Car Seat Safety Laws & Regulations by US State

Staycation is the new vacation, and with open roads ready to welcome the next adventurer, it’s time to make sure you know your Child Passenger Safety Laws from East to West, North to South, and everywhere in between.

 

Whether you’re making an overdue trip to visit family or exploring the great landscape and outdoors, it’s worth refreshing your knowledge of traveling with your child. The last thing you want when you’re enjoying your road trip playlist is to be pulled over and given an unexpected fine.

If you know your route, this state by state guide will be super helpful as you plan your journey, giving you plenty of time to make sure you’ve packed the snacks and other essentials!

 

Alabama: As documented by the Alabama Department of Public Health, children must ride rear-facing from birth until age 1 or at least 20 lbs. Forward-facing child safety seats are to be used from age 1 or 20 lbs until age 5 or at least 40 lbs. Booster seats are required until age 6. (Source: Alabama Law Enforcement Agency)

 

Alaska: Children under 1 year or less than 20 lbs are required to travel in a rear-facing car seat. It is documented by Alaska Injury Prevention Center that AAP recommends rear-facing travel until the age of two. Between the ages of 1 – 4, children weighing over 20 lbs must be secured in the appropriate child safety seat. It is recommended to keep your child in a 5-point harness forward-facing car seat until they reach the maximum height and weight limit allowed by the car seat. Children ages 4 – 7 who are under 4’9” or less than 65 lbs are to be properly secured in a car seat or booster seat. Children ages 8 – 12 are to remain in a booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly. (Source: Alaska Injury Prevention Center)

 

Arizona: Arizona law requires all child passengers under the age of 8 or under 4’9” tall be properly secured in a child safety seat. Recommend keeping children in a rear-facing car seat until age 3 or until they meet the car seat’s size limit to move to a forward-facing car seat. (Source: Mesa Police Department)

 

Arkansas: Children are required to ride in the appropriate child safety restraint until they are at least age 6 or weigh at least 60 lbs. Children over age 1 and weighing more than 20 lbs may ride in a forward-facing car seat. Children weighing at least 40 lbs should ride in a booster seat until they are at least 4’9” tall. Between the ages of 5 – 9 or at least 4’9” tall, children should ride in a booster seat. (Source: Arkansas Children’s Hospital)

 

California: Rear-facing car seats are required for children under the age of 2 or until they weigh over 40 lbs or are over 40 inches tall. Children under the age of 8 must ride secured in a booster seat or car seat. Children over the age of 8 or taller than4’9” must be secured in a booster seat or by a vehicle safety belt. (Source: California Highway Patrol)

 

Colorado: Children younger than age 1 or under 20 lbs are required to ride in a rear-facing car seat. Children between the ages of 1 – 3 or weighing 20 – 40 lbs must travel in a rear or forward-facing safety seat. Those ages 4 – 7 and above 40 lbs should be restrained with the appropriate child seat or booster. Children over age 8 and above 40 lbs may ride in a booster seat or properly secured by the vehicle seat belt. (Source: Colorado Department of Transportation)

 

Connecticut: By law, children must remain in a rear-facing car seat until they are a minimum of age 2 and 30 lbs. Until the age of 5 and above 40 lbs children must be in a forward-facing car seat secured with a 5-point harness. Children ages 5 – 7 and more than 40 lbs must ride secured in a booster seat. Boosters are mandatory until age 8 and until a child weighs 60 lbs or more. (Source: Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles)

 

Delaware: Children under the age of 1 must ride rear-facing in a child safety seat. Between the ages of 1 – 3, it’s recommended they ride in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible until they reach the weight and height limits of the seat. Ages 4 – 7 children should be secured in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until they exceed the maximum weight and height limits of the car seat. Booster seats are required until age 8 or when a child is over 65 lbs, and they are recommended for ages 8 – 12 until a child can correctly be secured by a vehicle seat belt. (Source: Delaware Office of Highway Safety)

 

District of Columbia: Travel in a rear-facing child restraint is mandatory for children under the age of 2, weighing less than 40 lbs or under 40″ tall. Children under the age of 8 should be properly secured in a convertible or booster seat according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (Source: Code of District of Columbia)

 

Florida: Between ages, 0 – 3 children must travel secured in a child restraint seat. Ages 4 – 5 must be secured in a child seat or booster.  (Source: Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles)

 

Georgia: Rear-facing secured in a child restraint is required from birth to age 1 and until the child is over 20 lbs. A child seat rear or forward-facing is permitted between ages 1 – 3 for children weighing 21 – 40 lbs. A booster seat may be used once a child is over 40 lbs. Children above age 8 and taller than 4’9” may be secured with the vehicle seat belt. (Source: Georgia Department of Public Health)

 

Hawaii: Children under the age of 4 are required by law to travel in a child safety seat. Rear-facing in a car seat is required for all children under age 1 or at least 20 lbs, and recommended until they reach the maximum size limits for the rear-facing car seat. Children over 20 lbs can ride in a forward-facing car seat with harness, and from ages 4 – 7 they must be secured in a booster seat. (Source: Hawaii Department of Transportation)

 

Idaho: By law, children under the age of 6 must be properly restrained in an appropriate child safety restraint. This state recommends keeping children in a rear-facing car seat until age 2 or until they reach the maximum size requirements of the car seat for rear-facing. (Source: Idaho Transportation Department)

 

Illinois: Law requires all children under the age of 2 travel in a rear-facing child restraint unless they weigh over 40 lbs or are taller than 40 inches. A forward-facing seat with a harness system is required until a child reaches the maximum size limits of the car seat. Children may transition to a belt-positioning booster seat when appropriate between ages 4 – 8.  Booster seats are required until age 8 or until a child is tall enough to be properly secured by a vehicle seat belt. (Office of Illinois Secretary of State)

 

Indiana: All children under the age of 8 must travel properly restrained in a child safety or booster seat, as required by law. Children under the age of 1 and less than 20 lbs must travel in a rear-facing car seat, and it’s encouraged to keep children rear-facing as long as the seat allows. Children over the age of 1 and weighing at least 20 lbs may travel in a forward-facing car seat with an internal harness system. When a child is at least 30 lbs they are allowed to travel in a booster seat, although it is recommended to travel in a forward-facing car seat until at least 40 lbs. All children under the age of 8 must be secured in a child restraint system. (Source: Indiana State Police)

 

Iowa: Securing a child in a rear-facing car seat is recommended for as long as possible, and mandatory for children under the age of 1 and less than 20 lbs. Children ages 1 – 6 must travel in the appropriate child restraint seat, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Children ages 6 – 18 must be secured in a child restraint system, booster seat, or vehicle seat belt. (Source: Iowa State Patrol)

 

Kansas: Children under age 1 must ride in a rear-facing car seat, and it is recommended that children ride in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible. Once a child exceeds the height and weight limitations of the car seat rear-facing they may travel forward-facing. Booster seats are required until age 7 unless a child weighs more than 80 lbs or is taller than 4’9”, in which case they must be properly secured by a vehicle seat belt. (Source: Kansas Highway Patrol)

 

Kentucky: By law, children under 40 inches tall must travel in a federally approved child safety seat. A child under age 1 and weighing less than 20 lbs must ride in a rear-facing car seat. Children under the age of 7 who are between 40 – 50 inches tall must be secured in a booster seat. (Source: Kentucky Office of Highway Safety)

 

Louisiana: From birth, to at least age 2 children must travel in a rear-facing child safety seat. When they are at least age 2 and exceed the height and weight of their rear-facing car seat, they should travel forward-facing in a car seat secured by the internal harness. From age 4 and when they exceed the height and weight restrictions for the car seat with a harness, children should ride in a booster seat. Children over age 9 can travel using a properly fit and secured vehicle seat belt. (Source: Louisiana Highway Safety Commission)

 

Maine: Children weighing less than 40 lbs are required to ride in a child safety seat. It is recommended for children to ride in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible based on the car seat limits.  Those under the age of 8 weighing under 80 lbs must travel in a child restraint system or booster following the car seat manufacturer’s instructions. Children over age 8 with a height above 4’9” can be secured with a vehicle seat belt. (Source: Maine Department of Public Safety)

 

Maryland: By law requires children under age 8 to travel in an appropriate child restraint unless they are 4’9” or taller. Children over age 8 must travel secured properly by a vehicle seat belt. (Source: Maryland Department of Health)

 

Massachusetts: All children must ride in a federally approved child restraint system until they are age 8 or over 57” tall. Those over the age of 8 and taller than 57” must be properly secured by a vehicle seat belt. (Source: Commonwealth of Massachusetts)

 

Michigan: Children younger than age 4 must be secured in an appropriate car seat in the vehicle’s rear seat. Booster seats should be used until the child is 8 years old or taller than 4’9”. (Source: Michigan State Police)

 

Mississippi: Children under the age of 4 must ride secured in a child safety seat. Children ages 4 – 7, under 4’9” tall, or weighing less than 65 lbs must ride secured in a car seat or booster seat. (Source: Mississippi Department of Public Safety)

 

Missouri: Child safety seats are required for all children under the age of 4 or less than 40 lbs. Between the ages of 4 – 7, those who weigh at least 40 lbs must travel in an appropriate child safety seat or booster seat. Children taller than 4’9” or who weigh over 80 lbs are required to be secured by a vehicle safety belt or use an appropriate booster seat. (Source: Missouri Department of Transportation)

 

Montana: Law requires children under age 6 and weighing less than 60 lbs ride in an appropriate child restraint system. Montana DOT recommends a child remain in a forward-facing car seat until they reach the top height, weight, or age limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer. (Source: Montana Department of Transportation)

 

Nebraska: As of 2019, children must travel rear-facing up to age 2, or until they exceed weight and height restrictions as stated by the manufacturer. Children must travel in a car seat or booster seat until age 8. Riding in the back seat of the vehicle is required, if possible, until age 8. (Source: Nebraska Department of Transportation)

 

Nevada: Any child under the age of 6 or less than 60 lbs must ride in a federally approved child restraint system that is appropriate for their height and weight. (Source: Nevada Office of Traffic Safety Traffic Laws)

 

New Hampshire: Children under the age of 7 must be secured by an approved child safety restraint. It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that all child-passengers are properly restrained. (Source: New Hampshire Department of Justice)

 

New Jersey: Children under the age of 2 and weighing less than 30 lbs must be secured in a rear-facing car seat with a 5-point harness. Any child under the age of 4 weighing less than 40 lbs shall be secured rear-facing until they exceed the upper limits of the rear-facing seat, at which point they should be secured forward-facing in a child restraint with a 5-point harness. Those under the age of 8 and less than 57 inches tall should remain secured in a child restraint forward-facing until they exceed the upper limits of the seat, at which point they should use a belt-positioning booster. Any child over the age of 8 or taller than 57 inches must be properly secured by a seat belt. (Source: New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety)

 

New Mexico: Rear-facing is required until a child is at least age 1 and 20 lbs, though it is recommended ALL children remain rear-facing for as long as possible. The law requires all children up to age 7, regardless of weight, and all children less than 60 lbs, regardless of age, ride in a child safety seat. Children no longer seated rear-facing should ride forward-facing in a child safety seat with a harness until they reach the weight or height limit of the seat, then a booster seat should be used. It also states through ages 7 – 12 children must ride in a booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits them properly. (Source: New Mexico Motor Vehicle Department)

 

New York: Effective November 2019, children under age 2 must travel in a rear-facing child restraint. It is recommended that infants and toddlers stay in a rear-facing child restraint until they reach the weight and height limit of the seat. Additionally, all children under the age of 4 must travel in child safety seats, and all children must ride in a child restraint system until the age of 8. Recommends keeping a child in a booster seat until the lap and shoulder belt fit properly, usually between ages 8 and 12 years. (Source: New York Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee)

 

North Carolina: Appropriate child restraint systems must be used when a child is under the age of 8 and less than 80 lbs. Children under the age of 8 weighing less than 40 lbs must be properly secured in the rear seat of the vehicle if possible. (Source: North Carolina Department of Public Safety)

 

North Dakota: Children should ride rear-facing until at least 2 years of age or until they have outgrown the highest rear-facing size limits per their car seat. All children under the age of 8 must be properly secured in an appropriate child restraint. For children who are under the age of 8 and are at least 4’9” tall, a correctly-used seat belt may be substituted. Child restraint systems and seat belts must be used for ages 8 through 17. (Source: North Dakota Department of Transportation)

 

Ohio: Child safety seats must be used for passengers under the age of 4 or less than 40 lbs. Belt-positioning booster seats must be used for passengers under the age of 8 unless they are 4’9” or taller. Child safety seats or seat belts must be used between the age of 8 – 15. (Source: Ohio Department of Health)

 

Oklahoma: Law requires children under the age of 2 to be properly secured in a rear-facing car seat. Passengers must be in a car seat until the age of 4, and a car seat or booster seat until age 8 unless taller than 4’9”. (Source: Oklahoma Highway Safety Office)

 

Oregon: Rear-facing child safety seats are required until age 2, and all passengers must be restrained in child safety seats until at least 40 lbs or until they have reached the upper limit of their car seat. Booster seats must be used for children over 40 lbs or have reached the upper limit for their forward-facing car seat. A child over 4’9” tall or age 8 may ride secured with the vehicle seat belt when it fits correctly. (Source: Oregon Department of Transportation)

 

Pennsylvania: From birth to age 2 passengers must be properly secured in a rear-facing car seat until they exceed the weight and height limit of the car seat. Child safety seats are required from birth until age 4. An appropriate booster seat is required from age 4 to 8. Seat belts are required from age 8 and older, however it is recommended to keep children in a booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly. (Source: Pennsylvania Department of Transportation)

 

Rhode Island: Children are required to travel in a rear-facing car seat when under the age of 2 or weighing less than 30 lbs. Once the child has outgrown the rear-facing seat by weight or height they should travel in a forward-facing seat with a harness up to the maximum size limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer. Child restraint systems shall be used for all children under the age of 8, less than 4’9” tall and less than 80 lbs. (Source: Rhode Island Department of Public Safety)

 

South Carolina: Children under the age of 2 must travel rear-facing in a car seat until the child exceeds the weight or height limit of the car seat. Children ages 2 – 4, or who have outgrown their rear-facing car seat, shall travel in a forward-facing car seat. Booster seats should be used when the child is at least age 4 or has outgrown their forward-facing car seat. A child at least age 8 or 4’9” tall may use a properly secured vehicle seat belt. (Source: South Carolina Department of Public Safety)

 

South Dakota: Children under the age of 5 or those who weigh less than 40 lbs are required to travel in an approved child safety seat. All passengers under the age of 17 must wear a seat belt. (Source: South Dakota Department of Social Services)

 

Tennessee: Children under the age of 1 or weighing less than 20 lbs must be secured in a rear-facing car seat and should remain in this position for as long as possible. Forward-facing seats are required from ages 1 – 3 and when a child weighs more than 20 lbs. Children ages 4 – 8 and less than 4’9” in height must be secured in a belt-positioning booster seat. Children ages 9 and older or taller than 4’9” must be secured properly with the vehicle seat belt. (Source: Tennessee Highway Safety Office)

 

Texas: Children younger than 8 years are required to travel in an appropriate child safety system, unless taller than 4’9”. Texas law requires all child safety seat systems to be installed and used according to the manufacturers’ instructions. (Source: Texas Department of Public Safety)

 

Utah: Children up to the age of 8 must be properly restrained in a car seat or booster seat. Recommends keeping a child in a rear-facing car seat until at least age 2 and 30 lbs. Also recommends keeping children in a booster seat until they outgrow the seat’s size limits and fit properly in a vehicle seat belt. (Source: Utah Department of Public Safety)

 

Vermont: Children under the age of 1 or weighing less than 20 lbs must be secured in a rear-facing car seat. Any child weighing more than 20 lbs and between ages 1 – 8 must be restrained in an appropriate child restraint system. Children ages 8 – 15 may be appropriately restrained with the vehicle seat belt or child restraint system. (Source: Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles)

 

Virginia: Rear-facing car seats are required until age 2 or until the child is at the minimum weight requirement for a forward-facing car seat. Child restraint systems or boosters are required for any child under 8 years old. (Source: Virginia Department of Health)

 

Washington: Children must be secured in a rear-facing car seat up to age 2. A forward-facing car seat with a harness or rear-facing car seat is required from ages 2 – 4. Children age 4 and older or less than 4’9” must be secured in a booster seat, or continue the use of a harness seat. Properly secured vehicle seat belts are to be worn for any child taller than 4’9” (typically ages 8 – 12 years). (Source: Washington Traffic Safety Commission)

 

West Virginia: Any child under the age of 8 or below 4’9” tall must ride properly secured in a child safety seat. (Source: West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles)

 

Wisconsin: Law requires children to ride in a rear-facing car seat until age 1 and they weigh 20 lbs. It is recommended to keep children in a rear-facing car seat until at least age 2. A forward-facing car seat with harness shall be used until children are age 4 and weigh 40 lbs, and it’s recommended as long as children are within the height and weight requirements for the car seat. Children must ride in a booster seat until they are age 8 or weigh 80 lbs or are taller than 4’9”. Children must be properly secured with a vehicle seat belt once they outgrow the booster seat. (Source: Wisconsin Department of Transportation)

 

Wyoming: Children under the age of 1 who weigh less than 20 lbs must travel in a rear-facing car seat. Recommend keeping the child rear-facing if the car seat allows a higher weight. Children ages 1 – 4 years between 20 – 40 lbs must be secured in a forward-facing car seat with a harness. Children under age 9 who weigh over 40 lbs and up to 80 lbs or more should use a belt-positioning booster seat. (Wyoming Department of Transportation)

 

Disclaimer: The contents of this blog, and the posting and viewing of the information on this blog, should not be construed as, and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Always consult regional laws where traveling.

 

 

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