Virginia Updates Child Safety Seat Law: 2007 | DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog

As of July 1, 2007, children under the age of 8 must be secured in a booster seat when riding in a motor vehicle in Virginia.  According to a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) news release, the new law also requires that rear-facing child seats be placed in the back seat of vehicles.  Those seats may be placed in the front if the vehicle has no back seat, but only if the passenger seat has no airbag, or if it has been disabled.  An exemption to the booster seat rule is permitted if a physician certifies that a child’s weight or other physical or medical limitation make it inadvisable.  Virginia law has previously only required safety seats for children through the age of 5.

Child seat technology and automobile safety features have advanced significantly in recent years.  The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers up-to-date child seat guidelines for children of all ages, and also publishes this helpful glossary of child safety seat terms to help you understand many new laws and safety guidelines:

  • 2-Point Seat Belt: A restraint system with two attachment points. A lap belt.
  • 3-Point Child Restraint Harness (CR) Harness: A restraint system with three attachment points, two at the shoulder and one between the legs.
  • 3-Point Seat Belt: A seat belt with both a lap and a shoulder portion, having three attachment points (one shoulder, two hips).
  • 5-Point Child Restraint (CR) Harness: A child restraint harness with five attachment points, two at the shoulder, two at the hips, one between the legs.
  • Advanced Air Bags: Supplemental restraint systems with deployment adjustments to better protect children and improperly positioned adults.
  • Air Bag: A passive (idle) restraint system that automatically deploys during a crash to act as a cushion for the occupant. It creates a broad surface on which to spread the forces of the crash, to reduce head and chest injury. It is considered “supplementary” to the lap/shoulder belts because it enhances the protection the belt system offers in frontal crashes. Also known as SRS – supplemental restraint system; SIR – supplemental inflatable restraint; SIPS – side impact protection system; IC – inflatable curtain; SIAB – side impact air bag)
  • Armrest (child seat): A U-shaped bar encircling the child on older models of child restraints; not connected to the shoulder straps and not part of the system intended to restrain the child. Not a shield. No longer allowed on child restraints meeting FMVSS No. 213 (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard).
  • Armrest (vehicle): Found in the middle of the back seat of some vehicles. These usually pull down from the top of the vehicle seat back cushion. Some child seat manufacturers recommend against placing a rear facing child seat in a seating position which has a pull down armrest.
  • Automatic Locking Retractor (ALR): A safety belt retractor that locks maintaining a fixed seat belt (lap belt) length during use. Good for child seat installation.
  • Automatic Restraint: Passive restraint that requires no action by the user; (e.g., shoulder or lap/shoulder belts that automatically wrap around the occupant; air bags).
  • Base (of a child seat): The base of a child seat is the lower portion that rests on the vehicle seat. A detachable base that comes with many infant seats is used to permit a fixed installation into the vehicle allowing the chilc seat to be taken in and out of the vehicle without having to do a new installation each time.
  • Belt Anchor Points: Fixed locations where the safety belt’s latchplate and buckle are anchored to the vehicle structure.
  • Belt Path/Route: The manufacturer’s required place where the safety belt passes around or through the child restraint.
  • Belt-Positioning Booster Seat (BPB): A platform that raises the child (provides a taller sitting height) so adult lap and shoulder belts fit better; some have high backs as well. Never use with a lap belt only across the child.
  • Belt-Shortening Clip or Heavy Duty Locking Clip: A heavy duty locking clip intended for use to shorten lap belts which have emergency locking retractors (ELRs) for use with a child restraint. Not to be confused with a standard locking clip. Heavy duty locking clips can only be obtained through a vehicle manufacturer.
  • Belt Webbing: A term used to refer to the vehicle seat belt material.
  • Booster Seats: Are intended to be used as a transition to lap and shoulder belts by older children who have outgrown convertible seats (over 40 pounds). They are available in high backs, for use in vehicles with low seat backs or no head restraints, and no-back; booster bases only.
  • Buckle: The locking mechanism of the vehicle belt and child safety seat buckle/latchplate system. Buckles are typically mounted/attached to fabric webbing and/or by metal or plastic stalks.
  • Car Seat: Common term for a specially designed device that secures a child in a motor vehicle, meets federal safety standards, and increases child safety in a crash.
  • Chest Clip: The chect clip is the device on the harness straps of the child safety seats used to position the straps properly on the child.
  • Child Safety Seat/Child Restraint: A crash tested device that is specially designed to provide infant/child crash protection. A general term for all sorts of devices including those that are vests or car beds rather than seats.
  • Children With Special Transportation Needs: Children whose physical, medical, or behavioral condition makes the use of particular, often specially-designed, restraints necessary. P id=indented>Cinching Latchplate: (also known as lightweight locking latchplate) Found on some continuous loop lap and shoulder belts. A latchplate which has a sliding lock/cinch feature intended to keep the vehicle belt at a fixed length for child seat installation.
  • Combination Child Seat/BPB: A type of forward facing child restraint that is used with an internal harness system to secure a child up to 40 pounds and then, with the removal of the internal harness, is used as a high back belt positioning booster (BPB) seat.
  • Combination (Switchable) ELR/ALR Retractor: A safety belt retractor that can be operated in the emergency locking mode for adults and switched to the automatic locking mode for use with a child safety seat.
  • Compliance Tests: Rigorous crash and static testing done to assure that manufacturers meet required federal standards (in this case, FMVSS 213). Performance requirements established by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
  • Continuous-Loop Lap/Shoulder Belt: A three-point belt that uses one continuous piece of webbing, that slides through a latch plate. It is connected at one end to the vehicle at the anchor point and the other to a retractor system.
  • Convertible Child Safety Seat/Restraint: A child restraint that can be used in more than one mode; usually rear-facing for infants and forward-facing for toddlers.
  • CPS: Child Passenger Safety.
  • Emergency Locking Retractor (ELR): Allows the belt to move freely, locks only when the vehicle or occupant slows quickly/abruptly or stops suddenly. Will not secure a child safety seat. An ELR may be switchable, converting from an emergency locking to automatic locking system.
  • Fixed Latchplate: Latchplate is permanently sewn/attached to the lap belt to or the combination lap and shoulder belt.
  • FMVSS 213: Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard that pertains to all restraint systems intended for use as crash protection in vehicles for children up to 50 pounds.
  • FMVSS No. 225: Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard that pertains to the standardized vehicle anchorage systems for child safety seats (upper and lower) that are independent of the vehicle seat belts.
  • Foam Noodle: This is a is a foam rod or tube about 4-5 inches in diameter and five feet long; these are found in pool and toy stores. Cut off a piece the width of the child seat base and use to raise the base of the seat to obtain a 45 degree angle. A rolled up towel or newspapers, etc., serve the same purpose.
  • Forward-Facing Child Restraint: A restraint that is intended for use only in the forward-facing position for a child at least age one and at least 20 pounds up to 40 pounds.
  • Free Sliding Latchplate: Type of latch plate that has no lock feature to securely position the latchplate along the belt webbing. The latchplate “freely” slides along the belt. This type of system must have a locking retractor to keep the belt at a fixed length for child seat installation or it must be used with a regular locking clip.
  • Frontal Air Bag: A frontal air bag is one installed in the dashboard.
  • Harness Retainer Clip: A plastic tie or clasp that holds the two shoulder straps close together over the child’s chest at armpit level; intended to keep harness straps in position on the shoulders. Used for pre-crash positioning.
  • Harness Strap: This refers to the child seat straps used to secure the child into the safety seat.
  • Harness Threading: Harness straps should be in lowest slots for rear facing infants (at or below shoulder level); in top slots for forward facing use (at or above shoulder level). Always refer to the child seat manufacturers instructions for proper location.
  • Heavy Duty Locking Clip (HDLC) or Belt Shortening Clip: A flat, H-shaped metal clip, intended for shortening a lap belt with an emergency locking retractor so it will secure a child restraint. Can also be used to prevent webbing from sliding through a sliding latch plate. Heavy Duty Locking Clips can only be obtained from a vehicle manufacturer.
  • Infant-Only Restraint: A restraint designed for use only by a baby (usually weighing less than 17-22 pounds) in a semi-reclined, rear-facing position.
  • Integral/Integrated Child Seat: A child-sized, forward facing restraint or belt-positioning booster built into a vehicle seat. Some have a full harness and hold children over 20 pounds; others are belt-positioning boosters for use with the adult lap and shoulder belts.
  • Lap Belt: A safety belt anchored at two points, for use across the occupant’s thighs/hips.
  • Lap/Shoulder Belt: A safety belt that is anchored at three points and restrains the occupant at the hips and across the shoulder; also called a “combination belt”.
  • LATCH: Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren (new acronym for standardized vehicle anchorage system).
  • Latchplate: The part of the buckle mechanism that slides into the buckle; usually the part that affects the length of the belt. Switchable latchplates have a lock button to allow the seatbelt to be locked around the child safety seat.
  • Locking Clip: A flat H-shaped metal clip intended to fasten together belt webbing (lap and shoulder portion) at a sliding latch plate, to prevent the webbing from sliding through. Typically the clip which comes attached with most child safety seats. Should be fastened just above the latch plate. Cannot be used in place of a Heavy Duty Locking Clip.
  • Locking Latchplate: A latch plate that holds the lap belt snug after it has been adjusted. Type of latchplate that contains a metal bar on the underside of the hardware that “locks” the belt in position.
  • Lower Anchorage System: New method to affix Child Restraint System (CRS) to vehicles independent of the vehicle seat belts.
  • Manual Seat Belt: A seat belt that must be fastened and adjusted by the occupant, often found in the rear center seating position.
  • Model Year (MY): Date of manufacture of either a vehicle or a child restraint system.
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): The federal agency that sets performance requirements for motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment such as child restraints.
  • Overhead Shield: See “Tray Shield”.
  • Passenger-Air Bag: An air bag that is in the right front part of the passenger compartment. It is larger than the driver bag and would restrain either center or right-front occupants. Air bags are a supplement to the use of seat belts and designed to protect adult occupants in frontal crashes.
  • Rear-Facing Infant Seat: Type of child restraint system that is specifically meant for use by children from birth up to approximately 20 pounds used in the rear-facing mode only.
  • Retractor: A mechanism that rolls up the unused webbing of the safety belt when it is not in use and takes up slack around the user.
  • Seat Belt: The webbing, anchor and buckle system that restrains the occupant and/or child safety seat in the vehicle.
  • Seat Belt Positioning Devices: These are products marketed and sold to adjust the vehicle seat belt to fit a child. There are no federal safety standards for these products. NHTSA recommends the use of child safety seats and booster seats instead of these products.
  • Seat Bight/Seat Crack: The intersection between the bottom vehicle seat cushion and the back cushion.
  • Sewn-On Latchplate or Fixed Latchplate: Latch plate is permanently sewn to the lap or lap and shoulder belt.
  • Shell: The molded plastic structure of the child restraint. In some models, the shell is attached to or reinforced by a metal bar or frame.
  • Shield Booster Seat: A platform that raises the child and positions a small convex shield across the lap and lower abdomen to restrain the child. A vehicle lap belt restrains the booster seat. Some models have removable shields and covert to a belt-position booster seat(BPB).
  • Shoulder Belt Positioners or Comfort Guides: Devices (some built in and some add-ons) that can be used to reposition shoulder belts so they fit across the shoulder rather than across the neck. Aftermarket belt positioners are not currently tested by NHTSA.
  • Shoulder Harness Slots: Slots in the back of the child restraint through which the shoulder straps are routed.
  • Side Impact Air Bags: Provide additional chest protection to adults in many side crashes. Children who are seated in close proximity to a side air bag may be at risk of serious or fatal injury if the air bag deploys. Check with the vehicle dealer or vehicle owner’s manual for information about danger to children.
  • Sliding Latchplate: A latchplate that moves freely on a continuous loop of vehicle belt webbing.
  • Stroller System: A combination of child safety seat and stroller frame/wheels allowing the child safety seat to be removed from the vehicle and attached to the stoller frame for stoller usage.
  • Switchable Retractor (ELR/ALR): Are designed for adults to use the emergency locking retractor (ELR) and children in safety seats to use the automatic locking retractor (ALR). Check the vehicle belt for a label describing the switchable function in addition to the information provided in the vehicle owners manual. Some convert from ELR to ALR by pulling the belt all the way out of the retractor, as it rewinds, it should lock and hold at the appropriate length.
  • T-Shield: Part of a restraint system in a child safety seat; a roughly triangular or “T” shaped pad that is attached to the shoulder harness straps, fits over the child’s abdomen and hips and buckles between the legs.
  • Tether Anchor: Attachment point in vehicle for child safety seat tether strap. Refer to vehicle owner’s manual regarding anchor location.
  • Tether Strap: An additional belt that anchors the child safety seat top to the vehicle frame; keeps the restraint from tipping forward on impact; can provide an extra margin of protection. Can be optional or factory installed. A tether strap is typically available on most child safety seats manufactured after September 1, 1999.
  • Tilt-lock tether strap adjuster: Tether can be tightened or loosened after installation in the vehicle without unhooking or re-threading the strap.
  • Tray Shield: Part of a restraint system in a child safety seat; a wide, padded surface that swings down in front of the child’s body, attached to shoulder straps and crotch buckle. Looks like a padded armrest, but is an integral part of the harness system.
  • Vest: A child restraint system that has shoulder straps, hip straps (and sometimes) a crotch strap. Can be specially made to order according to a child’s chest measurement, etc. Must be used along with the vehicle belt system.
  • Whiplash Injury: An injury to the neck usually caused by sudden whipping of the head backward during a rear impact collision.”

If you or a family member believes that you have a case involving auto accident injuries, please contact us on-line at Regan Zambri & Long or call us at (202) 753-4272 for a free consultation.  If you would like to receive our complimentary electronic newsletter, please click here.