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Rhode Island Car Seat Laws in 2021


In Rhode Island law, a child under two years old or weighing less than thirty pounds must be in a rear-facing car seat in a rear seat. A child between the ages of two and seven years old, less than 4’9” tall, and weighing less than eighty pounds must be in a child restraint system in a rear seat. A child between the ages of two and seven years old and who is at least 4’9” tall or weighs at least eighty pounds must wear a safety belt and/or shoulder harness in a rear seat. A child between the ages of eight and seventeen years old must wear a safety belt and/or shoulder harness system in any seat.

Babies and Children Up to Two Years Old or Weighing Less Than Thirty Pounds

A child under two years old or weighing less than thirty pounds must be properly restrained in a rear-facing car seat approved by the United States Department of Transportation in any rear seating position of the motor vehicle when being transported in a motor vehicle operated on Rhode Island’s roadways, streets, or highways. A rear seating position is any seating position located behind the driver and front seat passenger. A child who has outgrown his or her rear-facing car sear by height or weight must be properly restrained in a forward-facing car seat with a harness up to the maximum allowed by the manufacturer.

Children Two to Seven Years Old, Less Than 4’9” Tall, and Weighing Less Than Eighty Pounds

A child between the ages of two and seven years old, less than 4’9” tall, and weighing less than eighty pounds must be properly restrained in a child restraint system approved by the United States Department of Transportation in any rear seating position of the motor vehicle when being transported in a motor vehicle operated on Rhode Island’s roadways, streets, or highways. A child who is two years old or older must be properly restrained in a forward-facing car seat with a harness up to the maximum allowed by the manufacturer.

Children Two to Seven Years Old and At Least 4’9” Tall or At Least Eighty Pounds

A child between the ages of two and seven years old and who is at least 4’9” tall or weighs at least eighty pounds must properly wear a safety belt and/or shoulder harness approved by the United States Department of Transportation in any rear seating position of the motor vehicle when being transported in a motor vehicle operated on Rhode Island’s roadways, streets, or highways.

Children Eight to Seventeen Years Old

A child between the ages of eight and seventeen years old must properly wear a safety belt and/or shoulder harness system approved by the United States Department of Transportation in any seating position when operating or being transported in a motor vehicle required by federal law to have safety belts on Rhode Island’s roadways, streets, or highways.

Penalties for Violations

A violation involving a child under eight years old incurs a citation. You will be required to appear for a hearing and fined $85.00 unless, within seven days of issuance, you present proof to the issuing police department of purchase of a federally approved child restraint system. No conviction will be recorded on your driving record.

A violation involving a child between eight and seventeen years old incurs a fine of $85.00 with no conviction recorded on your driving record.

Law Enforcement May Stop Your Vehicle for a Suspected Violation

A law enforcement officer may stop, inspect, or detain your motor vehicle to determine compliance with Rhode Island’s child restraint law.

Exemptions

Your child may be exempt if he or she is under eight years old, the motor vehicle is not equipped with a back seat or all rear seating positions are being used by other children, and he or she is properly restrained in the front seat of the motor vehicle.

Your child may be exempt if he or she is between eight and seventeen years old and he or she is operating or being transported in a passenger motor vehicle which was manufactured before July 1, 1966, which is not required under federal laws to be equipped with a safety seat belt system, or which is operated by a United States Postal Service letter carrier performing his or her duties.

Your child may be exempt if he or she is between eight and seventeen years old, he or is operating or being transported in a passenger motor vehicle, and has written verification from a licensed physician dated within the last twelve months stating that he or she is unable to wear a safety seat belt system for physical or medical reasons.

* Ms. Blake is licensed in the state of Maryland. The information provided in this article does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.


Attorney Denise A. Blake*
Attorney Denise A. Blake*

Denise practices family law at Blake Law, LLC in Westminster, Maryland. She holds a Juris Doctor with an emphasis in Family Law from the University of Baltimore School of Law.