In 2019, there were 608 car crash deaths recorded across the country — all below 12 years old. Out of these, 38% were not using safety restraints.
This is a testament to how essential car seats (and seatbelts) are.
And because of this, the State of Idaho made sure to implement some laws concerning car seats.
As a parent driver, it is your responsibility to know and follow these laws.
This is why, today, we’re going over everything you should know about the Idaho car seat laws. We’ll talk about the penalties, too.
We’ll also look at how to install a car seat.
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive right in!
Car Seat Laws in Idaho
All cars have seatbelts — so why can’t you use those? Unfortunately, your child has to be big enough to wear it safely.
In Idaho, you need to protect any child younger than 6 who rides in the car with you. The state even goes as far as defining what “proper protection” is.
So before you even pull out of your driveway, ensure you can check off all these boxes:
- You’re using car seats that comply with federal safety standards
- Your child can fit in the seat properly using its straps
- The car seat is secured to your vehicle
- You use the car seat faithfully for all drives with your child
If you have a check on all those boxes, that’s great!
However, before you say you’re officially good, let’s ensure you’re using the right car seat for your child.
Technically, you’ll need to use 3 types of car seats before your child can start using adult seatbelts. Let’s see what these are and when you need them.
Infants and toddlers must be in a rear-facing car seat until they turn 2 years old.
You must also know the maximum height and weight limits the car seat manufacturer set. Once your child exceeds this, it’s time to move on to the next type.
When your child outgrows the rear-facing seat, you’ll have to switch to a front-facing one.
As always, you’ll have to take note of the maximum limits to ensure it’s not too small for your child after several years. You’ll typically use a forward-facing seat until your child turns 4 years old and weighs anywhere between 40 to 65 pounds.
Remember to use the top tether when the child is on the lighter end (around 40 pounds). This keeps the seat from tipping forward, which is crucial if you get into an accident.
Invest in a booster seat before your child turns 4 because that’s when you’ll need to swap your front-facing seat for it. It’s best suited for children between 4 to 8 years old or until they reach 4’9.
You’re encouraged to use a high-back or backless belt-positioning booster in Idaho. Never use it with only the lap belt, regardless of your choice — you should always use the shoulder belt too.
Adult Seat Belt
Children aged 8 or older and at least 4’9” can start using your vehicle’s seat belts. To be extra sure, the lap belt should be across the child’s upper thighs. The shoulder belt, on the other hand, should be across the child’s chest.
Another way to gauge whether or not the child’s ready for the seatbelts is when his knees bend on the seat’s edge. If they don’t, or if you notice the belt straps fall in different areas of the body, it’s a sign that they might still need a booster.
Car Seat Penalties in Idaho
Idaho’s car seat law has primary enforcement, which means police officers don’t need any other reason to pull you over. If they see your child without a car seat, they can pull you over and give you a ticket.
A violation may result in either of the following fines:
- $66.50: if you’re driving with a child older than 6 years old who isn’t wearing safety restraints.
- $84.00: if your passenger is a child younger than 6 years old who isn’t in a car seat.
Also, if you are caught a second time, the fines will increase.
Another thing you should know is that the fine is for each child. So if you have 2 children not using a car seat, you’ll have to pay double.
Tips on How to Install A Car Seat
Using the right car seat is crucial — after all, you don’t want to face the penalties AND put your child at risk.
However, you won’t be able to maximize the car seat if you don’t install it properly.
This is why we’re taking the time to give you several tips to ensure it is placed appropriately inside your vehicle.
Tip #1: Don’t Underestimate the Value of the Manual
Even if you consider yourself handy around the house, don’t set your manual aside to “figure things out on your own.” Remember, each car seat is different, so you must cover all bases.
80% of car seats are improperly installed — that tells you how easy it is to miss some steps. So always read through your owner manuals.
Yes, manuals — the ones for your car seat and your vehicle. You need to understand how they’re supposed to fit together.
Tip #2: Find the Best Spot
Typically, you’d want to put your car seat at the back — after all, it’s the safest place for children younger than 13. However, it’s not possible all the time.
When in doubt, check your vehicle’s manual. See where you can put the car seat without preventing other passengers from riding your car comfortably.
Tip #3: Select the Best Way to Secure the Car Seat
You can install your car seat using two methods: use your vehicle’s seatbelt or utilize the LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children).
Either method is effective and safe, but don’t attempt to use both simultaneously. You can try each out and select the one that provides a snugger fit.
Going the Seatbelt Route
You can secure the car seat by placing the seatbelt through it. Most car seats have arrows that indicate where the belt path is. If you can’t find those, check the directions on the label.
If you’re using a front-facing car seat, don’t forget to use the top tether when installing it.
Going the LATCH Route
You’ll find lower attachments on your car seat that fit into your vehicle’s lower anchors. Connecting those holds your car seat in place. Again, don’t forget to use the top tether for front-facing car seats.
Remember to check the seat’s upper weight limits for LATCH. If your child is too heavy, you might be better off securing the car seat using the seatbelt.
Tip #4 Test It Out
So, you try both the seatbelt and LATCH approach, but how do you know which is better?
The trick is to conduct the “inch test.” Whether you’re using a front or rear-facing car seat, and regardless of which method you used to secure it, it shouldn’t move more than an inch in any direction if you try pulling.
Whichever provides the least amount of movement is the best option.
Wrapping Things Up
That was everything you need to know about the Idaho car seat laws.
As you can see, car seats are SO important. It just might be the thing that saves your child from severe injuries, or worst, death.
So remember to always follow the Idaho car seat laws for children below 2 years old, 4 years old, and 8 years old.
You don’t want to put your child at risk…
And if not that, you also don’t want to face the penalties.