What is the seat belt law in New York State?

New York State law requires all front seat passengers to wear seat belts. Children under the age of 16 must wear seat belts when they are in the front seat or the back seat. Children under the age of four must ride in safety seats. Children age four, five or six must ride in child restraint systems. The penalty for a seat belt or car seat violation is a fine of up $50. If a conviction includes a person under the age of 16, the driver receives a maximum fine of $100 and 3 points on the driver license record.

How do I select the correct child safety seat or child restraint system?

To select the correct protection for your child, carefully read the recommendations of child safety seat or child restraint system manufacturers. The recommendations tell you what age weight and height a child can be to use the seat or system. The recommendations are normally printed on the outside of the package.

These examples can help you to select the correct child safety seat:

  • Infant seats are normally for infants that weigh approximately 22 pounds or less, are 25 inches or less in length, or are less than one year old. Face the infant seat toward the back of the vehicle. Never put an infant in the front seat of a vehicle that has a passenger-side air bag.
  • Convertible child safety seats are normally for infants or toddlers that weigh approximately 40 pounds or less. For infants, face these seats toward the back of the vehicle. For toddlers more than one year old, you can change these seats to face the front of the vehicle. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to adjust the seat as the child increases in size.
  • Booster seats are normally for children who have outgrown toddler seats. Booster seats are for children who are four to eight years old, who weigh 40 to 80 pounds, and who are less than four feet, nine inches in height. You can use a booster seat until an adult seat belt correctly fits the child without use of the booster seat.  Built-in child seats are available with some vehicle models. Built-in child seats fold away from the standard car seats. Do not use these seats for infants. 

Always read the instructions and the information provided in the vehicle owner manual about the use of child safety seats or child restraint systems. Make sure you install and use the seat or system correctly at all times. Never use an infant seat in the front seat of a vehicle that has a passenger-side air bag. Make sure that other passengers use their seat belts. Read more tips on the correct use of safety seats and child restraint systems.

Can I use a child safety seat in a car with air bags?

It is not illegal under NYS law for a child passenger to ride in the front seat of a vehicle that has a passenger air bag, but it is dangerous. Recent studies show that air bags can cause serious or fatal injuries to infants, children or small adults that sit in the passenger-side front seat. It is also normally safer for a child of any age to ride in the back seat of any vehicle.

The new law requires the use of booster seats or other appropriate child restraint systems for four, five and six year olds.

A booster seat must be used with a lap AND shoulder belt.
Improperly fitting safety belts can cause needless injuries, even death in a crash or sudden stop situation.

Adult lap and shoulder belts will not fit children properly until they are 4'9" tall, which is usually around eight years of age. The lap and shoulder belt should fit properly with the lap portion of the belt low and snug across the upper thighs and the shoulder portion crossing the chest and resting over the middle of the shoulder. The child also should be able to bend his/her knees over the edge of the seat when sitting with his/her back up against the vehicle seat.

Children under age four are required to be restrained in federally approved child safety seats when riding in a motor vehicle.