The Alabama Department of Transportation aims to provide a safe transportation system. Hundreds of traffic rules and regulations contribute to this mission. Knowing the laws that affect your children is essential as a parent or caregiver.
At Norris Injury Lawyers, we can represent your legal interests if you have an accident. Yet, we believe that having current and accurate information can help Alabama drivers avoid some preventable tragedies. This guide will introduce Birmingham’s car seat, booster seat, and seat belt laws.
Since every case is different, our firm can help you understand which laws are relevant to you. Call (800) 477-7510 today to schedule your appointment with our Birmingham legal team.
How Seat Belts Work
A 2-point seat belt, also known as a lap belt, stretches across the midsection to attach at the opposite hip. Though this style was popular in older models, most modern cars have 3-point belts. In addition to the lap strap, 3-point belts also extend over the shoulder and across the chest.
Seat belts have the straps over the sturdiest parts of the body (i.e. the pelvis and upper body). This design minimizes impact by distributing force across a wider body area. These safety devices also keep you from being ejected from the vehicle during a crash.
According to the NHTSA, seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 in a single calendar year.
Important Seat Belt Laws You Need to Understand
Almost everyone has heard the slogan: “Seat belts save lives.” Consider these statistics which seem to support this claim:
- Although there were seat belts available in their vehicle, nearly 60 percent of fatalities were not wearing them
- Unbuckled front seat occupants are 55 times more likely to die in an accident than those who are properly restrained
- Not wearing a seat belt triples the risk of death for back seat passengers
- About 97.8 percent of people unharmed after a car accident were wearing seat belts
In 2019, Alabama Legislature passed laws requiring all passengers to wear a seat belt, even in the back seat. To comply with the law, motorists must meet specific requirements:
- Drivers and passengers should be buckled up any time the vehicle is in motion
- Anyone unable to wear a safety belt for medical reasons must have a written statement from a licensed physician
Exceptions apply. For example, Birmingham mail and newspaper carriers are exempt from seat belt requirements while performing their duties.
How Alabama Laws Differ from National Guidelines
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) sets recommendations for child safety. Alabama law differs from these national guidelines in a few significant ways.
Infant-only or rear-facing car seats
Alabama: Use from birth to age 1 or until the infant reaches 20 pounds
AAP: Use until age 2 or until the child reaches the manufacturer’s height or weight limit
Alabama: Use from age 1 (or 20 pounds) until at least age 5 (or 40 pounds)
AAP: Use from age 2 until age 5 or until the child outgrows the manufacturer’s height or weight limit
Alabama: Use from age 5 (or 40 pounds) until age 6
AAP: Use from age 5 until seat belts fit correctly (usually between age 8-12 or when a child reaches a height of 4 feet 9 inches)
Alabama: After age 6
AAP: After age 5 when the seat belt fits properly
A seat belt fits a child when these requirements are met:
- The child’s feet should reach the floor while sitting with his or her back against the vehicle seat.
- The lap belt should lie at the upper thigh.
- The shoulder belt should cross the shoulder and chest, not the neck or face.
Parents must determine the right time to transition their children from restraints to a seat belt.
Consequences of Breaking Birmingham Seat Belt Laws
What happens if someone is caught without a seat belt in Jefferson County? Violators could be fined $25 per person, regardless of where they were sitting in the car.
Children are smaller than adults, so the seat belt laws consider their weight and height. No child younger than 6 years of age should wear a seat belt but must be secured in a child restraint system instead. Failing to secure a child in a restraint would subject the driver to a $25 fine.
The worst results of breaking car seat and seat belt laws: Young people are more vulnerable to injury and death than adults during a car accident. Their bones are softer, their muscles weaker, and their bodies more fragile.
Common traffic collision injuries for adults and children include:
- Broken or dislocated bones
- Soft tissue injuries
- Bruised ribs
- Internal organ damage
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Disfigurement and amputation
- Herniated disc
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for children aged between 1 and 13 years old. Car seats save the lives of an estimated 325 children under 5 years old in one year.
What You Should Know About Child Passenger Restraints
Children under age 6 must use an appropriate child passenger restraint system. These rules apply to Birmingham motor vehicles, including:
- Passenger cars
- Pickup trucks
- 10-passenger (or less) vans
- Sports utility vehicles
The appropriate restraint system depends on the child’s age, weight, and height.
These chairs face the vehicle’s rear, securing infants with a 5-point harness. Each model applies to specific weight and height guidelines that should appear on the packaging.
In general, infant-only seats accommodate babies weighing between 4 and 35 pounds. Height restrictions usually range between 15 and 35 inches.
How they work: These seats cradle the infant’s head, neck, and torso, providing vital protection in a crash. Many infant-only seats detach from the base so they can also serve as carriers.
Convertible seats can be used in rear-facing or front-facing positions. Like infant-only seats, they also have a 5-point harness. They cater to infants and larger babies, accommodating weight limits between 4 and 65 pounds and height limits up to 50 inches.
How they work: Infant-only seats and rear-facing convertible seats ensure that the impact of a crash is not concentrated on the vulnerable head, neck, and spine. Instead, the force distributes along the whole body.
Forward-facing seats have a harness that keeps the child in place during a crash. The tether restricts the child’s forward head movement to reduce the chances of whiplash.
Booster seats lift children higher so that the shoulder and lap straps of a seat belt fall into proper position. Common types of booster seats include:
- Combination, all-in-one, or 3-in-1: High-backed boosters with a removable 5-point harness
- Backless: Booster for use in vehicles with head rests or high seat backs
- Integrated: Child safety seats are built into the design of a vehicle
How they work: The raised position of booster seats decreases the likelihood of internal organ damage or spinal cord injury should a crash occur. Research shows that these belt-positioning seats lower the risk of injury by 45 percent compared with using a seat belt by itself.
Travel vests work for taller children or vehicles with limited space. They come in a variety of styles and sizes, catering to children up to 8 years old or 168 pounds.
How they work: Travel vests adjust the position of the seat belt. In contrast to booster seats which lift the child, travel vests bring the seat belt down to the child’s level. The apparatus is secured with buckles or velcro.
Facts About Car Seats That Might Surprise You
All child restraint systems for children weighing up to 80 pounds must meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213. Child restraint systems can reduce the risk of death or injury if you choose a suitable model.
From time to time, manufacturers or distributors find defects that make specific models unsafe. They must inform the public and stop selling the item. Most seats come with a registration card for this purpose. You can also send registration information via the NHTSA and check for recalls online.
Did you know that car and booster seats expire? Here are some good reasons why:
- Materials: Some materials degrade over time. For instance, plastic can become brittle with age, especially when exposed to heat and sunlight. Metal components can rust and wear down, causing them to malfunction when you need them.
- Technology: Manufacturers and designers learn from research, tests, and even mistakes. As they learn the best ways to protect children from the hazards of a crash, they modify and improve seat features. Transportation regulatory agencies and state governments might also change laws affecting child safety.
- Part replacement: As new designs become available, old components become unavailable. You cannot use a seat with missing or broken parts.
Are you wondering whether your seat is past its prime? Some new seats and boosters have labels containing the date of manufacture and the seat’s lifespan. Other models stamp a “Do not use after” date into the plastic molding.
If these features are missing, check the instruction manual. You might have to calculate the expiry date by counting forward from the date of manufacture. If you cannot determine when a seat expires, you should not use this unsafe seat.
Buying a car seat from a garage sale or accepting a secondhand gift from a friend can be tempting. After all, brand new seats can cost hundreds of dollars. Yet, a used item might be dangerous.
You need to ensure that the manufacturer has not recalled the model. Seats that have been in an accident should be avoided, as you will learn in the section below.
What to Do With a Car Seat After a Crash
Car seats might not offer the same level of crash protection after an accident. Therefore, NHTSA recommends replacing car seats after moderate to severe collisions.
Under the following circumstances, you could consider keeping the same seat after a minor crash:
- The vehicle is drivable
- The door closest to the car seat sustained no damage
- None of the passengers were injured
- The airbags didn’t deploy
- The car seat is not visibly damaged
- No parts are missing
Discard any child restraint device that does not fit these criteria. To avoid endangering a young one, do not donate or give away expired or crash-involved seats. Manufacturers recommend:
- Slicing the tethers and straps
- Cutting the seats with a box cutter
- Writing “Do Not Use” on the item with a permanent marker
- Turning in used products to car seat recycling or trade-in programs available at some Birmingham retailers and baby product stores
Yet, what can you do about your car accident? If you or your child were injured, you could be facing some serious financial troubles. The experienced attorneys of Norris Injury Lawyers can help.
Getting Compensated for Preventable Accidents
You can receive personal injury compensation in Birmingham, Alabama, if you meet specific requirements. Many successful claims provide financial relief for accident victims, such as:
- Paid medical debt: Medical bills start from your ride in the ambulance and accumulate during out-patient care and rehabilitation. Our lawyers can help you recoup past medical expenses and costs of future treatment related to your accident.
- Car repairs and replacement: The at-fault driver is liable for property damage and personal injuries, but proving his or her negligence is difficult. Our legal team can investigate your case and seek the proper evidence to ensure justice for you and your family,
- Lost wages: If you missed work because of your accident, the attorneys of Norris Injury Lawyers can pursue reimbursement for your lost income. You might also qualify to receive temporary or permanent disability benefits.
- Wrongful death damages: When a close family member dies in a preventable accident, relatives can turn to our law firm for compassionate legal support. You can learn your eligibility for funeral expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering during a free consultation.
Schedule Your Free Case Review Today
At Norris Injury Lawyers, Birmingham residents pay nothing to learn if they have a case. Even if we take your case, you will owe nothing unless we win money for you.
Why wait any longer for the compensation you deserve? Call our offices at (800) 477-7510 or click the chat icon below to set a convenient date for your free consultation.