According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 600 child passengers died in 2020 from motor vehicle crashes. Out of these, 38% were not using any car restraint device.
The ratio might not seem very big, but that translates to 230 lives.
See how much difference using a car seat can make?
This is why, as parents, we MUST always obey the Rhode Island car seat laws.
And this is why, here, we’re going to focus on what the law says.
Plus, we’ll also talk about the seat belt law to keep adults safe.
So buckle up and let’s go!
Car Seat Laws in Rhode Island
The Rhode Island car seat law states that…
Children who are under 8 years old, are shorter than 57 inches and are less than 80 pounds are REQUIRED to use a car seat or booster seat.
Sounds simple, right?
Well, not exactly.
The thing is, there are different kinds of car seats that are required.
Let’s break this down into detail.
Rear-Facing Car Seats
Infants should use a rear-facing car seat or convertible car seat.
This applies until they turn at least one year old or weigh at least 20 pounds.
When using a rear-facing car seat, it’s only allowed to be placed at the back.
You also cannot situate it in a space where an airbag is likely to deploy in a crash — it may hit the car seat and cause more injury to your baby.
Forward-Facing Car Seats
When your infant becomes a toddler (at least one-year-old and weighs 20+ pounds), it’s time to switch to a forward-facing car seat.
Again, this car seat must always be installed at the back.
When your child outgrows a front-facing car seat, you’ll need to invest in a booster seat.
You will need to use this until:
- Your child turns 8 years old
- Your child weighs more than 80 pounds
- Your child stands 57 inches tall
- Your child can properly wear a seatbelt
And although it’s no longer a law, it’s best to still keep booster seats at the back.
But what is a booster seat?
Unlike other car seats, which come with their own straps and tethers, most booster seats don’t have these.
Its primary purpose is to raise your child to a position wherein you can use your vehicle’s seatbelt.
After the booster seat, your child can now use an adult seatbelt.
However, they must be buckled up at all times, no matter if they sit in the front or back.
And again, make sure that the child fits this description:
- They are at least 8 years old
- They weigh at least 80 pounds
- They stand at least 75 inches tall
- They can properly wear a seat belt
Let’s say your child fits the first 3 descriptions but not the last 1.
It’s highly recommended to continue using a booster seat for their ultimate protection, even though they can now, by law, wear a seatbelt.
Car Seat Penalties in Rhode Island
Rhode Island’s car seat law has primary enforcement.
So if a law enforcement officer sees an unrestrained child while you’re driving, he can pull you over and give you a ticket.
The penalty for that is a mandated court appearance and any court fees.
You will also have to pay a fine of $85 if the child is seated at the front or isn’t wearing a seatbelt.
Car Seat Exemptions in Rhode Island
Remember we said car seats should always be placed at the back.
Well, there are a few exemptions to that.
- Your vehicle has no backseat (pickup truck, sports car, etc).
- The backseat is already fully occupied by other children. If this is the case, the eldest child’s car seat should be placed in the front.
When Should Your Child Use A Seatbelt?
Let’s say your child can legally use a seatbelt.
However, that doesn’t always mean it’s the safest way to go.
Try to observe them while keeping these questions in mind:
- Can they sit all the way back in their seat?
- Are their knees bent comfortably over the seat’s edge?
- Does the seatbelt’s shoulder strap cross over their collarbone and the center of their chest?
- Does the lap belt fall across their hips and pelvis?
- Are they comfortable enough to sit in this position for the entire trip?
If you answered no to any of the questions above, chances are, your child probably still needs to be in a booster seat.
Remember, a seatbelt is most effective if a person can wear it properly.
If your child is too small, it may cause more harm than good.
Rhode Island Seat Belt Law
So, we’ve already covered the Rhode Island car seat laws.
But what about the adults?
Rhode Island’s seatbelt law is simple…
The driver and ALL passengers, regardless of where they’re seated, are required to PROPERLY wear a seatbelt.
In short, everyone above 8 years old must wear a seatbelt in Rhode Island.
Seat Belt Penalties in Rhode Island
Just like the car seat laws, the seatbelt law is primary enforcement.
So you can be pulled over for simply not wearing a seatbelt.
Now, the fine is less expensive — only $40 for each unrestrained occupant.
However, this can quickly add up if you keep violating the same law.
And, as the driver, you’re responsible for ensuring all your passengers comply with state laws.
If not, you may have to pay the fines and have the violation on your driving record.
The Wrap Up
And there you have it — everything you needed to know about the Rhode Island car seat laws, plus the seatbelt law.
Remember, obeying this law is more than just avoiding the penalties.
It’s making sure that everyone, especially children, is kept safe while in a moving vehicle.
I mean, you never know what could happen.
It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Always make sure everyone BUCKLES UP!