child should still remain in the backseat because that is the safest position in the car. PENNDOT provides more than 75 fitting stations where technicians can check that its child safety seat is properly installed. If your family is unable to afford a child safety seat, Pennsylvania also has a loan program for families. In closing, here are some final tips on child car seat safety:
- Select a car seat based on your child’s age and size and choose a seat that fits into your vehicle.
- Keep your child on the back seat at least through age 12.
- Always check the height and weight limits and requirements of your car seat.
Our law firm is already to answer your questions and we have a number of free resources available on your website. We also have a number of videos which quickly explain different topics. While these free resources focus on criminal defense, we are more than happy to accept a question. If we can’t answer it, we will direct you to attorney who focuses their practice in that area.