NEVER drive without these things!
- Childrens' car seats.
- Current insurance certificate.
- Valid driver's license.
- Current car registration.
The law regarding car seats for children exists for the safety of any children that will be in a car you are driving. The fines and points can be stiff and violation of these rules are considered "safety violations" which can cost you your driver's license.
But the most important reason to make sure you always have children in the correct child seat or restraint is that you never want to face a child or parent and try to explain why you didn't protect the child against death or serious injury by using the correct restraint. That is something that could haunt you for the rest of your life.
The rules themselves are pretty clear:
- Every child under 16 must have a safety restraint regardless of where they sit.
- Every child under 4 must be in an approved safety seat secured by a safety belt or (LATCH) system. Check the manufacturer's literature to make sure that the seat you are using meets this standard.
- If the child under 4 weighs more than 40lbs, you can use a booster seat, but it must have a lap and shoulder belt.
- Every child from age 4 through age 7 must be in an approved booster seat and it must use a lap and shoulder belt. Check the manufacturer's literature to make sure that the child meets the height/weight recommendations for that seat.
- If the child is more than 4'9" tall or weighs more than 100lbs, you can use just a lap and shoulder belt but the child must be able to sit up straight against the seat back with his/her knees bent comfortably over the edge of the seat. The lap belt should be placed low and tight and the shoulder belt across the chest - never against the throat.
- Infant seats should be used for children weighing 22 pounds or less, 25" inches long or less, or less than one year old. An infant seat should face toward the back of the vehicle but should never be put in the front seat which has a passenger-side air bag. If you have to put an infant in a front seat with an air-bag, see if you can shut the passenger airbag off. In not, do not face the infant towards the rear.
- Infant seats should be used for children weighing 22 pounds or less, 25" inches long or less, or less than one year old. An infant seat should face toward the back of the vehicle but should never be put in the front seat which has a passenger-side air bag.
- Children less than 5' tall should be put in a back seat whenever possible.
Current Insurance certificate.
One of the worst tickets that you can ever get is for driving a car without car insurance. It doesn't matter if the insurance was valid until 5 minutes or 5 hours before you're caught driving without one. If you're caught in the State of New York driving a car without proper insurance coverage, you automatically will lose your driver's license. While you may be able to get a restricted license while your license is revoked, in order to get your driver's license back you will have to pay fines and civil penalties that could well exceed $1,500.00.
Unfortunately many people think this is not a big offense and let their insurance lapse thinking that they can correct it after they get a ticket. Whether you own the car you are about to drive or are borrowing it from someone, YOU are always responsible for making sure it has current insurance. To do this, just check the insurance card which must be kept in the car to make sure that it is within the period covered by the card.
If you move, make sure that you notify your insurance company. If the insurance company doesn't have a current address, you will not get the notices that your insurance premium is due and that the policy will be canceled. Not knowing that the insurance premium is due is usually not a defense for the ticket, although there can be exceptions if you act quickly.
Also if you are changing your insurance company make sure you do not leave a gap of even one day. It is so much better to pay for two insurance policies for the same day and have overlapping insurance coverage than to have even one day without insurance. The days on a policy can be confusing for insurance cards or invoices because they talk about the insurance running from 12:01 AM. When in doubt, keep your insurance for one extra day before canceling.
If for any reason you are not going to have insurance on your car, you must surrender your license plate to DMV. This is true even if you are going to keep the car off the road, such as in your driveway for example. If you let the insurance lapse without surrendering the license plates, DMV will automatically find out about this. The insurance company is required to notify DMV when the insurance is canceled. If DMV gets that notice and you haven't surrendered the plate, your license will automatically be revoked even if you're not caught driving the car. You don't have to wait for a police officer to come to your property to give you a ticket. Your license will be revoked if you did not surrender the plates to DMV before your insurance was cancelled.
In addition, if a police officer pulls you over for driving without insurance, the police officer is not likely to let you drive the car even one more inch. The car will be towed at your expense and you will have to find other means to get home.
Valid driver's license.
You should always make sure that your driver's license is current, not suspended or revoked and in your possession before getting into a car to drive. If you are pulled over by a police officer and cannot produce your driver's license, the police officer can refuse to let you continue to drive the car. You may get a ticket for driving without a license.
This is different than if you were driving with a license that is suspended or revoked. Driving with a suspended or revoked license can actually lead to your arrest and to the filing of criminal charges against you. The police officer is much less likely to let you drive the car home if your license is suspended or revoked.
Current car registration.
If you get stopped by a police officer and you do not have the registration in your car, the police officer can usually check by scanning the sticker or VIN number on your car's windshield. But what if the car is not yours? What if you borrowed the car from someone else? How is the police officer to know that you have the right to be in the car? If the police officer runs the plate or sticker, he/she will see a different name as the owner that appears on your driver's license. This will almost always prompt the police officer to run the plates to see if the car has been reported stolen, which if true, you are likely to be arrested. Even if the car has not been reported stolen, the police officer may refuse to allow you to drive the car, have the card towed or impounded until the owner can be located, and give you a ticket for not having the registration. This can be a bigger problem if the vehicle is an out-of-state car, in which case the police officer will not be able to get your information as easily.