Child Passenger Safety FAQ

Q: Why Was the Law Revised?

A: Gov. Nathan Deal and state lawmakers felt the previous law needed to be strengthened to reduce the number of children injured or killed on Georgia roadways.

In 2008, a total of 14,154 children, ages 6-8 years, in Georgia were involved in motor vehicle crashes. Of those, 10 were killed and 1,755 were injured. Only 12 percent of these children reportedly used a supplemental restraint, such as a child safety seat or a booster seat, in addition to the adult seat belt.

Hospitalization charges for 248 children hospitalized in traffic-related injuries were about $7 million. Some 5,111 emergency room visits stemming from motor vehicle crashes incurred another $5 million in expenses.

”Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta came to me and said during the last four years 95 percent of the patients they saw for injuries resulting from a motor vehicle crash between the ages of 6 and 8 were improperly restrained,” said Georgia Sen. Jeff Mullis. “I believe it is our responsibility to protect our children and when there is an obvious problem, we need to fix it. I was honored they asked me to work on this issue on behalf of children all across Georgia.”

Q: Are there any exceptions to the law?

A: A few.

Exemptions:

  • Children under age 8 whose height is over 4’9” or 57”
  • Parent or Guardian has a written statement from a physician that the child has a physical or medical condition that prevents restraining them as required by law.

Exceptions:
A child under age 8 and weighing at least 40 pounds is not exempt from the law. Such a child may use a lap belt  instead of a car seat or booster seat when:

  • The vehicle is not equipped with lap and shoulder belts; or
  • Excluding the driver’s seat, all seating positions with lap and shoulder belts are being used to restrain other children. In this case,  placement of car seats / booster seats should be evaluated to determine if seats can be repositioned to provide the best protection for all children being transported.

A child under age 8 may only be in the front seat, properly restrained in a car seat or booster seat when:

  • The vehicle has no rear seating position appropriate for correctly restraining a child, or
  • All appropriate rear seating positions are occupied by other children.

Q: Are there any vehicle exemptions?

A: Yes.

Drivers who transport children under age 8 in a taxicab or public transit vehicle are exempt from the law. Standard school buses and multifunctional school activities buses, as defined in the Federal Register, are also exempt.
(Taxicab is defined as a motor vehicle used to transport passengers for a fare and is fitted with a taxi meter to compute such fare. Public transit vehicle is defined as a bus, van, or rail car used for the transportation of passengers within a system that receives a subsidy from tax revenues or is operated under a franchise contract with a county or municipality of this state).

Q: Why are booster seats necessary?

A: Children using booster seats are 59 percent less likely to be injured in a crash than those using a seat belt alone.

Seat belts are made for adults and do not fit young children correctly. Booster seats raise children up so the adult seat belt fits them. Booster seats position the shoulder belt across the shoulder and chest, not the neck. Booster seats also keep the lap belt low over the hip and thigh bones, not across the belly. Children using booster seats are 59 percent less likely to be injured in a crash than those using a seat belt alone.

Q: Are church-based daycare operations required to use booster seats to transport eight-year- old children in a 16-passenger van?

A: Yes.

Georgia law requires that every driver who transports a child eight years of age and younger in a passenger automobile, van, or pickup truck must restrain the child in a child safety seat. Exceptions to the law are listed in the above questions.

Q: My son rides a school bus to Headstart at our local elementary school. Does state law require him to ride in a child safety seat on the bus?

A: No.

If the school bus used to transport your child to Headstart is a standard school system bus, it is not addressed under this law.

Q: When can my child ride in the front seat?

A: Georgia law requires children to ride in the back seat until age 8. 

However, children age 12 and under should ride in the back seat of the vehicle whenever possible as the back seat is the safest position for children.

Q: Can my child legally ride in a vehicle that does not have rear seats?

A: Georgia law does account for vehicles with no rear seating positions.

It states: “a child under age 8 may only be in the front seat, properly restrained in a car seat or booster seat when:
• The vehicle has no rear seating position appropriate for correctly restraining a child, or
• All appropriate rear seating positions are occupied by other children.”
 
Note that, in this case, children must be older than 1 year and weigh more than 20 lbs. Children cannot safely or legally ride in a rearfacing seat in front of an active airbag. Also, the vehicle must have a lap and shoulder belt if the child is riding in a booster seat. Booster seats cannot safely or legally be used with lap belts only.

Q: How does the law affect childcare vehicles such as 12 and 15 passenger vans, school buses, and Multi-Function School Activity Buses? 

A: If you are a childcare provider, please visit this website for the most up-to-date information on child transportation.

If you have additional questions, please contact your childcare consultant or injury@dhr.state.ga.us or call (404) 679-0500.
 

Child Passenger Safety Tips

Current car seat recommendations from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • Select a car seat based on your child’s age and size, and choose a seat that fits in your vehicle and use it every time.
  • Always refer to your specific car seat manufacturer’s instructions; read the vehicle owner’s manual on how to install the car seat using the seat belt or LATCH system; and check height and weight limits.
  • To maximize safety, keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements.
  • Keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12.

Skipping a step could put kids at risk

Birth – 12 months

Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.

1 – 3 years

Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.

4 – 7 years

Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it’s time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.

8 – 12 years

Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.
 
Have your child safety seats inspected by a certified child passenger safety technician (CPST). For information on Child Passenger Safety Seat Fitting Stations in Georgia, click HERE