Child Car Seat Laws by State

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Car seats save hundreds, if not thousands, of lives every year and are an essential addition to any car. If you frequently travel between states, it’s important to note that car seat laws differ by state, and it’s your job to know and understand these laws.

When you start reviewing the various car seat laws, you may be surprised to find that in many instances they are actually less stringent than recommendations made by pediatricians and safety experts. This is because legislators have to find the compromise between best practices and what most people will actually adhere to. In general, this means that you should view state car seat laws as the bare minimum to ensure your child’s safety.

Since child car seat laws differ by state, car accident attorneys want everyone to know what these states are when you’re driving through different states.

Child Car Seat Laws by State

 

Alabama (32-5-222)

Rear-facing seat: Infant-only seats and convertible seats must be used in the rear-facing position for infants up to 20 pounds or at least 1 year old.

Front-facing seat: Required until the child is 5 years or 40 pounds.

Booster seat: Required until the child is 6 years old.

Children between the ages of 6 and 15 must wear a seat belt.

Alaska (Sec. 2. AS 28.05.095)

Rear-facing seat: Infants that are less than 1 year old or weigh less than 20 pounds must be seated in a federally approved rear-facing car seat.

Front-facing seat: Children who are more than 1 year old but less than 5 years old and who weigh 20 pounds or more must ride in a federally-approved child restraint device.

Booster seat: Children between the ages of 4 and 8 who weigh between 25 and 65 pounds and are less than 57″ tall must ride in a booster seat or other federally approved child restraint passenger system.

Arizona (ARS 28-907)

Arizona doesn’t distinguish between rear-facing and front-facing child seats and instead states that all children who are under 8 years old and are not more than 4’9″ tall must ride in a correctly-installed child restraint system.

There is an exception for a situation where there isn’t enough room to place more than one child restraint system in the car. In this case, at least one child must be seated in a proper restraint system.

Arkansas (Arkansas Code 27-34-104)

Children under the age of 5 must be placed in a federally-approved child restraint passenger system.

Children less than 6 years of age and weighing less than 60 pounds are required to ride in an appropriate child safety restraint system.

Children over the age of 6 can wear a seat belt.

California (Section 27360 – 27368 of the Vehicle Code of California)

Rear-facing seat: Required for children under the age of 2 who are under 40 pounds or 40 inches.

Front-facing seat: Required for children under the age of 8.

Alternatively, children who are under the age of 8 but 4’9″ or taller may use a seatbelt. All children over the age of 8 may wear a seatbelt.

Colorado (Colorado Revised Statue 42-4-236)

Rear-facing seat: Required for children under 1 year of age and weighing less than 20 pounds

Front-facing seat: Children between the ages of 1 and 4, weighing between 20 and 40 pounds, can sit in either a rear-facing or front-facing car seat. Children over the age of 4 or weighing more than 40 pounds must be placed in a front-facing car seat.

Booster seat or seatbelt: Required for children between the ages of 8 and 16

Connecticut (Sec. 14-100a (d) (1))

Rear-facing seat: Required for children less than 2 years old or lighter than 30 pounds. The seat may not be placed in the front seat of a vehicle.

Front-facing seat: Children between the ages of 2 and 5, weighing between 30 and 40 pounds, can ride in either a front- or rear-facing seat or a booster seat.

Booster seat: Children aged between 5 and 8, weighing between 40 and 60 pounds, can be restrained in either a front- or rear-facing seat or a booster seat. Booster seats must have a lap-shoulder seat belt.

Delaware (Title 21 Section 4803)

Children under the age of 8 or under 65 pounds must be restrained in a federally-approved child safety seat that is appropriate for the child’s age, weight, and height.

Children between the ages of 8 and 16 who weigh more than 65 pounds must wear a vehicle’s seatbelt.

Children must sit in the back seat until they are 12 years old or are taller than 65″ in height.

District of Columbia (Section 50-1703)

Rear-facing seat: Required for children under the age of 2 that are less than 40 pounds and 40″ tall.

Front-facing seat or booster seat: Required for children under the age of 8.

Florida (316.613)

Children under the age of 3 must be restrained in a crash-tested, federally-approved child restraint device.

Children between 4 and 5 must be restrained either in a crash-tested, federally-approved child restraint device or an integrated child seat or booster seat.

Children over the age of 6 must be secured with a vehicle seat belt.

Georgia (O.C.G.A. § 40-8-76)

Children 8 years or younger must ride in the back seat in a child passenger restraining system that is appropriate for the child’s age, height, and weight. If the back seat is occupied by other passengers, the child is allowed in the front seat, provided they are secured in a booster seat or a child safety seat.

Children under 8 years old that are taller than 4’9″ can use a vehicle’s seatbelt.

Children who weigh more than 40 pounds can ride with a lap-only belt unless a lap and shoulder belt is available. Parents should try arranging their children to ensure that each child is kept as safe as possible.

An exemption to the use of child safety seats can be made for children that have a medical or physical condition that prevents them from being properly restrained, though this has to be supported by a written statement from a physician.

Hawaii (HRS Section 291-11.5)

Children under 4 years of age must be restrained in a child passenger restraint system such as front- or rear-facing car seats.

Children between the ages of 4 and 8 must be restrained in either a child passenger restraint system or a booster seat.

If the child is over 4’9″ or more than 40 pounds, the child can use the vehicle’s seat belt.

Idaho (Title 49 Chap 6 Section 49-672)

Children under the age of 6 must be restrained using a child safety restraint that meets federal standards. Exceptions can be made if all the vehicle’s seat belts are in use, at which point the child must sit in the back seat.

There is also an exception for a child who is being held by an attendant, either for the purpose of nursing or to meet an immediate physiological need.

Illinois (625 ILCS 25/4 Child Passenger Protection Act)

Rear-facing seat: Required for children under the age of 2 that are under 40 pounds and 40” tall.

Front-facing seat: Required for children until the age of 8 or over 40 pounds.

Children who weigh more than 40 pounds can ride in the back seat with a lap-only belt, provided a lap and shoulder belt isn’t available.

Parents of children under the age of 8 must provide an appropriate child restraint system to any person who transports their child.

Indiana (IC 9-19-11)

Children under the age of 8 must be properly restrained in a child restraint system, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Children between the ages of 8 and 16 must be properly restrained either by a child restraint system or by the vehicle’s seatbelt.

Iowa (IOWA CODE 321.446)

Rear-facing seat: Required for children under the age of 1 who weigh less than 20 pounds.

Front-facing: Required for children between the ages of 1 and 6 in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Children between 6 and 18 must be secured by either a child restraint system or by the vehicle’s seat belt.

Kansas (KSA 8-1343)

Children under the age of 4 must be restrained in an appropriate child passenger safety restraint that meets federal regulations.

Children between the ages of 4 and 8 that weigh less than 80 pounds and are less than 4’9″ tall must be restrained in an appropriate child passenger safety restraint that meets federal regulations.

Children older than 8 must wear the vehicle’s seatbelt.

Kentucky (KRS 189.125)

Children less than 40″ tall must be secured in a child restraint that meets federal regulations.

Booster seat: Children under the age of 8 who are between 40″ and 57″ inches tall must be secured in a child booster seat. Children under the age of 7 who are between 40″ and 50″ tall must be secured in a child booster seat that is designed to elevate the child to properly fit in the federally-approved lap and shoulder seat belt.

Louisiana (RS 32:295)

Rear-facing seat: Required for children under the age of 2, until they reach the height or weight limit of the restraint system as set by the manufacturer.

Front-facing seat: Children between the ages of 2 and 4 that have reached the limits of the rear-facing car seat must be restrained in a front-facing restraint system with an internal harness until the child outgrows the height and weight limits set by the manufacturer.

Booster seat: Children between 4 and 9 who have outgrown the front-facing seat must be restrained in a belt-positioning booster seat secured with a lap and shoulder belt.

Children who are 9 years of age and have outgrown the weight or height limits of belt-positioning booster systems can use the vehicle’s seat belt which has been adjusted and fastened around the child’s body according to the five-step fit test.

Maine (MRS 2081)

Rear-facing seat: Required for children under the age of 2.

Front-facing seat: Required for children that have outgrown the rear-facing seat and children that are older than 2 but weigh less than 55 pounds.

Booster seat: Required for children under the age of 8 weighing less than 80 pounds and under 57″ tall.

Children under the age of 12 who weigh less than 50 pounds must be secured in the back seat of the vehicle. Children under the age of 18 must wear a seat belt.

Maryland (22–412.2)

Children under the age of 8 must be secured by a child safety seat that meets appropriate federal standards in accordance with the child safety seat and vehicle manufacturer’s instructions until the child is taller than 4’9″.

Massachusetts (Chapter90/Section7AA)

Children under the age of 8 who are less than 57″ in height must be secured in a child passenger restraint according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Michigan (Section 257.710d and Section 257.710e (3b))

Rear- and front-facing seats: Children under the age of 4 must be secured in a child restraint that meets federal standards in the rear seat if the vehicle has a rear seat. If all available rear seats are occupied by children under the age of 4, or there is no rear seat, the child restraint system can sit in the front passenger seat. The airbag must be deactivated to use a rear-facing child seat.

Booster seat: Children between the ages of 4 and 8 that are less than 4’9″ tall must be properly secured in a child restraint system such as a booster seat or harness.

Minnesota (169.685-Subd. 5)

Minnesota explicitly states that this law is “a minimum safety standard and does not reflect best practices for properly securing children within vehicles.”

Any children under the age of 8 must ride in a child passenger restraint system that meets federal standards unless the child is 4’9″ or taller. Restraints must be installed and used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Mississippi (MCA 63-7-301)

Rear- and front- child seats: Children under the age of 4 must be protected by a child passenger restraint device or system that meets applicable federal motor safety standards.

Booster seats: Children between the ages of 4 and 7 who weigh less than 65 pounds or are shorter than 4’9″ must use a belt-positioning booster seat system that meets applicable federal motor safety standards.

Missouri (RSMO 307.179)

Children less than 4 years of age, regardless of weight, must be secured in a child passenger restraint system appropriate for that child.

Children who weigh less than 40 pounds, regardless of age, must be secured in a child passenger restraint system appropriate for the child.

Children who are between 4 and 8 years of age who weigh between 40 and 80 pounds and who are shorter than 4’9″ must be secured in either a child passenger restraint system or booster seat.

Children weighing more than 80 pounds or that are taller than 4’9″ must be secured by the vehicle’s seat belt or by a booster seat appropriate for the child.

If the vehicle is not equipped with a lap and shoulder belt necessary for booster seat installation, the child may be transported in the back seat of the vehicle wearing only a lap belt.

Montana (61-9-420)

Children that are under 6 years of age and weigh less than 60 pounds must ride in a child safety restraint appropriate for the child’s weight and height as described by the manufacturer.

Nebraska (60-6,267)

Rear-facing seat: Required for children up to 2 years of age or until the child outgrows the weight or height specifications according to the manufacturer.

Front-facing seat: Children up to the age of 8 must be transported in the rear seat using a correctly-installed child passenger restraint system that meets federal standards.

Children between the ages of 8 and 18 must be secured with an occupant protection system.

Nevada (NRS 484B.157)

Children under the age of 6 who weigh less than 60 pounds must be secured in a child restraint system that meets federal standards, is appropriate for the height and weight of the child, and is attached to the vehicle in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

New Hampshire (RSA 265:107-a)

Children under the age of 7 or under 57″ tall must be restrained in a federally-approved child restraint system.

New Jersey (NJSA 39:3-76.2a)

Rear-facing seat with five-point harness: Required for children under the age of 2 who weigh less than 30 pounds, or until they outgrow the seat.

Front-facing seat with five-point harness: Required for children under the age of 4 who weigh less than 40 pounds, or until they outgrow the seat.

Booster seat: Required for children under the age of 8 and less than 57″ tall who have outgrown their front-facing seat.

New Mexico (66-7-369)

Rear-facing seat: Required for children under 1 year. The rear-facing seat must be in the rear of the vehicle unless there is no rear seat. In this case, it may be placed in the front passenger seat with the passenger airbag deactivated.

Front-facing seat: Required for children between the ages of 1 and 4 who weigh less than 40 pounds

Booster seat: Required for children between the ages of 5 and 6 who weigh less than 60 pounds.

Children aged between 7 and 12 must be secured by a child passenger restraint device or a seat belt. They can wear an adult seat belt once they have passed the five-step test.

New York (Section 1229-c (1))

Rear-facing seat: Required for children under the age of 2 unless the child exceeds the weight or height limits of the seat.

Front-facing seat: Required for children between the ages of 4 and 8.

Booster seat: Required for children under 4 but weighing more than 40 pounds.

Children between the ages of 8 and 16 must be restrained using a lap and shoulder belt system.

New York law states that an appropriate child restraint system is a system that accommodates the child’s size and weight according to the manufacturer. These may include a child safety seat, harness, vest, or booster seat. All children under the age of 8 must be placed in such a system.

While taxis and public transportation buses are exempt from these laws, school buses are not.

North Carolina (G.S. 20-137.1)

Children under the age of 8 weighing less than 80 pounds must be properly secured in a weight-appropriate child passenger restraint system that meets federal standards.

Children less than 5 who weigh less than 40 pounds must be secured in the rear seat of the vehicle unless the child restraint system is designed for use with airbags.

If there is no appropriate seat in the vehicle that can accommodate a weight-appropriate child restraint system, a child under 8 weighing between 40 and 80 pounds may wear a properly fitted lap-belt.

North Dakota (Code Chapter 39-21-41.2)

Children under the age of 8 must be secured using a child restraint system according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Children that are younger than 8 but are at least 4’9″ tall may wear a seat belt instead.

Children between the ages of 8 and 17 must be secured using either a seat belt or child restraint system.

Ohio (4511.81)

Rear- and front-facing seats: Children under 4 years of age who weigh less than 40 pounds must be restrained in a child restraint system that meets federal standards.

Booster seat: Required for children between the ages of 5 and 8 who are less than 4’9″ tall.

Children between the ages of 8 and 15 must be properly restrained in a child restraint system or an occupant restraining device such as safety seat belt, shoulder belt, harness, or other safety device that satisfies the minimum federal standards.

Children riding in public safety vehicles and taxi cabs are exempt from this law.

Oklahoma (47.11-1112)

Rear-facing seats: Required for children under the age of 2 or until they reach the height or weight limit of the seat.

Front-facing seats: Required for children under the age of 4

Booster seats: Required for children that are between 4 and 8 years of age and less than 4’9″ tall.

Children who are 8 or older or taller than 4’9″ must wear a seatbelt.

Oregon (ORS 811.210(2))

Rear-facing seats: Required for children under the age of 2, regardless of weight, or a child older than 2 who weighs under 20 pounds.

Front-facing seats: Required for children who weigh 40 pounds or less.

Booster seats: Children who weigh more than 40 pounds and are less than 4’9″ tall must be secured in a child safety system that elevates the body so that a safety belt or harness properly fits the child. This applies unless the rear of the vehicle is not equipped with lap and shoulder belts, in which case the child may wear a lap belt.

Children who are taller than 4’9″ or are older than 8 must wear a safety belt or harness.

Pennsylvania (Vehicle Code, 75 Pa.C.S. 4581)

Rear-facing seats: Required for children under the age of 2 until they outgrow the maximum height and weight restrictions designated by the manufacturer.

Front-facing seats: Required for children under the age of 4.

Booster seats: Required for children between the ages of 4 and 8, unless the child weighs less than 40 pounds, in which case they may be securely fastened with a child passenger restraint system appropriate for their height and weight.

Children between the ages of 4 and 8 who weigh more than 80 pounds or are taller than 4’9″ may be fastened in a safety seat belt system without the use of a child booster seat.

Rhode Island (Section 31-22-22)

Rear-facing seats: Required for children under the age of 2 or weighing less than 30 pounds.

Front-facing seats: Required for children who have outgrown their rear-facing seats until they exceed the manufacturer’s maximum height and weight limits on the front-facing seat.

Children under the age of 8 who are less than 57″ in height and weigh less than 80 pounds must be secured in a child restraint system that meets federal standards.

If a child is under 8 but taller than 57″ or weighs 80 pounds or more, they may wear a safety belt or shoulder harness. Children between the ages of 8 and 18 must wear a safety belt or shoulder harness system.

South Carolina (Title 56 Chapter 5 Article 47 SECTION 56-5-6410)

Rear-facing seats: Required for children under the age of 2 until they reach the maximum weight or height limit allowed by the manufacturer.

Front-facing seats: Required for children older than 2 or children who have outgrown their rear-facing seat until they reach the maximum height and weight limits allowed by the manufacturer.

Booster seats: Required for children at least 4 years old and children who have outgrown their front-facing seat.

Children who are at least 8 years old and are taller than 57″ may wear an adult seatbelt if they pass the five-step test. Children with medical needs can be transported in a child passenger safety restraint system that is designed for their needs.

South Dakota (32-37-1)

Children under 5 years of age must be properly secured in a federally-approved child restraint system.

Children who weigh at least 40 pounds can be secured in a seatbelt.

Children between the ages of 5 and 18 must wear a properly adjusted seatbelt.

Tennessee (T.C.A. 55-9-602)

Rear-facing: Required for children under the age of 1 or weighing under 20 pounds.

Front-facing: Required for children between the ages of 1 and 3 who weight more than 20 pounds.

Booster seat: Required for children between the ages of 4 and 8 who are less than 4’9″ tall.

If a child isn’t able to be transported in a conventional child passenger restraint system, a modified, professionally-produced system may be used instead, as long as the driver has a copy of a physician’s signed prescription for such a device.

Texas (Sec. 545.412 Texas Transportation Code)

Any child under 8 years old must be secured in a child passenger safety system that meets the federal standards for crash-tested restraint systems.

If the child is under 8 years old but is taller than 4’9″, they may use the vehicle’s seatbelt instead.

Utah (Title 41 Chapter 6a Section 1803 of Utah Code)

Any child under 8 years old must be restrained using a child restrained device in a manner prescribed by the manufacturer of the device.

Children younger than 8 but taller than 57″ can use a lap-shoulder belt instead.

Vermont (23 V.S.A. § 1258)

Rear-facing seats: Required for children under the age of 1 or weighing less than 20 pounds. The seat must not be installed in front of an active airbag.

Front-facing: Required for children who weigh over 20 pounds and are between the ages of 1 and 8.

Children between the ages of 8 and 18 must be restrained in a safety belt system or a child passenger restraining system.

Virginia (Virginia Article 13 – Section 46.2)

Rear-facing seats: Required for children of up to 2 years of age or until they reach the height and weight limit of the device, whichever occurs later. The seats must be placed at the back of the vehicle. If the vehicle doesn’t have a rear seat, the device can only be placed in the front passenger seat if the vehicle doesn’t have an airbag or the airbag is deactivated.

Front-facing seats: Required for children until the age of 8.
Children may not ride unrestrained in the cargo area of vehicles. Children between the ages of 8 and 18 must wear a vehicle seatbelt.

Washington (RCW 46.61.687)

Children under the age of 8 and shorter than 4’9″ must ride in a child restraint that meets federal regulations.

Children under 13 years old must sit in the back seat where it is practical to do so.

Children over the age of 8 or taller than 4’9″ must be properly restrained using the vehicle’s safety belt system or an appropriately-fitting child restraint system.

West Virginia (17C-15-46)

Children under the age of 8 must be secured in a child passenger safety device system that meets federal regulations.

Children under the age of 8 who are at least 4’9″ tall may wear the vehicle’s seatbelt.

Wisconsin (Chapter 347.48.4)

Rear-facing seat: Required for children less than 1 year old or weighing less than 20 pounds.

Front-facing seat: Required for children between the ages of 1 and 4 who weigh between 20 and 40 pounds.

Booster seat: Required for children between the ages of 4 and 8 who weigh between 40 and 80 pounds and are under 57″ tall.

Wyoming (31-5-1303)

Children under the age of 8 must be secured using a child safety restraint system in the rear seat unless the vehicle only has one row of seats or all other seatbelt positions in the rear are being used by other restrained children. No rear-facing seats may be placed in front of an active airbag.

Children under the age of 8 may use the vehicle seat belt if the lap and shoulder belts fit properly and don’t pose a danger to the face, neck, or abdominal area.

Check Your State’s Child Car Seat Laws Before Hitting the Road

Most state laws regarding child seats are relatively similar, and most focus on the bare minimum to keep your child safe. If you follow best practices in terms of your child’s safety, you probably won’t break any laws, regardless of what state you’re in. However, it’s always a good idea to ensure that you comply with the law, especially in an unfamiliar state.

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