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Rhode Island Car Seat Laws

A Summary of Child Car Seat Laws in Rhode Island

Car seat laws as they pertain to the state of Rhode Island

  • Infants and toddlers under the age of 2 years or those weighing less than 30 pounds should be restrained in a rear-facing seat.
  • The law requires all children 2 years old or older who have exceeded the rear-facing seat’s weight and height limits to ride on forward-facing seats.
  • Children younger than 8 years should be restrained in the appropriate child restraint device unless they are 4’9” tall and weigh 80 pounds.
  • Children should remain in the back seat until age 13.

Rear-facing Car Seat Laws in Rhode Island

Rhode Island car seat law requires infants and toddlers under the age of 2 years or those weighing less than 30 pounds to be restrained in a rear-facing seat. According to most experts, the rear-facing position is the safest for young children. This is because the back of the car seat protects the child’s fragile and developing body parts by absorbing the impact forces. Also, in case of a frontal collision, the seat holds the child in place to prevent him or her from colliding with the interior surfaces of the car. Typically, newborns usually start by riding on infant-only seats which have lower weight and height limits. Infants normally outgrow them pretty fast and then switch to convertible seats which are much bigger and have higher weight limits (up to 40 pounds). Children can remain in convertibles until age 4, however this depends on their growth rate. Rear-facing seats should be secured in the back seat according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Forward-Facing Car Seat Laws in Rhode Island

The law requires all children 2 years old or older who have exceeded the rear-facing seat’s weight and height limits to ride on forward-facing seats equipped with a harness until they exceed the maximum limits set by the manufacturer. Convertible seats can be used as a forward-facing seat, so parents who were using them as rear-facing seats can turn their seats to face forward while others can opt for forward-facing only seats. A seat with a 5-point harness is highly recommended. The straps should be snugly secured across the stronger parts of the child’s body (shoulders and neck). If this is done right, the straps will help in distributing the crash forces away from the delicate body parts such as the neck and spine in the event of an accident. Most car seats of this type can accommodate weights of up to 65 pounds. This means children can safely remain forward-facing until age 7. The seat should also be installed in the back seat according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Booster Seat Regulations in Rhode Island

Rhode Island requires children younger than 8 years to be restrained in the appropriate child restraint device placed in the rear seating position unless they are 4’9” tall and weigh 80 pounds. This means children who have outgrown forward-facing seats are allowed to ride on booster seats until they are 8 years old or until they weigh 80 pounds and are 4’9”. Booster seats help in raising the child so that normal safety belts can fit properly over the body. The shoulder straps should lie snug across the chest, and the lap belt should lie flat across the upper thighs. Use a high-back booster seat if your car does not have a headrest to support the child’s neck and head. Children should remain in booster seats until they can fit in seat belts. While the law provides weight and height guidelines to be followed, experts insist the height is the most important factor since safety belts are designed to fit anyone who is 4’9” tall or taller. Children shorter than this height may not fit in seat belts and can be exposed to potential neck and stomach injuries if the straps are misplaced. Also, a seat belt ready child should be able to sit all the way back against the seat without slouching, and the knees should bend at the edge of the seat with feet touching the floor.

Requirements for children to use the front seat in Rhode Island

The law requires all child restraint devices to be installed in the rear sitting position. This means children can legally sit in the front seat once they are old enough to use lap-shoulder belts only (age 8 or 80 lbs. and 4’9” tall). However, the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) says children should remain in the back seat until age 13. This is because the passenger-side airbags in the front seats can injure children when they inflate since they are designed for adults. Also, the back seat is generally safer because it is farther away from the point of impact in case of a frontal collision.

Law on Persons 8 years or older in Rhode Island

The law requires anyone 8 years or older riding in a car to be restrained with a safety belt.

Law on leaving a child in a car in Rhode Island

You can be convicted if you leave a child younger than 12 years unsupervised inside a car for a period of time that presents significant risks to his or her safety or health. It is not recommended to leave a child alone in a vehicle for any length of time.

Law on Smoking in a car with a child in Rhode Island

There are no laws regarding smoking in a car with child passengers. We do not recommend that you smoke in your vehicle with children present.

Law on Car Seat Replacement in Rhode Island

There is no law regarding the replacement of car seats. Car seats usually expire after a period of time (6 years), so make sure to check your seat’s expiry date. Also, according to federal standards, car seats should be replaced after a moderate or severe accident.

Car Seat Law Exemptions in Rhode Island

A child younger than 8 years who is properly restrained in the front seat can be exempted if the car has no rear seats, or if all other sitting positions are occupied by other children. Vehicles manufactured before July 1, 1966, are also exempted. Children with physical or medical issues that make it inappropriate to use a child restraint system are required to have a written document from a physician which is not older than 12 months stating why the child cannot comply with the state’s car seat laws.

More Rhode Island Laws