2

State: Arkansas

For purposes of this question, "a forward facing car seat" means the same car seat, just turned around.

I called the state police, and they told me that car seats must be rear facing until the child is 2. However, I could not find any official guideline from an official .gov or Arkansas website that would clearly say, forward facing ride is illegal for children younger than 2.

Can a parent turn the seat around for, say, a 21-month old child, and have them ride forward-facing?

Is there any official source?

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  • 1
    Please be sure to also follow the guidance from your pediatrician or the American Academy of Pediatrics when making decisions about what type of car seat to use for your child. Laws update slowly and just because something may be legal at a certain age, weight, or height does not mean that it is safe for your child.
    – Michael
    May 4, 2023 at 20:18

2 Answers 2

5

Summary: there's no minimum age; rather, you must use the seat in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. Instructions for reversible seats typically do not depend on age but on the child's weight and height.

Arkansas law (AR Code § 27-34-104 (2020)):

(a) While operating a motor vehicle on a public road, street, or highway of this state, a driver who transports a child under fifteen (15) years of age in a passenger automobile, van, or pickup truck, other than one operated for hire, shall provide for the protection of the child by properly placing, maintaining, and securing the child in a child passenger restraint system properly secured to the vehicle and meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards in effect on January 1, 1995.

(b) A child who is less than six (6) years of age and who weighs less than sixty pounds (60 lbs.) shall be restrained in a child passenger safety seat properly secured to the vehicle.

(c) If a child is at least six (6) years of age or at least sixty pounds (60 lbs.) in weight, a safety belt properly secured to the vehicle shall be sufficient to meet the requirements of this section.

The key passage is "properly placing, maintaining, and securing the child in a child passenger restraint system properly secured to the vehicle." This implies that you can put the seat in the forward-facing position only if it is designed to be used that way and then only when the manufacturer's instructions say that it's acceptable. In my experience this typically depends on the child's height and weight rather than on the age. For example, one manufacturer says of its seats

[Convertible seats] in the rear-facing mode should be used for children weighing 5-40 lbs, with a height of less than 49 in. and whose head is 1 in. or more below the top of the car seat.

[Convertible seats] in the forward-facing mode should be used for children weighing 22-65 lbs. and height less than 49 in. and can walk unassisted and whose top of the ears are below the top of the car seat.

So if the instructions for your seat have the same criteria then you can turn it around when the child reaches 22 lbs. CDC weight data for boys shows that virtually every 21-month-old boy is heavier than this (note that the data are in kilograms and that 22 lbs is 9.979 kg).

Therefore, the legal answer is that there is no minimum age; the requirement is to use the device "properly." Follow the manufacturer's instructions.

(Aside: the incorrect belief about the 2-year threshold could be a widespread misconception among Arkansas police. If this is so, and if they are therefore in the habit of ticketing people for having children under 2 in a forward-facing seat, then you could get a ticket. You might be able to convince the officer of the reasoning in this answer, but you might not, in which case you would have to take it to court to show that you were following the manufacturer's instructions and therefore the law. You will have to weigh the potential hassle of having to do this, including the likelihood of its happening or not, against the benefit of letting your child see the back of your head while you're driving. My guess is that you're unlikely to get a ticket for several reasons, and that your child is likely to be significantly happier facing forward, but I don't know Arkansas police and I don't know your child.)

If you do not have the instructions for your seat, you should be able to find them online. Some seats are not designed to be used facing forward. If yours is such a seat, you will need to get one that is.

Remember that complying with the law may seem more important because you're more likely to get pulled over by a police officer than to be in a collision. But in fact the most important consideration is safety. If you are in a collision you will want your child to have the greatest protection possible.

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  • Note that child seats can also be installed on the passenger seat, which is particularly common for rear-facing ones (just make sure the passenger airbag is off!)
    – PMF
    Apr 28, 2023 at 15:38
0

6 months

Despite being a state matter, road rules in Australia are uniform (with slight variations - e.g. in some states you can U-turn at traffic lights and in others you can’t).

The rules for child restraints are:

  • Children up to the age of six months must be secured in an approved rearward facing restraint

  • Children aged from six months old but under four years old must be secured in either a rear or forward facing approved child restraint with an inbuilt harness

  • Children under four years old cannot travel in the front seat of a vehicle with two or more rows

  • Children aged from four years old but under seven years old must be secured in a forward facing approved child restraint with an inbuilt harness or an approved booster seat

  • Children aged from four years old but under seven years old cannot travel in the front seat of a vehicle with two or more rows, unless all other back seats are occupied by children younger than seven years in an approved child restraint or booster seat

  • Children aged from seven years old but under 16 years old who are too small to be restrained by a seatbelt properly adjusted and fastened are strongly recommended to use either a forward-facing seat with an in-built harness for older children, an approved booster seat, or an approved child safety harness in conjunction with the vehicle’s seatbelt

  • Children in booster seats must be restrained by a suitable lap and sash type approved seatbelt that is properly adjusted and fastened, or by a suitable approved child safety harness that is properly adjusted and fastened.

If your child is too small for the child restraint specified for their age, they should be kept in their current child restraint until it is safe for them to move to the next level.

If your child is too large for the child restraint specified for their age, they may move to the next level of child restraint.

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