A Summary of Child Car Seat Laws in Montana
- Infants should ride on rear-facing seats from birth until at least the age of 2 years.
- Children 2-4 years old who have exceeded the rear-facing seat limits can transition to forward-facing seats.
- The Montana Highway Traffic Safety Division recommends children 5-8 years should ride on booster seats.
- The law allows children over 6 years old who weigh 60 pounds or more to wear adult seatbelts.
- Children should sit in the back seat until they are 13 years of age.
Rear-facing Car Seat Laws in Montana
Montana’s child car-seat law does not have any rules concerning rear-facing seats. However, most experts agree that infants should ride on rear-facing seats from birth until at least the age of 2 years. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends children should remain rear-facing for as long as possible or until they exceed the manufacturer’s maximum weight and height requirements. The two types of rear-facing seats that are mainly used are infant-only and convertible seats. Infant-only is perfect for newborns, whereas convertible seats allow you to keep your baby rear-facing for a longer period (up to age 4) since they can support up to 40 pounds. The seat usually comes equipped with a harness. This helps to keep your baby in position during a car crash to protect the delicate body parts (neck, head, and spine). Always secure your baby in the back seat together with the seat’s harness according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Forward Facing Car Seat Laws in Montana
According to the Montana Highway Traffic Safety Division, children 2-4 years old who have exceeded the rear-facing seat limits can transition to forward-facing seats. For those parents using convertible seats, if your child has outgrown the rear-facing position, it is considered safe to turn the seat to face forward. A child should remain forward-facing until he or she has exceeded the age, weight, and height limits set by the manufacturer. With some seats accommodating kids of up to 65 pounds, children can safely remain forward-facing until age 7. Using a 5-point harness with a tether is the best way to fasten your child in the seat. The harness straps should be snug above the child’s collarbone. Also, if a child’s ears are at the same level as the top of the seat or when the shoulders are higher than the topmost slot, then this means the child is big enough to transition to the next seat.
Booster Seat Regulations in Montana
The Montana Highway Traffic Safety Division recommends children 5-8 years should ride on booster seats as long as they have exceeded the manufacturer’s height and weight limits for forward-facing seats. There are two different types of booster seats, high-back and backless. If your car does not have a headrest to support your child’s head and neck, then using a high back is recommended. If your car’s seat is long enough to hold your child’s head, you can use a backless one. Booster seats should be secured with lap-shoulder belts or with a latch system. Do not use lap-only seat belts. Make sure the lap portion lies flat across the upper thighs, and the shoulder portion lies snug across the middle of the chest area. While the Montana car seat law allows children over 6 years old who weigh 60 pounds or more to stop using booster seats and graduate to adult safety belts, most experts agree that a height of 4’9’’ (attained at age 8-12) should be given priority since safety belts are designed to fit those 4’9’’ or taller. Also, a child can be considered seat belt ready if he or she can sit straight against the back of the seat without slouching and if the knees are bent at the edge of the seat, with feet touching the floor.
Requirements for children to use the front seat in Montana
The law does not cover anything to do with front seat regulations. However, the Montana Highway Traffic Safety Division says children should sit in the back seat until they are 13 years of age. This is in line with AAP’s recommendation which also says passenger-side airbags in the front seat can be lethal to children due to the great force with which they deploy. They further advise that the back seat is generally safer for children.
Law on leaving a child in a car in Montana
There is no law regarding leaving a child unattended inside a car, however, you can be charged with negligence if the child gets hurt. It is recommended to never leave your child unattended for any length of time.
Law on Smoking in a car with a child in Montana
It is not illegal to smoke in a car with child passengers in Montana.
Car Seat Law Exemptions in Montana
The law is not clear as to whether commercial vehicles such as taxis are required to comply with the state’s car seat laws. Children who have been certified by a physician as to having a disability, medical, or physical condition that makes it unsuitable to use child restraint devices are exempted.
Law on Car Seat Replacement in Montana
The Montana Department of Transportation recommends parents should replace their car seats after an accident. Safety experts say you should replace your car seat after a second accident. This is because car seats can develop tiny fractures that are hard to spot, so using them after a crash may not be safe. Also, car seats usually have expiry dates (about 6 years), so be sure to check if yours is past the expiry date.
More Montana Laws