New Mexico Car Seat Laws 2024

New Mexico Car Seat Laws 2024

As a parent or guardian, one of your key responsibilities is keeping your child safe while driving. You can protect your child from the risk of injuries by understanding and complying with New Mexico seat belt and car seat laws.

According to NHTSA  annual estimates, car seats save at least 325 children aged five years and below during crashes in the United States. Parents should understand the factors such as age, size, and weight to determine a suitable restraint system for a child.

Consult a trusted car accident attorney in New Mexico if you or a loved one has sustained an injury in a crash caused by someone else’s fault.

Here’s what you need to know.

What Is the Law in New Mexico?

New Mexico car seat laws vary according to a child’s age and weight as follows:

  • Under 1 year old: Children below one year should travel in a rear-facing seat positioned at the back of a seat. If a vehicle doesn’t have back seats, you can position them in a safety seat as long as the front passenger airbag is deactivated.
  • Between 1 and 5 years old and those weighing under 40 pounds should travel in an approved safety seat.
  • Those aged between 5 and 6 years and weighing less than 60 pounds should travel in safety or booster seats.
  • Children aged 7 and 12 must travel in a child safety seat or booster seat or wear a seat belt if they’ve outgrown safety or booster seats.
  • Children aged 13 to 17 years should use a seat belt.

Why Are Booster Seats Important?

Your child should use a booster seat after outgrowing a forward-facing car seat’s height and weight requirements. After outgrowing safety seats, booster seats help older kids stay safe in vehicles if they aren’t big enough to use seat belts.

Booster seat work by lifting a child so that the lap and shoulder belt are in a safe position.

Seat Belts That Don’t Fit Properly Can Harm a Child

Children below 4’’9 may not fit well in seat belts designed for adults. Inappropriate fitting of seat belts puts the child at serious risk of injury in the following ways.

The shoulder belts lie on the child’s neck instead of correctly over the shoulder and breastbone. As a result, children frequently place the shoulder belt under their arms or behind their backs because it feels uncomfortable against their  face or neck.

The lap belt is positioned loosely on the abdomen instead of crossing low over the lap. The lap belt fit loosens when a child bends their knees above the vehicle seat.

Here are a few research facts that highlight the importance of booster seats:

  • Booster seats can protect children from the risk of injury by up to 59% compared to seat belts.
  • Booster seats protect kids from the risk of head injury 4 times better than seat belts.
  • Motor vehicle accidents contribute a substantial share of deaths for children aged 4-8 years.

Children 7 to 12 to Ride in Booster Seats

Kids aged between 7 and 12 can ride the following types of booster seats:

  • Combination Seats: Combination seats are high-back seats fitted with a harness that can be used as a forward-facing safety seat, booster seat, or seat belt.
  • Belt-Positioning Boosters: They raise kids to a position where they can safely use the car’s shoulder or lap belt.

Kids can stop using booster seats:

  • If they’re big enough to use the vehicle’s shoulder or lap seat belts while sitting with their back against the car’s seat back with their knees hanging over the edge of the seat.
  • The lap belt rests low, but above the thighs, and the shoulder belt is positioned comfortably across the middle of the chest.
  • If the child can comfortably sit with a seat belt the entire ride, which mainly occurs when the child is about 4’’9 and aged 8-12 years.

Children who outgrow booster seats but are below 13 years old should continue to ride in the back seat.

Children Under 7 Require Car Seats

Here are further car seat regulations for children under 7 years:

  • Birth to 12 Months: Your child aged 1 year and below should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. Convertible and all-in-one seats have higher height and weight limits, allowing you to keep the child in a rear-facing position for an extended period.
  • 1 to 3 years: Keep your child in a rear-facing position for as long as possible. They should remain in a rear-facing position until they reach the maximum weight or height allowed by the seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, they are ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether.
  • 4 to 7 years: Let your child use a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether until they attain the maximum recommended weight and height your seat’s manufacturer allows.

Seat Belt Laws in New Mexico

New Mexico applies primary seat-belt enforcement laws, which allow a law enforcement officer to pull over the vehicle for non-compliance.

In New Mexico, everyone in a vehicle designed with seat belts, including the driver and all passengers, must wear seat belts at all times, anytime the vehicle is in motion, regardless of seating position or age.

However, a few people are exempted from the rule, including:

  • Rural letter carriers, while on official duty
  • People with particular medical conditions
  • Passengers or drivers in public transport vehicles, school buses, and authorized emergency vehicles

New Mexico also applies primary child restraint enforcement laws to protect child passengers, allowing a police officer to stop the vehicle when there is a child inadequately restrained.

Injured in a Car Accident? Get in Touch With an Experienced Car Accident Attorney

A car accident and injuries can cause serious injuries to your child, and your family can experience mounting medical bills and other losses. You need representation from an experienced attorney like Parnall Law who will aggressively fight for your right to compensation.

Contact us online or at (505) 268-6500 to get a free consultation.