If you’ve got kids under the age of 11, there are new rules of the road when they’re riding in the car, truck or minivan. A new state law that goes into effect on January 1st lets cops ticket people who are driving around with a baby that’s not in a rear-facing car seat or a child that’s not buckled up.

The ticket for letting a child under the age of 11 ride in a car improperly is at least 63 dollars when you factor in court costs. So, here are the details of the new law. Babies — up until they’re one or they’re over 20 pounds — must ride in a rear-facing child safety seat.

Lori Baldwin, the SAFE KIDS coordinator for Woodbury County, says most parents know that’s the safest position. Baldwin says the research shows “facing the back is much safer than facing forward” for babies in car seats. “The recommendation has always been that your child remain rear-facing (in the car seat) for as long as possible, and that can go well beyond that one-year (mark), but it was never stated in the law before,” she says. However, the other portion of the new law may cause some consternation with children who’ve been allowed to roam free in the back seat. Kids up to the age of six must be buckled in a booster seat.

Baldwin says seat belts are designed for adults. The booster seats boost kids up so they fit into the adult belts. Booster seats are now designed for children who weigh up to 100 pounds. Baldwin says a child should only graduate out of the booster when their knees reach the edge of the seat and the seat belt can be worn over their lap and crossed over from their waist to their shoulder. If it cuts them off at the neck, Baldwin says that’s the wrong position, and the belt will end up being pushed behind their back, where it will offer no protection when there’s a rear crash that throws their torso forward.

Baldwin says folks do a great job at keeping babies and toddlers in a car safety seat, but not enough people are using booster seats.
Baldwin says a booster seat will cost between 10 and 20 dollars. “So it’s not a huge cost,” she says. It may also make a car ride better for your child because they’ll be able to sit up and see out the window. If you want a second opinion about all this, you can ask your local cops or state troopers, or contact your hospital to reach one of the four hundred safety technicians around the state who’ve been trained to educate parents on how to properly travel with children in the vehicle.

Baldwin says a consultation with one of these safety experts won’t take long. It’ll take no longer than 15 minutes, Baldwin estimates. “If they have their restraint and their child, it goes really fast,” she says.