Car Seat Laws by State in 2021

Alabama

Alabama Car Seat Laws

Children up to six years old must be properly secured in an aftermarket or integrated car seat or booster seat meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards when being transported in a motor vehicle on roadways, streets, or highways:

  • Children up to one year old and weighing up to twenty pounds must use a rear-facing infant-only or convertible car seat.
  • Children between one and five years old and weighing up to forty pounds must use a forward-facing car seat or a convertible car seat in the forward position.
  • Children between five and six years old must use a booster seat.

Children between six and seventeen years old must be properly secured in an aftermarket or integrated seat belt meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards when being transported in a motor vehicle on roadways, streets, or highways:

  • Children between six and fifteen years old must use a seat belt.
  • Children between sixteen and seventeen years old must use a safety belt when riding in the front seat.

Alaska

Alaska Car Seat Laws

Children up to four years old must be properly secured in a child restraint device meeting or exceeding United States Department of Transportation standards and used according to manufacturer’s instructions when in a motor vehicle:

  • Children up to one year old and weighing up to twenty pounds must use a rear-facing child safety seat.
  • Children between one and four years old and at least twenty pounds must use a child restraint device.

Children four to seven years old must be properly secured in a child passenger restraint system or booster seat meeting or exceeding United States Department of Transportation standards and used according to manufacturer’s instructions or a safety belt when in a motor vehicle:

  • Children four to seven years old, under 4’9” tall, and weighing between twenty and sixty-four pounds must use a child passenger restraint system or a booster seat with a seat belt.
  • Children four to seven years old, at least 4’9” tall, and weighing at least sixty-five pounds must use a seat belt.

Children eight to fifteen years old must be properly secured in a child safety device approved for the child’s size, meeting or exceeding United States Department of Transportation standards, and used according to manufacturer’s instructions or a safety belt when in a motor vehicle:

  • Children eight and fifteen years old, under 4’9” tall, and weighing less than sixty-five pounds must use a child safety device or safety belt, whichever the driver determines is appropriate.
  • Children eight to fifteen years old, at least 4’9” tall, and weighing at least sixty-five pounds must use a safety belt.

Children sixteen to seventeen years old must be restrained by a safety belt when driving or occupying a motor vehicle being driven on a highway.

Arizona

Arizona Car Seat Laws

Children under eight years old must be properly secured in a child restraint system (including an add-on, built-in, factory-installed built-in, or rear-facing system or a booster seat) meeting federal standards when being transported in a motor vehicle on Arizona’s highways:

  • Children under five years old must use a child restraint system.
  • Children under eight years old and 4’9” tall or less must use a child restraint system when being transported in a motor vehicle designed to carry no more than ten passengers, model year 1972 or later, and required by federal motor vehicle safety standards to have integrated lap and shoulder belts or lap belts.

Children between eight and seventeen years old must be secured by a properly fastened and adjusted lap and shoulder belt in a seat belt when being transported in a moving motor vehicle designed to carry no more than ten passengers, model year 1972 or later, and required by federal motor vehicle safety standards to have integrated lap and shoulder belts or lap belts on Arizona’s highways.

If only a lap belt is installed in the child’s seat, he or she must be secured by a properly fastened and adjusted lap belt when the vehicle is in motion.

Arkansas

Arkansas Car Seat Laws

Children under six years old and weighing less than sixty pounds must be restrained in a child passenger seat meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards and properly secured to the motor vehicle while the vehicle is in motion and operated on a public road, street, or highway.

Children between six and fourteen years old or weighing at least sixty pounds must wear a safety belt properly secured to a motor vehicle in motion and operated on a public road, street, or highway.

Children between fifteen and seventeen years old must wear a properly fastened and adjusted seat belt properly secured to the vehicle when driving or being transported as a front seat passenger in any motor vehicle operated on a street or highway that is required by federal law or regulation to be equipped with a passenger restraint system.

California

California Car Seat Laws

Children under eight years old must be properly secured in a properly installed appropriate car seat or booster seat that is the correct size and meets applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards in the rear seat of a motor vehicle traveling on a highway:

  • Children under two years old must use a rear-facing car seat in the rear seat until they weigh at least forty pounds or are at least forty inches tall.
  • Children between two and eight years old must use a car seat in the rear seat until they are at least 4’9” tall, when they may use a booster seat with a seat belt.

Children eight to sixteen years old must be properly secured in an appropriate car seat, booster seat, or seatbelt.

Children sixteen to seventeen years old must be secured in a safety belt that meets applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards.

Colorado

Colorado Car Seat Laws

Children under the age of eight must be properly restrained in a child restraint system according to the manufacturer’s instructions. A child restraint system is “a seating system designed to protect, hold, or restrain a child in a motor vehicle so as to prevent or minimize injury in an accident and affixed by a universal attachment system, seat belt, or permanently”. Federal motor vehicle safety standards must be met when being transported in a motor vehicle or a vehicle operated by a child care center:

  • Children under one year old who weigh less than twenty pounds must use a rear-facing car seat in the rear seat of the vehicle.
  • Children between one and three years old and weighing at least twenty pounds but less than forty pounds must use a rear-facing or forward-facing car seat.
  • Children between four and eight years old must use a child restraint system.

Children between the ages of eight and fifteen years old must also be properly restrained in a child restraint system according to the manufacturer’s instructions or in a safety belt conforming to all applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards with the lap belt crossing the hips and touching the thighs and the shoulder belt, if present, crossing the shoulder and chest.

A safety belt is a lap or shoulder belt, or a combined lap and shoulder belt, or any other belt or combination of belts not included in a child restraint system that have been installed in a motor vehicle to restrain drivers and passengers.

Children between sixteen and seventeen years old must be properly restrained in a safety belt, as defined above, conforming to all applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards.

Connecticut

Connecticut Car Seat Laws

Children under two years old or under thirty pounds must ride rear-facing in a five-point harness car seat approved by the Department of Motor Vehicles, and the car seat may not be used in a front seat with a functional passenger side air bag.

Children between two and four years old or between thirty and thirty-nine pounds must ride rear-facing or forward-facing in a five-point harness car seat approved by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Children between five and seven years old or between forty and fifty-nine pounds must ride rear-facing or forward-facing in a child restraint system with a five-point harness or a booster seat (if the motor vehicle has a seat safety belt with a shoulder belt, loop strength through the complete attachment of at least four thousand pounds, and a buckle or closing device that can be released with one hand with a pull of less than forty-five pounds) secured by a seat safety belt approved by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Children between the ages of eight and fifteen years old or at least sixty pounds must use an approved car seat, booster seat, or seat safety belt.

Children between fifteen and seventeen years old must wear a seat safety belt and ensure all passengers wear seat safety belt when driving.

Delaware

Delaware Car Seat Laws

Children up to seven years old or up to sixty-five pounds must be properly secured according to manufacturer’s instructions in a child safety seat or booster seat meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards and appropriate for the child’s weight and height when being transported in a motor vehicle operated on the roadways, streets, or highways.

Children between the ages of eight and fifteen or weighing more than sixty-five pounds must wear a properly secured seatbelt in all seating positions.

District of Columbia

District of Columbia Car Seat Laws

Children under three years old must be properly restrained in a child restraint seat (any motor vehicle restraint system meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards and designed to protect children) meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards in a rear-facing position until they are two years old or at least forty pounds and at least 3’4” tall while being transported in a motor vehicle.

Children between three and seven years old must be properly seated according to manufacturer’s instructions in an installed infant, convertible (toddler), or booster child safety seat used with both a lap and shoulder belt meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards while being transported in a motor vehicle.

Children between eight and fifteen years old must be properly restrained in an approved child safety restraint system meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards or restrained in a seat belt when being transported in a motor vehicle.

Children between sixteen and seventeen years old must wear a properly fastened and adjusted safety belt while a driver is in control of the motor vehicle.

Florida

Florida Car Seat Laws

Children up to three years old must be properly secured in a crash-tested, federally approved child restraint device (either a separate carrier or a vehicle manufacturer’s integrated child seat) when being transported in a motor vehicle on the roadways, streets, or highways.

Children between four and five years old must be properly secured in a crash-tested and federally approved child restraint device (a separate carrier, a vehicle manufacturer’s integrated child seat, or a child booster seat) when being transported in a motor vehicle on the roadways, streets, or highways.

Georgia

Georgia Car Seat Laws

Children under eight years old must be properly restrained in a child passenger restraining system that is the correct size, installed and used according to the manufacturer’s directions, and in compliance with federal motor vehicle safety standards in the rear seat when being transported in a moving passenger automobile, van, or pickup truck on a public road, street, or highway.

Children between the ages of four and seven years old must be properly restrained by a child passenger restraining system while on a bus.

Hawaii

Hawaii Car Seat Laws

Children under four years old must be properly restrained in a child passenger restraint system that meets all federal motor vehicle safety standards at the time of its manufacture when being transported in a motor vehicle on a public highway in the state.

Children between four and seven years old must be properly restrained in a child safety seat or booster seat that meets federal motor vehicle safety standards at the time of its manufacture when being transported in a motor vehicle on a public highway in the state.

Idaho

Idaho Car Seat Laws

Children six years old or younger must be secured properly in a child safety restraint that meets federal motor vehicle safety standards when being transported in a motor vehicle manufactured with seat belts after January 1, 1966. The Idaho Transportation Department recommends that:

  • Children be restrained every time they are transported in a motor vehicle.
  • Children ride in the back seat until they are at least thirteen years old.
  • Children are secured in correct safety seats for their height and weight.
  • Children use child safety seats and seat belts correctly.
  • Children up to two years old ride rear facing in a car seat until they are two years old or until they reach the highest height and weight limits allowed by the car seat manufacturer.
  • Children two to four years old ride forward facing in a car seat until they are approximately four years old, weigh between forty and sixty-five pounds, and are still within the height and weight limits of the car seat.
  • Children four to eight years old ride in a high back or backless belt positioning booster seat until they are at least eight years old or until they reach 4’9.”
  • Children eight years old and older use an adult seat belt with the lap belt laying across their upper thighs, the shoulder belt crossing their chest, and their knees bending at the edge of the seat.

Illinois

Illinois Car Seat Laws

Children under eight years old must be properly restrained in an appropriate child restraint system when being transported on a road, street, or highway in a non-commercial motor vehicle, a truck or truck tractor with seat safety belts, a motor vehicle weighing 9,000 pounds or less, or a recreational vehicle:

  • Children up to two years old must be properly secured in a rear facing child restraint system (a device designed to restrain, seat, or position a child and must meet the United States Department of Transportation standards) when being transported in a motor vehicle designed to carry no more than ten people, or in a motor vehicle used for freight, cargo, farming, or recreation and weighing 9,000 pounds or less until the child weighs forty pounds or more or is forty inches tall or more.
  • Children two to eight years old may ride in the back seat of a motor vehicle wearing only a lap belt if the motor vehicle does not have a combination lap and shoulder belt and the child weighs more than forty pounds.
  • Children eight to fifteen years old must be properly secured in a seat belt.

Indiana

Indiana Car Seat Laws

Children under eight years old must be correctly restrained and fastened using a child restraint system in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions when being transported in a motor vehicle.

Children between eight and fifteen years old must be correctly restrained and fastened using either a safety belt (if the motor vehicle has a safety belt meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards) or a child restraint system in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Iowa

Iowa Car Seat Laws

Children under one year old and weighing less than twenty pounds must be secured in a rear-facing child restraint system (a specially designed seating system, such as a car seat, booster seat, or belt-positioning seat, meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards) used according to manufacturer’s instructions when being transported in a motor vehicle subject to registration.

Children under one year old and weighing more than twenty pounds must be secured in a child restraint system used according to the manufacturer’s instructions when being transported in a motor vehicle subject to registration.

Children between one and five years old must be secured in a child restraint system used according to the manufacturer’s instructions when being transported in a motor vehicle subject to registration.

Children between six and seventeen years old must be secured in a child restraint system used according to the manufacturer’s instructions or by an approved safety belt or safety harness when being transported in a motor vehicle subject to registration.

Kansas

Kansas Car Seat Laws

Children up to three years old must be properly protected by being secured in an appropriate child passenger safety restraining system meeting or exceeding federal motor vehicle safety standards and specifications when being transported in a passenger vehicle or on an autocycle on a highway.

Children between three and seven years old weighing less than eighty pounds or less than 4’9” in height must be properly protected by being secured in an appropriate child passenger safety restraining system meeting or exceeding federal motor vehicle safety standards and specifications when being transported in a passenger vehicle or on an autocycle on a highway.

Children between eight and thirteen years old, weighing more than eighty pounds, or more than 4’9” in height must be properly protected by being secured in a safety belt that complies with federal motor vehicle safety standards when being transported in a passenger vehicle or on an autocycle on a highway.

Kentucky

Kentucky Car Seat Laws

Children under forty inches tall must be properly secured in a child restraint system (a device

manufactured for the purpose of transporting a child in a motor vehicle) that meets federal motor vehicle safety standards when being transported in a motor vehicle (a vehicle designed to carry ten or fewer passengers and used to transport people) on a roadway, street, or highway.

Children forty inches tall or taller must wear a properly fastened and adjusted seat belt when being driving or being transported in a motor vehicle manufactured after 1965 while traveling on roadways unless properly secured in a child restraint system.

Louisiana

Louisiana Car Seat Laws

Children under thirteen years old being transported in a motor vehicle equipped with safety belts must be properly secured:

  • Children under six years old or weighing sixty pounds or less must be secured in a child restraint system (an age- or size-appropriate child safety seat, a shoulder harness, or a lap belt as required by the law) complying with United States Department of Transportation standards, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, in a seating position allowing adequate space for installation and equipped with a safety belt system, and must be seated in any available rear seat if the passenger side air bag is activated:
    • Children under one year old or weighing less than twenty pounds must use a rear-facing child safety seat.
    • Children between one and three years old or weighing at least twenty pounds and less than forty pounds must use a forward-facing child safety seat.
    • Children between four and five years old or weighing at least forty pounds and not more than sixty pounds must use a child booster seat, unless they weigh more than forty pounds and the seating position only has a lap belt available.

Children between six and twelve years old or weighing more than sixty pounds must be restrained in an appropriately sized child booster seat (a child passenger restraint system designed to elevate a child to sit properly in a federally approved safety belt system meeting Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards) or properly fastened and adjusted safety belt, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Children thirteen years old or older must have a properly fastened safety belt around their body when in a passenger car, van, sports utility vehicle, or pickup truck having a gross weight of ten thousand pounds or less, in forward motion.

Maine

Maine Car Seat Laws

Children weighing less than eighty pounds must be properly secured in a child safety seat

(a child safety seat meeting Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards) according to the manufacturer’s instructions, or in a federally approved child restraint system (a child safety restraint meeting the requirements of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213 and intended as crash protection in vehicles) when riding in a vehicle required by the United States Department of Transportation to be equipped with safety seat belts:

  • Children under forty pounds must use a child safety seat according to the manufacturer’s instructions when being transported in a motor vehicle required by the United States Department of Transportation to be equipped with safety seat belts.
  • Children between forty and eighty pounds must use a federally approved child restraint system when riding in a vehicle that is required by the United States Department of Transportation to be equipped with seat belts.

Children under twelve years old and weighing less than one hundred pounds must be properly secured in the rear seat of a vehicle, if possible, when riding in a vehicle that is required by the United States Department of Transportation to be equipped with seat belts.

Children between eight and seventeen years old, or under eighteen years old and more than 4’9” inches in height, must be properly secured in a safety seat belt when riding in a vehicle that is required by the United States Department of Transportation to be equipped with seat belts.

Maryland

Maryland Car Seat Laws

Children up to seven years old and under 4’9” tall must be secured in a child safety seat (a device intended to restrain, seat, or position a child being transported in a motor vehicle which is certified by the manufacturer to comply with applicable federal safety standards and includes a child booster seat) according to the child safety seat and vehicle manufacturer’s instructions while being transported in a motor vehicle.

Children eight to fifteen years old must be secured in a child safety seat according to the child safety seat and vehicle manufacturer’s instructions or by a seat belt (a restraining device which may include a combination seat belt and should harness) while being transported in a motor vehicle.

Children sixteen to seventeen years old must be restrained by a seat belt as a passenger in the front seat adjacent to a door or the rear seat of a motor vehicle.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts Car Seat Laws

Children up to seven years old who are passengers in a motor vehicle must be properly fastened and secured by a child passenger restraint according to the manufacturer’s instructions unless they measure more than 57” in height.

Children eight to twelve years old or more than 57” in height must wear a safety belt which is properly fastened and adjusted in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Children thirteen to seventeen years old must wear a properly fastened and adjusted safety belt when riding in a private passenger motor vehicle, vanpool vehicle, or truck under eighteen thousand pounds.

Michigan

Michigan Car Seat Laws

Children under four years old must be properly secured in a child restraint system that meets applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards in a rear seat (if the vehicle is equipped with a rear seat) and may only ride in the child restraint system in the front seat if all available rear seats are occupied by children under four years old and if the front passenger air bag is deactivated.

Children between four and seven years old and less than 4’9” tall must be properly secured in a child restraint system according to the child restraint manufacturer’s and the vehicle manufacturer’s instructions and in compliance with applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards.

Children between four and fifteen years old and 4’9” tall or taller must be secured in a properly fastened and adjusted safety belt and seated in the motor vehicle as required.

Children between sixteen and seventeen years old must wear a properly fastened and adjusted safety belt when riding in the front seat of a motor vehicle operated on a street or highway.

Minnesota

Minnesota Car Seat Laws

Children under eight years old and under 4’9” must be properly fastened in a child passenger restraint system (any device, including a booster seat, designed to restrain, seat, or position a child) meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards according to manufacturer’s instructions, in a seat with a factory-installed seat belt, when being transported in a motor vehicle with factory-installed seat belts on streets or highways.

Children between eight and seventeen years old must wear a properly fastened and adjusted seat belt, including both shoulder and lap belt if available, when being transported in a passenger automobile, pickup truck, van, commuter van, recreational vehicle, three-wheeled motorcycle with seat belts, commercial motor vehicle, school bus, or Head Start vehicle.

Mississippi

Mississippi Car Seat Laws

Children under four years old must properly use a child passenger restraint device or system meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards while being transported in a passenger motor vehicle operated on a public roadway, street, or highway.

Children between four and six years old and less than 4’9” in height or weighing less than 65 pounds must properly use a belt positioning booster seat system meeting all applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards while being transported in a passenger motor vehicle operated on a public roadway, street, or highway.

Children between four and six years old, measuring at least 4’9” in height, and weighing at least 65 pounds must wear a properly fastened safety belt seat system installed in the vehicle when manufactured as required by federal motor vehicle safety standards when being transported as a passenger in a motor vehicle operated in forward motion on a public road, street, or highway.

Children between seven and seventeen years old must wear a properly fastened safety belt seat system installed in the vehicle when manufactured as required by federal motor vehicle safety standards when being transported as a passenger in a motor vehicle operated in forward motion on a public road, street, or highway.

Missouri

Missouri Car Seat Laws

Children under sixteen years old must be secured in a properly fastened and adjusted child passenger restraint system, booster seat, or vehicle safety belt which is appropriate for them when being transported in a motor vehicle operated on streets or highways:

  • Children under four years old must be secured in an appropriate child passenger restraint system (a seating system which is either permanently affixed to the motor vehicle or affixed to the motor vehicle by a universal attachment system or vehicle safety belt and which complies with federal motor vehicle safety standards, regardless of weight.
  • Children weighing less than forty pounds must be secured in an appropriate child passenger restraint system, regardless of age.
  • Children between four and seven years old weighing at least forty pounds but less than eighty pounds and less than 4’9” in height must be secured in an appropriate child passenger restraint system or booster seat (a seating system which is designed to properly elevate a child to sit in a federally approved vehicle safety belt system and which meets federal motor vehicle safety standards).
  • Children weighing at least eighty pounds and at least 4’9” tall must be secured by an appropriate booster seat or vehicle safety belt.

Children over sixteen years old must wear a properly fastened and adjusted vehicle safety belt meeting federal National Highway, Transportation and Safety Act requirements when driving or riding in the front passenger seat of a passenger car manufactured after January 1, 1968 or when driving or riding in a truck on streets or highways.

Montana

Montana Car Seat Laws

Children under six years old and weighing less than sixty pounds must be properly restrained in a height- and weight-appropriate child safety restraint complying with manufacturer’s standards and applicable state and federal standards, with one child safety restraint for each child, when being transported as a passenger in a motor vehicle.

Children between six and seventeen years old or weighing at least sixty pounds must wear a properly fastened and adjusted seatbelt when occupying a designated seating position in a motor vehicle.

Nebraska

Nebraska Car Seat Laws

Children under two years old must be secured in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system which is correctly installed and meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards in the rear seat (unless all other seats are occupied by children under eight years old) until they outgrow the manufacturer’s maximum height or weight while being transported in a motor vehicle.

Children between two and seven years old must be secured in a correctly installed child passenger restraint system meeting Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards in the rear seat (unless all other seats are occupied by children under eight years old) while being transported in a motor vehicle.

Children between eight and seventeen years old must use an occupant protection system (a system for restraining drivers and passengers using a lap belt, a shoulder belt, or a combination of belts installed in a motor vehicle) meeting Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (or at least complying with applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards for passenger restraint systems for the motor vehicle’s model year) when being transported in a motor vehicle required to have an occupant protection system or three-point safety belt system on any highway, road, or street.

Nevada

Nevada Car Seat Laws

Children under six years old and weighing up to sixty pounds must be secured in a size- and weight-appropriate child restraint system installed inside the motor vehicle, which is safely and securely attached to the motor vehicle according to the manufacturer’s instructions or in a manner approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and complies with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, while being transported in a motor vehicle equipped to carry passengers.

Children between six and seventeen years old or weighing more than sixty pounds must wear a safety belt when driving or riding in the front or back seat of a passenger car weighing less than 10,000 pounds on a highway, road, or street, if a safety belt is available for their seating position.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire Car Seat Laws

Children under seven years old and under 57 inches tall must be properly fastened and secured by a child restraint system which complies with United States Department of Transportation safety standards when being carried as a passenger in a motor vehicle on any roadway:

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommend that children ride rear-facing in a child safety seat as long as they possibly can and that children use a booster seat until they reach 57 inches tall.

Children between seven and seventeen years old or at least 57 inches tall must wear a properly fastened and adjusted seat or safety belt when being carried as a passenger in a motor vehicle or when driving a motor vehicle or autocycle on any roadway.

New Jersey

New Jersey Car Seat Laws

Children under two years old and weighing less than thirty pounds must be secured in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system equipped with a five-point harness in the rear seat (unless the motor vehicle does not have rear seats and is not equipped with a passenger-side airbag or the passenger-side airbag is disabled or turned off) when being transported in a motor vehicle equipped with safety belts or a Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system on roadways, streets, or highways.

Children under four years old and weighing less than forty pounds must be secured in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system equipped with a five-point harness in the rear seat (unless the motor vehicle does not have rear seats and is not equipped with a passenger-side airbag or the passenger-side airbag is disabled or turned off) until they outgrow the manufacturer’s top height or weight recommendations, at which point they must be secured in a forward-facing child passenger restraint system equipped with a five-point harness in the back seat, or in a forward-facing child passenger restraint system equipped with a five-point harness, when being transported in a motor vehicle equipped with safety belts or a Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system on roadways, streets, or highways.

Children under eight years old and less than 57” tall must be secured in a forward-facing child passenger restraint system equipped with a five-point harness in the rear seat (unless the motor vehicle does not have rear seats and is not equipped with a passenger-side airbag or the passenger-side airbag is disabled or turned off) until they outgrow the manufacturer’s top height or weight recommendations, at which point the child must be secured in a booster seat in a rear seat, or in a booster seat, when being transported in a motor vehicle equipped with safety belts or a Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system on roadways, streets, or highways.

Children under eight years old and weighing over eighty pounds must wear a properly fastened and adjusted safety seat belt system as defined by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards when being transported in a passenger automobile operated on streets or highways.

Children between eight and seventeen years old must wear a properly fastened and adjusted safety seat belt system as defined by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards when being transported in a passenger automobile operated on streets or highways.

New Mexico

New Mexico Car Seat Laws

Children under eighteen years old must be properly secured in a child passenger restraint device or by a safety belt when being transported in a passenger car, van, or pickup truck:

  • Children under one year old must be properly secured in a rear-facing child passenger restraint device meeting federal standards in the rear seat of a motor vehicle (or in the front seat if the motor vehicle is not equipped with a rear seat and the passenger-side air bag is deactivated or the motor vehicle is not equipped with a deactivation switch for the passenger-side air bag).
  • Children between one and four years old or weighing less than forty pounds must be properly secured in a child passenger restraint device meeting federal standards.
  • Children between five and six years old or weighing less than sixty pounds must be properly secured in an appropriate child passenger restraint system meeting federal standards or in a child booster seat.
  • Children between seven and twelve years old must be properly secured in a child passenger restraint device or by a safety belt (with the lap belt fitting properly across their hips and thighs and not their abdomen, the shoulder strap crossing the center of their chest and not their neck, and with them sitting all the way back against the seat of the motor vehicle with their knees bent over the edge of the seat).
  • Children between thirteen and seventeen years old must be properly secured by a safety belt (with the lap belt fitting properly across their hips and thighs and not their abdomen, the shoulder strap crossing the center of their chest and not their neck, and with them sitting all the way back against the seat of the motor vehicle with their knees bent over the edge of the seat).

New York

New York Car Seat Laws

Children under two years old must be restrained in the back seat of a motor vehicle in a specially designed rear-facing seat meeting Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards which is permanently affixed to the motor vehicle or affixed to the motor vehicle by a safety belt until they exceed the manufacturer’s size and weight recommendations, at which time they may be restrained in a forward-facing seat.

Children between two and three years old must be restrained in the front or back seat of a motor vehicle in a specially designed rear-facing seat meeting Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards which is permanently affixed to the motor vehicle or affixed to the motor vehicle by a safety belt until they weigh more than forty pounds, at which time they must be restrained in an appropriate child restraint system which uses a combination of lap safety and shoulder harness belts (unless the motor vehicle is not equipped with combination lap safety and shoulder harness belts or all combination lap safety and shoulder harness belts are being used to restrain other passengers under sixteen years old, in which case they may be restrained by a lap safety belt).

Children between four and seven years old must be restrained in the front or back seat of a motor vehicle in an appropriate child restraint system using a combination of lap and shoulder harness belts (unless the motor vehicle is not equipped with combination lap safety and shoulder harness belts or all of the combination lap safety and shoulder harness belts are being used to restrain other passengers under sixteen years old, in which case they may be restrained by a lap safety belt).

Children between eight and fifteen years old must be restrained in the front or back seat of a motor vehicle by a safety belt approved by the commissioner and must be restrained by both a lap safety belt and a shoulder harness belt if seated in a position equipped with both.

Children between sixteen and seventeen years old who are driving or riding in the front seat of a motor vehicle must be secured in a safety belt that meets applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards and must be restrained by both a lap safety belt and a shoulder harness belt if seated in a position equipped with both.

North Carolina

North Carolina Car Seat Laws

Children under five years old and weighing less than forty pounds must be properly secured in a weight-appropriate child passenger restraint system in the rear seat of the motor vehicle if the vehicle has a rear seat and is equipped with an active passenger-side front air bag, unless the child restraint system is designed to be used with air bags, when being transported in a motor vehicle which is required by federal standards to be equipped with seat belts.

Children between five and seven years old and weighing less than eighty pounds must be properly secured in a weight-appropriate child passenger restraint system in a seat equipped with a lap and shoulder belt to properly secure the child passenger restraint system, if available, when being transported in a motor vehicle which is required by federal standards to be equipped with seat belts; if no lap and shoulder belt is available, they may be secured by a properly fitted lap belt only.

Children between the ages of eight and seventeen years old must be secured by a properly fitted seat belt when being transported in a motor vehicle which is required by federal standards to be equipped with seat belts.

North Dakota

North Dakota Car Seat Laws

Children under eight years old and less than fifty-seven inches tall must be properly secured according to manufacturer’s instructions in a child restraint system (a car seat or booster seat) meeting United States Department of Transportation standards when being transported in a motor vehicle in motion.

Children between eight and seventeen years old or at least fifty-seven inches tall must be properly secured according to manufacturer’s instructions in an approved child restraint system meeting United States Department of Transportation standards or in a correctly buckled safety belt when being transported in a motor vehicle in motion.

Ohio

Ohio Car Seat Laws

Children under four years old must be properly secured in a child restraint system meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards according to manufacturer’s instructions when transported in a motor vehicle required by the United States Department of Transportation to have seat belts when manufactured or assembled, even when transported by a nursery school or daycare center.

Children between four and seven years old, weighing at least forty pounds, and under 4’9” tall must be properly secured in a booster seat meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards according to manufacturer’s instructions when transported in a motor vehicle required by the United States Department of Transportation to have seat belts when manufactured or assembled, except for regulated daycare vehicles.

Children between eight and fifteen years old must be properly restrained in either a child restraint system meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards according to manufacturer’s instructions, or in an occupant restraining device (a seat safety belt, shoulder belt, harness, or other safety device restraining an operator or passenger in a motor vehicle and meeting United States Department of Transportation federal vehicle safety standards) when transported in the front or back seat of a motor vehicle required by the United States Department of Transportation to have seat belts when manufactured or assembled.

Children over fifteen years old must wear all of the available elements of a properly adjusted occupant restraining device when operating, or as a passenger in the front seat of, an automobile.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Car Seat Laws

Children under four years old must be properly secured in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system (an infant or child passenger restraint system meeting federal standards) until they are at least two years old or until they reach the manufacturer’s weight or height limits of the rear-facing child passenger restraint system, whichever occurs first.

Children between four and seven years old and not over 4’9” tall must be properly secured in either a child passenger restraint system or a child booster seat.

Children between eight and seventeen years old or taller than 4’9” must wear a seat belt properly secured to the motor vehicle.

Oregon

Oregon Car Seat Laws

Children under sixteen years old must be properly secured with a child safety system, safety belt, or safety harness meeting Department of Transportation standards and specifications when being transported as a passenger in a motor vehicle on the highway:

  • Children under two years old must be properly secured in a rear-facing child safety system.
  • Children between three and seven years old and weighing forty pounds or less must be properly secured in a child safety system meeting Department of Transportation minimum standards and specifications for child safety systems designed for children weighing forty pounds or less, either rear-facing or forward-facing, depending on the child’s size.
  • Children between three and seven years old, weighing more than forty pounds, and up to 4’9” tall must be properly secured with in a child safety system meeting the department’s minimum standards and specifications for child safety systems designed for children 4’9” or shorter, including a forward-facing child car seat, a safety seat with a harness, or a booster seat, depending on the child’s size.
  • Children between eight and fifteen years old or more than 4’9” tall must be properly secured with a safety belt or safety harness meeting Department of Transportation standards and specifications.

Children sixteen years old or older must be properly secured with a safety belt or safety harness meeting Department of Transportation standards and specifications when operating or being transported as a passenger in a motor vehicle on the highway.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Car Seat Laws

Children under two years old must be securely fastened in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system meeting the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard and used as designated by the manufacturer, until they outgrow the manufacturer’s maximum weight and height limits, when being transported anywhere in a passenger car, Class I or Class II truck, classic motor vehicle, antique motor vehicle, motor home, or any other motor vehicle equipped with seat safety belts.

Children between two and three years old must be securely fastened in a child passenger restraint system meeting the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard and used as designated by the manufacturer when being transported anywhere in a passenger car, Class I or Class II truck, classic motor vehicle, antique motor vehicle, motor home, or any other motor vehicle equipped with seat safety belts, including the cargo area.

Children between four and seven years old must be securely fastened in a fastened safety seat belt system and an appropriately fitting child booster seat designed to elevate a child to sit properly in a federally approved safety seat belt system, meeting the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, and used as designated by the manufacturer when being transported anywhere in a passenger car, Class I or Class II truck, classic motor vehicle, antique motor vehicle, motor home, or any other motor vehicle equipped with seat safety belts, including the cargo area.

Children between eight and seventeen years old must be secured in a properly fastened and adjusted safety seat belt system when operating or being transported as a passenger in a passenger car, Class I or Class II truck, or motor home.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island Car Seat Laws

Children under two years old or weighing less than thirty pounds must be properly restrained in a rear-facing car seat approved by the United States Department of Transportation in any rear seating position of the motor vehicle when being transported in a motor vehicle operated on roadways, streets, or highways until they outgrow their rear-facing car sear by height or weight. at which time they must be properly restrained in a forward-facing car seat with a harness up to the maximum allowed by the manufacturer.

Children between two and seven years old, less than 4’9” tall, and weighing less than eighty pounds must be properly restrained in a forward-facing car seat with a harness (up to the maximum height and weight limits allowed by the manufacturer) or other child restraint system approved by the United States Department of Transportation in any rear seating position of the motor vehicle when being transported in a motor vehicle operated on roadways, streets, or highways.

Children between two and seven years old, at least 4’9” tall, and weighing at least eighty pounds must properly wear a safety belt and/or shoulder harness approved by the United States Department of Transportation in any rear seating position of the motor vehicle when being transported in a motor vehicle operated on roadways, streets, or highways.

Children between the ages of eight and seventeen years old must properly wear a safety belt and/or shoulder harness system approved by the United States Department of Transportation in any seating position when operating or being transported in a motor vehicle required by federal law to have safety belts on roadways, streets, or highways.

South Carolina

South Carolina Car Seat Laws

Children under eight years old and under 4’9” tall must use a car seat or booster seat meeting National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standards when manufactured in a rear seat when being transported in a passenger car, pickup truck, van, recreational vehicle, or other motor vehicle equipped with safety belts on highways and streets:

  • Children under two years old must be properly secured in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system in a rear seat until they exceed manufacturer’s height or weight limits, at which time they must be secured in a forward-facing child passenger restraint system with a harness in a rear seat until exceeding that system’s height or weight limits.
  • Children between two and three years old must be properly secured in a forward-facing child passenger restraint system with a harness in a rear seat until they exceed that system’s height or weight limits.
  • Children between four and seven years old who have outgrown a forward-facing passenger restraint system must be secured by a belt-positioning booster seat using both lap and shoulder belts in a rear seat until they meet adult safety seat belt height and fit requirements.

Children at least eight years old or at least 4’9” tall must use a booster seat or safety belt meeting National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standards when manufactured in a passenger car, pickup truck, van, recreational vehicle, or other motor vehicle equipped with safety belts on highways and streets:

  • Children between eight and seventeen years old or at least 4’9” tall must be secured in a child restraint system or a fastened safety belt complying with federal law in a motor vehicle required by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to have safety belts, with an adult safety seat belt being worn only if the lap belt fits across the thighs and hips, the shoulder belt crosses the center of the chest, and they can sit with their back straight against the seat back with knees bent over the seat edge without slouching.

South Dakota

South Dakota Car Seat Laws

Children under five years old and weighing under forty pounds must be properly secured in a child passenger restraint system meeting Department of Transportation safety standards and according to manufacturer’s instructions when being transported in a passenger vehicle on streets and highways.

Children under five years old and weighing at least forty pounds may be secured in a seat belt when being transported in a passenger vehicle on streets and highways.

Children between five and seventeen years old must wear a properly fastened and adjusted safety seat belt system, required to be installed in the vehicle if manufactured pursuant to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, when being transported in a passenger vehicle operated on public streets or highways at all times when the vehicle is in motion.

Children between fourteen and seventeen years old must wear a properly adjusted and

fastened safety seat belt system, required to be installed in the vehicle if manufactured pursuant to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, when operating a passenger vehicle on public streets or highways at all times when the vehicle is in motion.

Tennessee

Tennessee Car Seat Laws

Children up to one-year-old and weighing twenty pounds or less must properly use a rear-facing child passenger restraint system meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards in a rear seat if available or according to the child safety restraint system or vehicle’s manufacturer’s instructions when being transported in a motor vehicle upon roads, streets, or highways.

Children between one and three years old and weighing more than twenty pounds must properly use a forward-facing child passenger restraint system meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards in a rear seat if available or according to the child safety restraint system or vehicle’s manufacturer’s instructions when being transported in a motor vehicle upon roads, streets, or highways.

Children between four and eight years old and under 4’9” tall must properly use a belt-positioning booster seat system meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards in a rear seat (if available) or according to the child safety restraint system or vehicle’s manufacturer’s instructions when being transported in a passenger motor vehicle upon roads, streets, or highways.

Children between nine and twelve years old, or up to twelve years old and 4’9” or taller, must properly use a seat belt system meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards when being transported in a passenger motor vehicle upon roads, streets, or highways, with the recommendation that they be placed in a rear seat if available.

Children between thirteen and fifteen years old must properly use a passenger restraint system, including a safety belt, meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards when being transported in a passenger motor vehicle upon roads, streets, or highways, with the recommendation that they be placed in a rear seat if available.

Children between the ages of sixteen and seventeen years old must be restrained by a safety belt at all times the vehicle is in forward motion when operating or being transported as a passenger in any seat in a passenger motor vehicle.

Texas

Texas Car Seat Laws

Children under eight years old and not taller than 4’9” must be secured in a child passenger safety seat system (an infant or child passenger restraint system meeting National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standards for crash-tested restraint systems) according to manufacturer’s instructions while being transported in a passenger vehicle in operation.

Children between eight and sixteen years old or taller than 4’9” must be secured by a safety belt (a lap belt and any shoulder straps included as original equipment on or added to a vehicle) when occupying a seat equipped with a safety belt and being transported in a passenger vehicle or a passenger van designed to transport no more than fifteen passengers, including the driver, equipped with safety belts.

Children between fifteen and seventeen years old must secure themselves by a safety belt when occupying a seat equipped with a safety belt and riding in a passenger vehicle while it is being operated.

Utah

Utah Car Seat Laws

Children under eight years old and less than 4’9” tall must be restrained in a child restraint device according to the manufacturer’s instructions when being transported in a motor vehicle operated on a highway.

Children under eight years old and at least 4’9” tall or taller must be restrained in a child restraint device according to manufacturer’s instructions but may be secured by a properly fastened and adjusted safety belt when being transported in a motor vehicle operated on a highway.

Children between eight and seventeen years old must be secured by a properly fastened and adjusted safety belt when being transported in or operating a motor vehicle on a highway.

Vermont

Vermont Car Seat Laws

Children under one year old or weighing less than twenty pounds must be properly restrained in a rear-facing position and must be properly secured in a federally approved child passenger restraining system which is not installed in front of an active air bag when being transported in a motor vehicle on public highways.

Children between one and seven years old and weighing at least twenty pounds must be properly restrained in a federally approved child passenger restraining system when being transported in a motor vehicle on public highways.

Children between eight and seventeen years old must be properly restrained in a federally approved child passenger restraining system or a federally approved safety belt system when being transported in or operating a motor vehicle on public highways.

Virginia

Virginia Car Seat Laws

Children under two years old must be properly secured in a rear-facing child restraint device meeting United States Department of Transportation standards in the back seat when being transported in a motor vehicle manufactured after January 1, 1968 on the highways until they meet the manufacturer’s minimum weight limit for the device to be forward-facing, and may only be placed in the front passenger seat if the motor vehicle does not have a back seat and the vehicle is not equipped with a passenger-side airbag or the passenger side airbag has been deactivated.

Children between two and seven years old must be properly secured in a child restraint device meeting United States Department of Transportation standards in the back seat when being transported in a motor vehicle manufactured after January 1, 1968 on the highways, and may only be placed in the front passenger seat if the motor vehicle does not have a back seat and the vehicle is not equipped with a passenger-side airbag or the passenger side airbag has been deactivated.

Children between eight and seventeen years old must be properly secured by an appropriate safety belt system when being transported on the highways in a motor vehicle manufactured after January 1, 1968 which is equipped or required to be equipped with a safety belt system consisting of lap belts, shoulder harnesses, a combination thereof, or similar devices.

Washington

Washington Car Seat Laws

Children under thirteen years old should be transported in the back seat when practical.

Children under four must be properly secured in a child restraint system meeting United States Department of Transportation standards, and secured according to vehicle and child restraint system manufacturers’ instructions, when being transported in a motor vehicle required to have a safety belt system in the passenger seat, or in a neighborhood or medium-speed electric vehicle:

  • Children under two years old must be properly secured in a rear-facing child restraint system until they reach the manufacturer’s weight or height limit.
  • Children between two and three years old may be properly secured in a rear-facing child restraint system until they reach the manufacturer’s weight or height limit, or must be properly secured in a forward-facing child restraint system with a harness until they reach the manufacturer’s weight or height limit.

Children between four and fifteen years old may be properly secured in a child restraint system or a child booster seat meeting United States Department of Transportation standards, and secured according to vehicle and child restraint system/booster seat manufacturers’ instructions, when being transported in a motor vehicle required to have a safety belt system in the passenger seat, or in an neighborhood or medium-speed electric vehicle:

  • Children between four and fifteen years old may be properly secured in a forward-facing child restraint system with a harness until they reach the manufacturer’s weight or height limit, or in a child booster seat until they reach 4’9” tall or the vehicle lap and shoulder belts fit properly (if both are available), or must be properly secured with a safety belt properly fastened and adjusted around their body.

Children between sixteen and seventeen years old must wear a properly adjusted and securely fastened safety belt assembly when operating or riding in a motor vehicle including a: passenger car; truck; bus designed for more than ten passengers; neighborhood or medium-speed electric vehicle; three-wheeled motorcycle; or multipurpose passenger vehicle.

West Virginia

West Virginia Car Seat Laws

Children under eight years old must be properly placed, maintained, and secured in a child passenger safety device system meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards when being transported in a passenger automobile, van, or pickup truck while the motor vehicle is in motion and operated on streets or highways.

Children under eight years old and at least 4’9” tall may be properly placed, maintained, and secured in a safety belt when being transported in a passenger automobile, van, or pickup truck while the motor vehicle is in motion and operated on streets or highways.

Children between eight and seventeen years old must be restrained by a safety belt which meets applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards when operating or being transported in a passenger vehicle (a motor vehicle designed for transporting no more than ten passengers, including the driver) on public streets or highways.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin Car Seat Laws

Children under eight years old must be restrained in an age- and size-appropriate child safety restraint system or child booster seat meeting department standards and positioned in a designated back passenger seat (if the vehicle has one) when being transported in a motor vehicle:

  • Children under one year old or weighing less than twenty pounds must properly restrained in a rear-facing child safety restraint system.
  • Children at least one year old and weighing at least twenty pounds but under four years old or weighing less than forty pounds must be properly restrained in a rear-facing or forward-facing child safety restraint system.
  • Children between four and seven years old, weighing between forty and eighty pounds, and not taller than 4’9” must be properly restrained in a rear-facing or forward-facing child safety restraint system, or properly restrained in a child booster seat.
  • Children between four and seven years old, weighing more than eighty pounds, and taller than 4’9” must be properly restrained in a rear-facing or forward-facing child safety restraint system, properly restrained in a child booster seat, or properly restrained in a safety belt approved by the department.

Children between eight and seventeen years old must be properly restrained in a safety belt when operating or being transported as a passenger in a seating position required to have a safety belt in a motor vehicle required to be equipped with safety belts.

Wyoming

Wyoming Car Seat Laws

Children under nine years old must be properly secured in a child safety restraint system (a device meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards designed to protect, hold or restrain a child to prevent or minimize injury in the event of an accident or sudden stop) in the rear seat when being transported in a passenger vehicle, but may be placed in the front seat if the vehicle has no rear seats or all rear seats with safety belts are in use by other children, so long as a rear-facing infant seat is not placed in front of an active airbag.

Children between nine and seventeen years old must wear a properly fastened and adjusted safety belt when driving or being transported as a passenger in a motor vehicle in motion on public streets and highways.

* Ms. Blake is licensed in the state of Maryland. The information provided in this article does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.


Attorney Denise A. Blake*

Denise practices family law at Blake Law, LLC in Westminster, Maryland. She holds a Juris Doctor with an emphasis in Family Law from the University of Baltimore School of Law.