On August 2, 2012 the existing Arizona car seat law covering children up to five years old changed, additionally requiring that children ages 5 through 7 (younger than 8) and 4'9" or shorter must ride in a vehicle in a booster seat. Confused about what you are hearing and reading about the requirements of the new law? You're not alone. Here is a more detailed explanation with examples.
Arizona law requires that children in vehicles must be properly restrained. Title 28 of Arizona Revised Statutes deals with Transportation and includes child restraints. I will either paraphrase or repeat several important parts of the statute that apply to most people.
ARS 28-907 (A) and (B)
A person shall not operate a motor vehicle on the highways in this state when transporting a child who is under five years of age unless that child is properly secured in a child restraint system. Each passenger who is at least five years of age, who is under eight years of age and who is not more than four feet nine inches tall is to be restrained in a child restraint system. (There are exceptions for older vehicles or vehicles that are larger, like buses.)
ARS 28-907 (C)
Child restraint systems must be correctly installed in accordance with 49 Code of Federal Regulations section 571.213. My commentary: Most mortals will have difficulty understanding these regulations and formulas, and applying them to their own situations. The majority of federal regulations here apply to manufacturers of child restraint systems, so your best bet is to always follow the instructions and recommendations of the manufacturer of the system that you purchase, whether it is a car seat, convertible car seat, a booster seat or any other type of restraint system.
ARS 28-907 (D)
If you are stopped and it is determined by the police officer that there is a child under eight years of age and 4'9" or shorter in the vehicle that is not properly restrained, the officer will issue a citation which results in a $50 fine. If the person shows that the vehicle has been subsequently equipped with a proper child passenger restraint system, the fine will be waived.
ARS 28-907 (H)
The following situations are exempt from this law: Motor vehicles originally manufactured without seat belts (prior to 1972), recreational vehicles, public transportation, buses, school bus, transporting a child in an emergency to obtain medical care, or the situation where there is not enough room in the vehicle to put in child restraint systems for all the children in the vehicle. In the latter case, at least one child must be in a proper restraint system.
Actually, the fine you receive could be much higher than $50, because the city in which you are stopped adds their fines and fees to the process. A citation for this violation could cost you $150 or more.
Types of Child Restraint Systems
There are several types of restraint systems, depending on the weight, age and height of the child.
Birth to age one, designed for children up to about 22 pounds and up to 29" tall.
Infants should be in a reclined infant car seat or convertible seat in the infant position to protect the delicate neck and head. All straps should be pulled snugly. The car seat must face the rear of the car and should never be used in a front seat where there is an air bag. The infant must face the rear so that in the event of a crash, swerve, or sudden stop, the infant’s back and shoulders can better absorb the impact.
Household infant carriers and cloth carriers are not designed to protect an infant in a car and should never be used.
For children weighing up to 40 pounds or 40" tall.
The convertible car seat is placed in a reclined rear-facing position. After children reach at least 1 year and 20 pounds, the convertible seat can be turned forward and placed in the upright position in the back seat of the vehicle.
Generally, more than 40 pounds, under eight years old, 4'9" or shorter
When a child reaches about 40 pounds she will outgrow the convertible seat. Either a belt positioning (backless) or high-back booster seat can be used with a lap/shoulder belt in the back seat of the vehicle.
Note that Arizona law does not take the weight of the child into account. Again, following the car seat or booster seat instructions and recommendations will help you. If you have a child that is legally not required to be in a child restraint system, but is slight or frail, it is perfectly fine for you to err on the side of safety and have your child use a booster seat.
The Question I Get Asked Most Often
Many people, when reading the Arizona Statute, assume that since it is not specifically mentioned as illegal, that a child in a car seat or booster seat can ride in the front seat. No. I don't think you will find any car seat or booster seat, in its operating instructions, that indicates that it is safe to put it in the front seat. Therefore, ARS 28-907 (C), mentioned above, would kick in which says that the federal regulations for child restraint system installation must be followed. Children can be seriously hurt or killed if the front seat airbag is deployed.
Although not dictated by law, even some children who are old enough/tall enough to ride without a booster seat should not sit in the front seat. Most organizations recommend that children 12 and under always ride in the back seat. If for some reason your child must sit in the front seat (two-seat vehicles or pick-up trucks with tight extended cabs, for example) make sure that the passenger side airbag is either deactivated or operates on an automatic sensor turning it off under a certain weight application.
I shouldn't have to say it. Children should never ride in the back of a pickup truck, but I see it all too often. Are you kidding me? Do you care about that child?
Children Are Priceless Passengers
Arizona participates in a program entitled "Children Are Priceless Passengers" whereby you can attend a two-hour training session on child seat safety. There is a fee to attend. The C.A.P.P. Program offers child safety seat classes at locations around the Valley. If you have received a citation for not having your child properly restrained, you may have some or all of the violation removed after attending the class. If you don't own a car seat, you might be given one at the training session. Sessions are available in English and Spanish at the following locations:
Mayo Clinic, 480-342-0300
5777 E Mayo Blvd., Phoenix
Tempe Police Department, 480-350-8376
1855 East Apache Blvd., Tempe
Banner Desert Medical Center, 602-230-2273
1400 S. Dobson Rd., Mesa
Maryvale Hospital, 1-877-977-4968
5102 W. Campbell Ave., Phoenix
St. Joseph's, 1-877-602-4111
350 W. Thomas Rd., Phoenix
Please call the location nearest to you for specific information.
If you have purchased a car seat or booster seat, and you need assistance making sure that it is properly installed, contact your nearest Fire Department location and ask if they will perform a car seat check for you. There won't be a charge for that service.
If you have a child visiting, you can rent appropriate safety equipment at rental centers that carry baby equipment, like cribs and high chairs.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, a doctor or a manufacturer of child restraint systems. If you have specific questions about Arizona's law as it applies to you or your vehicle, please contact one of the specialists mentioned above or the manufacturer of your child restraint equipment.