If you are a parent or a caregiver living in Indiana who regularly or sometimes transports a young child or children in a motor vehicle, it’s important that you’re aware of and adhere to the Indiana car seat laws.

Indiana Child Passenger Restraint Law

The current Indiana child passenger restraint law requires that all child occupants (ages 15 and younger) in vehicles be properly restrained in a child restraint device or seat belt in all seating positions in all vehicles.

Under Indiana law, children are required to ride properly restrained in a child restraint, which can include a belt-positioning booster seat, until they reach their eighth birthday.  Note that this does not include shoulder belt positioners.

The exemptions to this law are:

  • If all lap/shoulder seat belts are being used by other children, then the child over 40 pounds may ride in a lap only seat belt without a child restraint. It is important to note that child booster seats cannot be safely used with a lap-only seat belt.
  • Additional exemptions apply to vehicles such as a school bus, ambulance, public passenger bus, motorcycle and other emergency vehicles.

Drivers found to be in violation of the Indiana car seat laws may be fined a maximum of $25 for a first offense plus have points levied. If, however, at court proceedings for this code violation, the driver presents evidence of possession or acquisition of a child restraint system, the driver is not liable for any costs or monetary judgment, providing there are no previous judgments of violation of this chapter of Indiana law.

Fees collected from violations of the Indiana child passenger restraint law go into a fund to purchase child restraints for low income families throughout the state.

Car Seat Recommendations

The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI) posts a list of current child car seat recommendations from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • Birth to 12 months – Children should always ride in a rear-facing car seat.
  • 1 to 3 years – Children should be kept in rear-facing car seats as long as possible. Children should remain in rear-facing car seats until they reach the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer.
  • 4 to 7 years – Children should ride in forward-facing car seats with a harness until they reach the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer.
  • 8 to 12 years – Children should ride in booster sets until they are big enough to fit in seat belts properly. This means that the seat belt lies snugly across the child’s upper thighs, not the stomach. As for the shoulder belt, it should lie snugly across the shoulder and the chest and not cross the neck or the face. One final point here: children should remain riding in the back seat because it is safer for them there.

Project L.O.V.E.

Project L.O.V.E. (Law Officer Voucher and Enforcement) is a program that is designed to prevent children from being seriously injured or killed during motor vehicle crashes. During a traffic stop, a law enforcement officer can give a voucher to a parent or caregiver who is not using a child safety seat as required by Indiana law, or who is using one improperly.

The voucher can be redeemed at a number of locations listed on the Project L.O.V.E. page of the Automotive Safety Program (ASP). In addition, instruction on proper child safety seat use and installation is provided by a certified child passenger safety technician at each site.

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