Have You Heard?? New Arizona State Car Seat Law Starts August 2nd

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Photo by Britax Carseats

I usually consider myself pretty up to speed when it comes to the laws regarding the safety of my kids.  I’ve regularly reviewed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations (NHTSA) website for recommendations when it comes to car seat choices and positioning.  I consider myself well {self}educated on car seats – I’ve spent HOURS upon hours researching the ones out there, brands, age/weight/height ranges, etc. Which is why I was completely caught off guard the other day when I found out that Arizona changed their car seat law in May and the new law goes into effect in the beginning August.

Like most other moms out there, I’d heard about the recommendations from the NHTSA – rear facing until age 2 and in a booster until age 8. It was all over the news when the recommendations first came out and even our pediatrician’s office was talking about them.  BUT, none of it was AZ State law…they were all just…recommendations.

Maybe I live under a rock, in a closet, or I’ve just been too busy, but I totally missed this law change. And not just me, MANY of the mom’s I have talked to had no idea either.  Here’s why this is a BIG DEAL for some of us. Current AZ law allows kids at age 5 to be free of any kind of booster or child restraint seat. Age 5. That’s Kindergarten…and yes, my oldest daughter {who is almost 7 and starting 2nd grade} talked non-stop about how she was now old enough to not need a booster anymore and how none of her friends use them.  Well, her bubble is officially burst…as well as riding booster free {occasionally} in her daddy’s car. The new AZ Law now requires any child under age 8 {and under 4’9″} to be in a booster or child restraint system. You can guarantee that there are many 7 year old’s, who have been booster free for 2 years, that are not going to be happy. And I am the lucky parent of one of them!

Here are some links for more information:

* You can read the whole law here.

* You can read the summary and AZ Dept of Health Services Press Release (along with fine estimate) here.

* You can read more about car seat (NHTSA) recommendations here.

I personally love the new law. Anything that will help may ANY child safer is right up my alley – even if it means having battling an independent spirit.

 What do you think of the new car seat law?  Did you know AZ State law was changing?  Should AZ update their rear-facing law to match the NHTSA recommendations as well?

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38 COMMENTS

  1. I must be missing something because i checked out the link you provided to read the law and I did not see anywhere where it is law that a child be rear facing until 2 years of age. Might you be able to highlight the section this is listed in.
    I’d always heard this as a recommendation, but not law.
    Thank you.

    • Deb – Rear facing until age 2 is NOT a law in the state of AZ, it’s just a recommendation. I posed that question at the end – do you think AZ should update the rear-facing part of their law as well?

      The update going into effect is only for the booster part of the law. Current law only requires kids to be in a booster (or child restraint system) until age 5. The new law requires until age 8.

      • Sorry Abbi…missed that question. Thanks for clarifying. So to comment then…no I don’t think AZ should update the law on 2 years to match recommendation. It’s going to vary by child. Our first child was off the charts on length and had we left him in his seat rear facing until 2 years he would have been sucking on his knees every time he was in the car. Our daughter is heading the same direction as she is tall too, so we’ll likely do the same and go on the weight recommendation first. I’ll be curious to see where my son is at 6-7 years of age? If he feet can touch the floor, that should take precedence over his having to sit in a booster seat.

        To be honest sometimes I think this stuff is overkill. I grew up when no one wore a seatbelt, cars were no where near as safe as they are today and I remember rolling around in the back seat, jumping around. etc.

        Don’t get me wrong – I want and plan to keep my children safe, but I believe that a 5-pt restraint system for a child from 1 year of age, facing forward should be sufficient.

        • Thanks for the comments Deb! I agree that any decisions parents make about car seats should be based on the individual child. One thing I do agree with about the new booster law is that they also put in height – 4’9″ – so those that have super tall kids don’t have to worry about boosters. My oldest two were big as infants and I couldn’t wait until they were a year and I could flip them around. But now, my 7 year old is only 3’8″. I plan to keep her in a booster (backless) until the seat belt fits her properly regardless of her age. Our biggest issue comes with riding in dad’s car which doesn’t have room for three car seats. We are still trying to figure out what to do with that one!

          I love that you mention “when I was a kid” because I’ve thought about that a lot. But the thing I keep coming back to was that the cars we were raised in were TANKS. They were solid steel and it took a hard crash to make any kind of impact. Cars today are not built like this – they crumple VERY easily and that adds to the less safe factor that these laws are trying to account for.

          Ultimately its up to every parent to make their own decision on what they feel is best for their kids- law or no law 🙂

          • Deb, I know this is a very old post but I was just reading about this. I realize that everyone should be allowed to parent how they see fit. However, no matter how tall your children are their development is still generally the same as other children their age. Children are not sufficiently developed with their bones and growth like we as adults are. Children’s heads are a significantly larger portion of their body compared to adults – even at 1 and even 2 years of age. The force that they are thrown forward with causes many spinal and neck injuries that can paralyze your child or possibly even kill them -instantly-. There are NO cases that I know of after many hours of research with a child being rear facing in a crash. Many, many parent’s worry that their children will have issues with legs being cramped. However children are much more flexible than we are and prefer to have their legs propped up or folded. Most children even at home do not sit with their legs straight out in front of them. Children also have their circulation cut off in their legs from sitting forward facing which can cause them to hurt. Leg injuries are one of the top injuries for forward facing children in a crash. Most rear facing children do not have any leg injuries.

            To me, it is scary because many parents see the law and think that is the “acceptable” time to turn their children when in reality it is still so very unsafe. They are just uninformed. This does not make them bad parents or lesser parents. I believe that this knowledge should be thrown out into society instead of mumbled at the end of a sentence (Up to 2 years OR up to the seats limits). The seat I am ordering for my child will be able to accommodate them until around 50in and 40lbs REAR FACING. This is more than adequate for most children to reach around 3-5 years of age. If you have a heavier child, the Fnoof on the market today will accommodate children to 50lbs.

            Other countries are so far ahead of this prospect. For example, in Sweden it is common practice to have children rear facing until around 4 to 5 years old as around 4 years of age is when bones have developed enough to reduce the effect of spinal injuries. These car seats are being made by the same car seat manufactures that produce car seats here. Recently these manufacturers have realized that parents are almost demanding for car seats that will fit children to that same age range here in the US.

            If anyone is unsure about extended rear facing I invite you to watch this video. If it inspires you to keep your children safer I also invite you to share it with others. It is a true story of a Grandpa that was just horribly upset that his child was hurt when laws said he would be “safe”.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8gU9zzCGA8

            If you would also like to see photos of children that are happy and very comfortable rear facing at ages 2-6 you can google “extended rear facing” or see photos here:

            http://thestir.cafemom.com/toddler/120133/Proof_That_Older_Taller_Kids

            http://community.babycenter.com/photoclubs/a3348415/extended_rear_facing

          • I would also like to add this to my previous post as I read it on another website recently:

            “Car seat recommendations are updated as evidence rolls in. They are not meant to keep our kids in a plastic bubble — they are meant to keep them alive if a terrible car accident occurs. I have seen so many questionable arguments from parents about keeping a child rear facing for as long as possible and I truly don’t understand the outrage. Kids don’t mind it at all, so why do grownups? If there was something you could do to keep your child safer, wouldn’t you?”

    • I had heard that the law was changing, didnt pick up on exactly when. I am a Grandmother who sometimes transports her Grandchildren and I know there is a lot of confusion aomong Mothers I know about what is law.
      I guess one of my questions is the eight years old and 4’9″. so what if you ar 8 and you are 5′. if I have understood the past law it was age or at least ‘ “.

      • I too wondered if it was 8 AND 4’9″ or if it was 8 OR 4’9″. There are short people that would be in a booster as an adult. I do think kids need to be in a booster longer than the age of 5 years. Seat belts are made for adults so therefore, they wouldn’t fit a child correctly until they are older and taller than 5. My son is in the 97th percentile at 6 BUT a seat belt alone does NOT fit him correctly. Thankfully, this law won’t be a change since I have my 4 and 6 year old in the exact seat shown.

      • Janet, an 8 year old child that is 5′ would be able to use only the seat belt based on the new law since the new law says a child needs to be at least 4’9″ (and/or…not sure) 8 years.

      • Jenet and L – great question. My understanding of the law is that it’s an OR in this case. So for example, if your 6 year old is 4’10”, they are NOT required to be in a booster/car seat. However, if your 7 year old is 3’8″ (as mine is) then they are required to be in a booster/car seat until she turns 8.

  2. I completely agree with it, and was already aware of the changes. Thank you for sharing so that more parents (and grandparents) are prompted to make better safety choices.

  3. While there will be some kids that aren’t happy about it, I sure am. After watching videos of crash test dummies in seatbelts vs. carseats/booster seats, I would rather have an upset kid than one who goes through what the dummies go through in a crash.

  4. Wow! I am actually glad because my 10 year old isn’t 4’9″ and she has given me nothing but problems about staying in the booster. My husband let her out of it two years ago, but I have not been comfortable because the seat belt doesn’t fit her correctly. I just hope her friends’ moms will comply!

  5. I have to say, though, that the height thing is quite ridiculous. My son was 6′ tall at the end of 6th grade and was always a head taller than everyone else his age, and even HE wasn’t 4’9″ at age 7 (he was that tall somewhere around age 8-1/2, I think), so I don’t think there will be many kids under 8 getting rid of boosters because they’re exceptionally tall!

    Is the law that they have to be 8 AND over 4’9″? Because that would preclude a lot of kids. My daughter’s 6th grade teacher was only 4’10”; I’m sure she wasn’t 4’9″ at a very young age!

    • Wow Tonya – we definitely don’t have the tall genes in this house! I believe in this case the law is an OR. So if a 6 year old is 4’10” they wouldn’t be required by law to be in a booster/car seat and the same would go for a 3’10” 8 year old. One passes the law by height and one by age.

      Being only 5’3″, I don’t think I even hit 4 feet tall until 7th grade and it looks like my little ones got my height genes! If the law were an AND, I could just see them taking their drivers test in a booster seat!

  6. I have adjusting seat belts in my vehicle in the first and second row seats. This bring the seat belt down to wear it should be for my child. My daughter is small for her age (7 years old). She will not be happy going into a booster. They are uncomfortable and the seat belt hit her weird when she is in one. My other problem is that my third row seat does not have headrests built in. So for me to put a backless booster in, it puts her head so far above the seat that I am not comfortable with that. They make a product called a baby on board that takes the seat belt and brings it down to where it needs to be on a child We have used that in the 3rd row for years. I think that having laws is good, but at some point it should be the parent’s decision on things with their children. I do not take vehicle safety lightly. My dad was killed in a roll over car accident. I know full well what a car can do to a person, but I think my child, if she is like me, will be 13 in a booster still. I didn’t get over 5 feet until then. That’s a little ridiculous!

    • Tricia, I have my almost 8 year old in a five point harness- The Sunshine Kids (now Diono) Radian. This would solve any issues you’ve mentioned with your vehicle. My three kids will be in their five point harnesses for as long as possible.

    • Ruth – nothing has changed at this point regarding the rear-facing law. The AZ state law is still rear-facing for 1 year AND 20 lbs.

      Do you think that law should change to the recommended 2 years? I personally have mixed emotions on that one!

  7. I am thrilled with this new law! Our kiddos are already in 5-point harness/highback boosters until they reach the height/weight limit which means even our 9yo is still in one. I love that children’s safety and extended carseat use is finally going where it should have years ago. Our van is literally filled with carseats (7 and counting!) and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  8. The “laws” don’t reflect what the “recommendations” are. Rear-facing until 2yrs? Really? The rear-facing is because a baby can not support its head because it lack the neck muscle control to hold its head up or to control if in an accident resulting in what is called an “A/O fracture” or internal decapitation usually ending in immediate death. A child of 2 yrs has control. Not to mention the weight to be forward facing. If you look at the height and weight limits for car seats they don’t match what most state laws are stating. My oldest child out grew his booster seat by time he was 5 yrs. Now at 9 yrs. he is 5’3″.
    I have always gone by the recommendations of the car seat makers. They are safety tested for a reason.

  9. This is going to be absurd for me. My 6 yo is 4 feet 6.5 inches tall. He weighs 110+ pounds. He wears mens clothes, shirts size S/M and shorts/pants 32 or 34 if I can cinch the waist.
    He can not fit into a booster seat. The seat is not wide enough to accommodate his back side. He does have health problems that contribute to his larger size so simply dieting is not the answer. UGGGGHHH!!!! I am feeling some frustrating time coming on for me.

    • I’m sorry to hear that Wendy. The good news is that the new law includes an out for height – once he hits 4’9″ he isn’t required to be in any kind of booster/car seat regardless of age. Have you tried looking for a backless booster? I know we’ve used a Graco backless booster for my oldest that lets you also remove the mini-arm rests so that would help with the width issue. Just a suggestion 🙂 I hope for your sake, he has a little growth spurt in the next month and this won’t even be an issue. Blessings!

  10. The laws of physics don’t care what the laws of your state or your own convenience say. The truth is, the seat belts in a car are made and sized for an adult. Anyone who is shorter than 4’9″ will not adequately fit those seat belts, and what happens when the shoulder belt comes across the face and neck rather than cupping the shoulder like it should? It leads to many children putting the shoulder part of the belt behind their back. Now there is NOTHING at all holding their upper body back to the seat during the forward motion of a crash. I’ve seen video of a 6.5 yr old who got in the car, buckled up, promptly put the belt behind his back, and then when his mom was hit at a stop sign, his body went forward, and the front seat came back against his head, snapping his neck. I don’t care what other people do with their kids, I care what goes on in MY car. In my car, my short, skinny, autistic 10 yr old not only rides in a booster, but because she will not sit still 100% of the time, she rides with a special needs harness (4pt, it doesn’t have a crotch strap) as well. For links on extended harnessing or boostering longer look up the David Miller foundation and watch their story.

    As for the rearfacing thing, I think it should be added to keep them rearfacing until they max out the weight limit on the seat. No, 1 yr old is not “good enough” to be forward facing. A 1 yr old is still a BABY. The bones in their necks have not occified (sp?) yet, making the liklihood of ‘internal decapitation’ a stronger possibility in a crash. If they have longer legs. They can sit criss cross applesauce in the seat, or hang their legs off the sides of the seat, or run them up the back of the seat. The truth is, there have been NO documented cases of broken legs due to extended rearfacing, but plenty of cases of internal decapitation from forward facing too soon. Don’t believe me? Look up the video “Joel’s Journey” on youtube. No one ever thinks it will happen to them, but it does. And on our freeways here in AZ? Let’s just say I’ve seen drivers doing some pretty stupid things for me NOT to take every possible precaution I can to keep my children safe.

  11. To the person who has no headrests in the third row seat, the safest accomodation a booster that has a back on it, not a backless booster, or don’t put a boostered child back there at all.

    I don’t trust aftermarket products at all. And that’s what that ‘Baby on Board’ thing is. Aftermarket products can be sold with no testing and safety standards in place, because there are none, and as a result, there is no way to back up the safety and validity of the manufacturers claims.

    I understand the frustration. I’m 5’3″ tall. In MY car, the only reason the seat belt fits me is because the height is adjustable, and is at the lowest point. My back seatbelts don’t adjust like that. And my husband’s car, none of the belts are height adjustable, and don’t fit me right.

  12. my 3 year old is rear facing still, an will probally go until shes 3 1/2 before i turn her forward facing. I am all for the law.

    REMEMBER:
    BROKEN LEGS CAST IT, BROKEN NECK CASKET

    YORU CHILDS LEGS ARE THE ONLY THING AT RISK IN A BAD ACCIDENT REAR FACING. FORWARD FACING THEIR NECK AND SPINE ARE AT RISK.

  13. Thanks for sharing! As the mom of a 16 month old who is already the size of a 3 year old, I’m glad they haven’t required the 2 year old rear facing suggestion in the law just yet. I also agree with what everyone has said about being safe, and one injury is one too many. But I do like what my pediatrician says, “We’d all be safer if we were rear-facing, but that just isn’t feasible.”

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