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Your Guide to The Indiana Car Seat Laws

Indiana’s car seat laws are in place for a reason: to save lives. According to the CDC, the risk of injury to children in accidents is reduced by 71-82% when they are securely fastened into car seats. This percentage isn’t simply contrasted to children who are completely unrestrained; it is a reduction of at least 71% when contrasted with injuries to children wearing only seatbelts. This figure alone illustrates the importance of car seats.

Booster seats are also life savers. Use of them reduced the risk of serious injury to children  “by 45% when compared to seat belt use alone.”

Tragically, car crashes are a leading cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 13 (followed by drowning, suffocating, and fires). However, car seats and booster seats make a huge difference in providing safety. For example, in 2020, out of all of the children in the United States who were involved in fatal car crashes, 86% of the survivors were restrained in car seats. 

Given these types of statistics, one would suppose that parents would need no other kind of persuasion in order to make the decision to safely restrain their children in motor vehicles. That is not always the case, so Indiana car seat laws are in place to incentivize parents into compliance. 

Indiana Car Seat Laws

What are the car seat laws in Indiana? Just as there is no one-size-fits-all car seat, the car seat rules vary according to the child’s size, weight, and age. 

Rear-facing seats:

Babies under the age of one and who also weigh less than 20 pounds must be restrained in rear-facing car seats in the back seat, according to the state of Indiana. However, the CDC recommends that children stay in rear-facing seats as long as possible (even up to the age of 4), depending on the seat manufacturer’s guidelines for weight and height. Children are 5 times safer in rear-facing seats up to the age of two. 

Forward-facing seats:

After children weigh at least 20 pounds (and are at least one year old), they may transition to forward-facing car seats. Parents are required to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to properly secure their children.

Booster Seats:

  • When children weigh 30 pounds, they are allowed to use booster seats instead of car seats, but Indiana State Police recommended that they stay in car seats until they weigh 40 pounds. 
  • At the age of eight, children are allowed to be securely strapped in with adult three-point seat belts in the rear of the vehicle without a booster seat. It is recommended that children stay in a booster seat until they meet the weight limit recommended by the manufacturer, even up to the age of 16. 

Front Seats:

  • When children reach the age of 12 they are legally allowed to ride in the front seat, but it is not encouraged. The CDC notes that children can be killed by airbags in the front seat. Airbags are designed to protect adults who are at least 5 feet tall and who weigh approximately 150 pounds.
  • The safest place in a car for a child to ride is in the center of the back seat.

Because statistics show that 85% of child safety seats are not used correctly, the Indiana State Police have made the following additional reminders for parents:

  • Car seats need to be attached to the actual seat of the car with the LATCH system. They should not be able to move sideways or forward more than an inch.
  • Children should always be restrained by harness straps that are snug.
  • The retainer clip connecting both shoulder harness straps should be kept at the level of the child’s armpit. 

Consequences for noncompliance: 

  • Indiana Code 9-19-11-2 states that if a child younger than 8 is not restrained according to the rules above, it is considered to be a Class D infraction, which comes with a fine of $25.
  • The only exception to this is if the child has a qualifying physical condition that would make a booster seat or car seat impractical because of either a physical deformity or a medical condition. If this is the case, a certificate from a physician, physician’s assistant, or advanced practice registered nurse is required. 
  • If a child is between the ages of 8 and 16 and is not restrained by a child restraint system or 3-point safety belt, the driver has committed a Class D infraction
  • The only exception to this is if a child weighs over 40 pounds, is over 8, and is wearing only a lap belt because either: 
    • The car does not have 3-point safety belts.
    • All of the car’s 3-point safety belts (not counting the ones in the front seat) are being used for other children under the age of 16.
  • The fine money collected is all deposited into the state’s Child Restraint System Account. 

History of Car Seat Laws 

Car seats have been around for almost a century, but they began as a way for children to be elevated and to look out of the window. Safety wasn’t the major issue. Some of the early models almost seemed designed to be unsafe; they consisted of metal frames with “entertaining” metal steering wheels dangerously placed for the baby’s amusement

The rear-facing car seat wasn’t invented until 1964 when a Swedish professor took his inspiration from the backward-facing seats that the American Gemini astronauts were strapped in on their missions.

American auto manufacturers began producing car seats that were designed with crash protection in mind in the early 1970s, but even so, most children rode on their parents’ laps or bounced around in the back seat until 1979, when the first car seat law was introduced. 

This was in Tennessee, but by 1985 all 50 states had enacted car seat laws. 

We have made great progress with the safety restraint systems for children in the past decades. But sometimes, despite even the most stringent adherence to the car seat laws in Indiana and State Police’s safety recommendations, this progress is not sufficient to prevent injury. If your child has been injured in Indiana by a negligent driver, the experienced car accident attorneys at Crossen Law Firm can help you navigate the process of filing injury claims. 

We will fight for the compensation you need and deserve. Our car accident attorneys have the skills and knowledge of Indiana car seat laws necessary to effectively negotiate with insurance companies to obtain maximum compensation.

Get started on your case today by scheduling a free consultation about your situation.Call 317-401-8626 or contact us online.