I was looking over car seat laws recently, and my main discovery was that it was confusing. All states have age restrictions for carseats/booster seats (younger than 3-8, depending on the state), some have height restrictions (40″-57″), and others have weight restrictions (20-80lbs). The best overview I could find came from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but at times the distinction between AND or OR was subtle, indicated only by a semicolon.
For example, let’s look at Massachusetts. Up through July 9 this year, the law is
No child under age five and no child weighing forty pounds or less shall ride as a passenger in a motor vehicle on any way unless such child is properly fastened and secured, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, by a child passenger restraint as defined in section one.
So children under age five OR under 40 lbs need a carseat/booster seat, while children over age five AND over 40 lbs can go without. But starting July 10:
A passenger in a motor vehicle on any way who is under the age of 8 shall be fastened and secured by a child passenger restraint, unless such passenger measures more than 57 inches in height.
At that point, children over age 8 OR over 57″ can ride without a special seat.
I found as I surfed the web that the shorter the state-by-state summary, the more confusing it was to know if AND or OR should be used, but if I could track down something Official from the State Government itself (as above), it was usually pretty clear. This and/or problem did, however, remind me of back when the boys were young and the carseat restrictions were actually impossible to cover.
Babies are supposed to ride rear-facing until they are 1 year of age AND 20 lbs. That meant that our boys, who reached 20 pounds way before a year, still were supposed to ride rear-facing until they turned one. No problem so far.
The problem was that our carseats had height restrictions. We used the Britax Roundaboud, which could be rear-facing for little ones and then turn around and be forward facing for a couple more years. Here’s what the manual said (this is the updated one, but our version had the same kind of info):
Use rear-facing only with children:
- who weigh between 5 and 35 lbs. (2.3 – 15.9 kg.) and
- the top of the child’s head is 1” (2.5 cm.) or more below the top of the child seat (Fig. A) and
- the harness straps are in the nearest slots at or below the child’s shoulders.
If the child cannot be secured within these requirements because the child exceeds height or weight requirements, review the forward-facing guidelines on page 7.
But here’s how those forward-facing guildelines start:
Use forward-facing only with children who are at least one year of age….
So our boys couldn’t be rear-facing because they were too tall, but couldn’t be forward facing because they were too young. And in talking with other parents, there was no way around this contradiction, even with other seats that we looked at. I picture a Venn diagram of age, weight, and height, and not all of the combinations were covered.
At least the contradiction was short-lived: eventually the boys did turn one and the problem (for us) went away.
Picture taken by Tracybenn, and used under the GNU Free Documentation License.