As of September 1, the State of New Jersey will have a new set of laws in place to improve the safety of young passengers. The new rules make several changes that parents and guardians should be aware of when transporting young people by car. The new laws are intended to bring New Jersey into line with the latest recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding child safety.
The first thing to be aware of is that the manufacturer's guidelines of your child safety equipment no longer trump New Jersey law. Even if you follow the guidelines on the product, you can still be subjected to a $75 fine. It is possible that you will have to ignore product guidelines to comply with New Jersey law.
Starting next month, all children under the age of 2 and weighing less than 30 pounds must ride in rear-facing car seats secured by a five-point harness. Children under 4 and weighing less than 40 pounds must be in a rear-facing car seat, secured by five-point harnesses until they grow larger than the height and weight standards set by the manufacturer. Once a child reaches the height and weight limits set by the manufacturer, he or she may sit in a front-facing child seat, still with a five-point harness. This position must be maintained until the child reaches the age of 8 and attains a height of 57 inches. At that point, the child can be placed in a regular seat, secured by an adult seat belt.
Car seats are required to be secured in the back seat, unless the vehicle does not have a back seat. If the vehicle has no back seat, car seats should not be rear-facing if the vehicle has an active passenger side airbag.
Many parents might be taken by surprise at how long their children must remain in rear-facing car seats. Many current car seats have labels that indicate the seats can be turned around any time after the child turns 2. Those instructions must now be disregarded to remain in compliance with New Jersey law.
Source: The National Law Review, "New Jersey's New Child Passenger Safety Laws: What Parents Need to Know," by David M. Schmid, 6 August 2015