The State of New Hampshire is the only state in the country in which seat belt use is not mandated by law for adults. It is, however, law that any person under the age of 18 must wear a seat belt while in a moving vehicle in New Hampshire. The maximum base fine for the first offense is $50, though additional fees may apply.
Children under the age of 7 or up to 57 inches (4 feet 9 inches) tall must ride in a federally-approved safety seat or booster. The Department of Health and Human Services has five questions parents should ask before moving their child out of a booster seat.
- Can your child sit all the way back against the vehicle seat?
- Do your child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the vehicle seat?
- Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
- Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
- Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?
If a parent answers “no” to any of those questions, the Departments suggests the child is not ready to use only a seat belt. They also point out that children in a booster or safety seat can often see out a window better and may be more comfortable.
Children can sustain severe injuries in a car crash. In some instances, those injuries can be more significant than the injuries an adult sustains. If a child is not properly restrained they risk hitting the back of the seat, the roof, or even being ejected from the vehicle.
When installing a car seat, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and tighten the anchor straps as much as possible. Most new cars have the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children – or LATCH – system, which allows the seat tethers to be connected to metal hooks installed in the car. When putting a child in the seat, again follow the instructions in the manual. The harness strap should sit at the child’s armpit level and there should be no more than one finger’s slack.
If your vehicle has been in a crash and there were car seats in it at the time of the crash, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has recommendations on whether the car seats should be replaced. If it was a moderate or severe crash, the NHTSA recommends the seats be replaced. The NHTSA recommends in a minor accident, the seats be replaced if a list of criteria are met.
◦ The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site;
◦ The vehicle door nearest the safety seat was undamaged;
◦ There were no injuries to any of the vehicle occupants;
◦ The air bags (if present) did not deploy; AND
◦ There is no visible damage to the safety seat.
If any of those criteria are met the NHTSA recommends the seats be replaced.
If your child or a child you care for has been hurt in a crash, call the Manchester, NH injury lawyers at Tenn And Tenn, P.A. today to learn more about your legal options. Call 1-888.511.1010 for a free, confidential telephone consultation.