Living Well

Keep your little ones safe on the road

Bridget Gardner, RN
Keep your little ones safe on the road

As parents, we look forward to transitions in our children’s lives: a first smile, sitting up alone, a first step and many other milestones along the way.

When it comes to vehicle safety, transitions aren’t always a good thing. With each transition, there is a loss of protection.

On August 1, 2019, a new child safety seat law went into effect in Louisiana. The new law is designed to maximize the benefit of the safety features for child safety seats. The new law requires children to remain in the most protected category of child safety seat for as long as it is appropriate for the child’s age, while following the car seat manufacturers’ instructions and height and weight limitations.

For example, if the rear facing child safety seat’s harness weight can protect a child until 40 pounds, then keep the child in the rear-facing mode until 40 pounds, if the child has not outgrown the seat by height. By doing so, you are maximizing the benefit of rear facing seats, which we know is the safest mode of travel.

The new law also requires that all children under the age of 13 ride in the back seat of vehicles with lap and shoulder belts.

The Community Injury Prevention Program at University Medical Center New Orleans championed the legislation this session by securing the support of the Louisiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Louisiana Chapter of the American College of Surgeons. The amended law passed unanimously, as it mirrors the best practice standards set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The Academy upgraded its best practice standards in 2011; however, the Louisiana child safety seat law had not been upgraded in more than 15 years. Fatigued by witnessing the number of preventable injuries and fatalities, University Medical Center’s Injury Prevention team took the opportunity to make a change to better the outcome in motor vehicle crashes. Lessening the amount of injuries and fatalities will assist in creating a healthier future for the state we all love.

Following best practice standards for child seat safety and the new Louisiana child passenger restraint law will have an invaluable impact on lessening the risk of injury or a fatal outcome in a crash.

We ask that you use the seat that you currently have according to the manufacturer's instructions and maximize the benefit of the safety features for the child safety seat.

New requirements at a glance:

Age/Size

Restraint Use

Birth to at least 2 years old

Ride rear-facing in an infant or convertible child safety seat

At least 2 years old and has outgrown the rear facing seat by height or weight

Ride in a forward-facing child safety seat with an internal harness

4 years old and has outgrown the forward-facing seat with internal harness by height or weight

Rides restrained in a belt positioning child booster seat using a lap shoulder seat belt

9 years old or has outgrown the booster seat and can pass the 5 Step Test*

Ride restrained with a lap shoulder seat belt secured correctly on the vehicle seat

Younger than 13 years old

Ride in the rear seat of a vehicle when available and properly restrained

Download the guide

*The 5 Step Test allows you to know when the seat belt fits correctly when:

  1. The child sits all the way back against the vehicle seat
  2. The child’s knees bend over the edge of the vehicle seat
  3. The lap belt fits snugly across the child’s thighs or lower hips and not on the abdomen
  4. The shoulder strap snugly crosses the center of the child’s chest and not the neck
  5. The child sits properly, with no slouching or playing with the seat belt

Here’s a graphic to download as a helpful reminder for yourself and to share with your friends who are also parents. (link to graphic)

University Medical Center leads the Louisiana Passenger Safety Task Force, a cohesive network of over 700 child passenger safety technicians in Louisiana. To assist with child safety seat questions and compliance, University Medical Center has opened four landlines staffed by Nationally Certified Child Passenger Safety Instructors:

  • 504.702.2296
  • 504.702.2264
  • 504.702.2295
  • 504.702.2062

As summer break rapidly comes to an end, be sure to add your children’s passenger safety to your checklist of things to do to prepare for school.

The Louisiana Passenger Safety Task Force has over 105 fitting stations, free of cost to the community. To locate a fitting station near you, please visit umcno.org/injuryprevention or Buckle Up Louisiana on Facebook.

Bridget Gardner, RN, is a registered nurse and coordinator of the Community Injury Prevention Program at University Medical Center New Orleans. The Louisiana Passenger Safety Task Force is a network of certified child passenger safety technicians throughout the state, directed by the University Medical Center Trauma Program.

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