As you study the NHTSA and the AAP recommendations, make sure you understand that these are recommendations, not requirements.

Of course, the ideal situation would be that the law you are writing covers every detail of the NHTSA and AAP recommendations. But there are good reasons to not push for all facets of the recommendations to become a law.

One reason is that extensive laws may be difficult to enforce. For example, national recommendations say that a child should not have bulky clothing, like a heavy winter coat, when strapped into a car seat. This bulky clothing reduces the effectiveness of the car set in a crash situation because it allows an extra bit of forward movement that might hurt the child.

If you incorporated a law that bans bulky clothing, it would be difficult to enforce, because there’s no standard to judge what degree of thickness is illegal. So when an officer stops a vehicle, he or she won’t know how to properly cite the driver for bulky clothing use because the law is unclear. It’s best to write a law that focuses on the child’s size and age, rather than extraneous aspects like bulky clothing.

A second reason is that not every recommendation is suitable for every location. What works for one reservation may fail with another. More progressive reservations may easily accept a fully encompassing law. But others may struggle with the idea of forming a new law. They may hold dear their rights to sovereignty, and may spurn any law recommended by a national entity.

To determine your tribe’s level of readiness, see Module 2 – Check your community’s readiness. And to learn how to encourage others about the benefits of child safety seat use, see Module 6 – Make data-driven plans to improve use.


A Tip from the Team

One other note regarding differentiating between laws and recommendations: It’s helpful to keep in mind that there are also “best practices” from the CPS technician training course. These are not requirements or recommendations. These best practices are the most acceptable way to transport a child based on age, weight, and body development. See Module 8 – Provide child passenger restraint education for more information on best practices.

Rebecca’s Experience

Once I determined the Colville Reservation needed a fully separate car seat law to improve enforcement, I set out to understand best practices, so the law incorporated all elements of recommended use. I wanted a law that was both flexible and exact, but not so restraining that elements were subjective enough to be problematic. I wanted a law that would fluidly change when recommendations changed, and didn’t become obsolete due to exact language. Once I determined what I wanted in the law, I could see what I needed to get it passed by the Colville Business Council.

For more on determining how your tribe changes laws and codes, go to the next section.