The American Academy of Pediatrics makes general recommendations for transporting children in a car. In addition, each state has its own set of guidelines for keeping kids safe while riding in the car. New Mexico has clear rules about where kids can ride in the car and what type of safety seat they must have. Whether you live in New Mexico or are just passing through, understanding these rules helps you keep your child safe on the road.
In New Mexico, your infant must ride in a rear-facing car seat until she's at least 1 year old and 20 pounds, though it's also recommended that babies stay rear-facing as long as possible, until they weigh about 35 pounds, according to the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Department. In 2011, the AAP released a new child passenger safety policy stating that babies should ride in a rear-facing position until age 2, though states were given two to four years to adopt the policy as part of their rules and regulations. Though you might not get ticketed for it, you'll probably feel safer keeping your little one facing the back in New Mexico and anywhere you drive.
Toddlers and Preschoolers
Once your child is at least 1 year old and 20 pounds, the state of New Mexico requires that he rides in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he reaches the height and weight requirements of the seat. This is generally when your child is 40 pounds and about age 4. In addition, the AAP recommends using a five-point harness because it helps secure your child safely. It's important to read the height and weight guidelines for your child's car seat carefully because some have a limit of 60 pounds, rather than 40.
Once your child surpasses the height and weight limits of her car seat, she's likely safe to ride in a booster seat that utilizes the car's seat belts. Your child must stay in her booster seat until she weighs at least 60 pounds and is 7 years old, notes the New Mexico Motor Vehicles Department. However, New Mexico law requires children to stay in a booster seat up to age 12 if the adult seat belt in the car doesn't fit properly. The lap portion of the belt should sit across your child's upper thighs and the shoulder portion should fit across her shoulders and chest when her knees are at the edge of the seat and her back and rear end are against the back of the seat. The AAP recommends keeping kids in a booster seat until age 8, or later if the car's seat belt doesn't fit right.
Most kids eagerly await the day when they can ride in the front seat. You might think it's safe once he's tall enough and old enough to ride without a booster seat. However, the AAP's 2011 child passenger safety policy recommends keeping kids in the back seat until age 13; children under age 13 are safer in the back seat if you're involved in a car accident or the air bag deploys. In New Mexico, state law allows officers to fine or ticket parents if they are pulled over and children are discovered to be improperly restrained or are not wearing a seat belt.