Editor’s note: This article was updated in 2022 to link to a more appropriate section of the relevant statute.
According to Washington D.C. law, a child under three years old must use a child restraint seat in a rear-facing position until he or she is two years old or weighs at least forty pounds and is at least 3’4” tall. A child between three and seven years old must use an installed infant, convertible (toddler), or booster child safety seat with a lap and shoulder belt. A child between eight and fifteen years old must use a child safety restraint system or seat belt. A child between sixteen and seventeen years old must use a safety belt.
A child restraint seat is any motor vehicle restraint system meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards and designed to protect children. A motor vehicle is any device with more than three wheels and a seating capacity of no more than eight passengers, excluding the operator, which is propelled by an internal combustion engine, electricity, or steam, and designed, used, or maintained for a passenger or recreational purposes or for transporting commercial loads or property.
Babies and Children Under Three Years Old
A child under three years old must be properly restrained in a child restraint seat meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards in a rear-facing position until he or she is 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
A child 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
A child 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
A child between sixteen and seventeen years old must wear a properly adjusted and fastened safety belt while a driver is in control of the motor vehicle.
Penalties for Violations
A violation of the child restraint law is a moving violation. For a first violation, you may choose to pay a fine of $75.00 or attend a child restraint safety class and be charged $25.00. Your fine may be waived if you prove that you acquired an approved child restraint seat since the violation. For a second violation, you will be required to attend a child safety class, for which you will be charged $25.00, and pay a fine of $75.00. For a third violation, you will be fined $125.00. For a fourth or subsequent violation, you will be fined $150.00. You may be assigned two points to your driving record for any violation.
A violation of the use of safety belts law is a civil infraction. You may be fined $50.00 for a violation. You may receive two points on your driving record for a single violation or a total of three points on your driving records for simultaneous multiple violations.
Your child may be exempt from the child restraint law if he or she is being transported:
- In the back seat of a motor vehicle without a restraint by a parent or legal guardian transporting a number of his or her own children under sixteen years old which exceeds the number of passenger seats with safety belts; or
- In a device used for livery, sightseeing, taxi, ambulance, funeral, or farm purposes; or with a seating capacity of more than eight passengers, excluding the operator.
Your child may be exempt from the use of safety belts law if he or she:
- Is riding in a motor vehicle manufactured before July 1, 1966 or a taxicab driven by an operator with a valid taxicab license between 6:00 pm and 6:00 am; or
- Is a passenger in a vehicle in which all seats with seat belts are occupied and the driver has given children sixteen years old and younger preference to seats with seat belts over people seventeen years old or older; or
- Possesses written verification from a licensed physician that he or she is unable
to wear a safety belt for medical reasons.
What is DC booster seat law?
Any child riding in a motor vehicle in Washington, D.C. between the ages of 3 and 7 must be properly secured in a convertible car seat or a booster seat. The child restraint device must be correctly installed and use both the lap and the shoulder belt.
What is D.C. car seat law for rear-facing car seats?
In Washington, D.C., any child under two years old that weighs less than forty pounds or is no more than 3’4” tall must ride in a rear-facing car seat that is properly installed.
When can children ride in the front seat in Washington, D.C.?
While Washington, D.C. car seat law does not specify when a child can ride in the front seat, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department’s website recommends that all children under 13 sit in the back seat and properly wear a seat belt when riding in a motor vehicle.
* 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.