Your State-By-State Guide to Child Passenger Safety Regulations

Child passenger safety regulations are in place because a leading cause of death for children, one in every four, is driving-related accidents. Each one of these deaths is a terrible tragedy, but you may think that they were inevitable. However, what if we told you that there are concrete steps that could be taken to stop these fatalities and ensure that children have long enough lives to become who they’re meant to be?

The first step toward this better reality is to understand the child passenger safety laws in your state. That’s why we’ve listed each state and its laws as well as the penalties that you’ll incur for violating them.

Read on to gain some insight about what you need to do in order to maximize the safety of your child as well as other children when in the car.

Child Safety Seat Requirements

Almost every state requires children under a certain age to be put into a special child restraint system, either forward-facing or rear-facing car seats and booster seats. Doing so ensures that in the event of an accident, a child will not be thrown out of the car due to a seat belt fit that isn’t tight enough. Read on and look for your state to see what type of child safety seat (if any) your state requires.

Alabama

Children under a year old or under 20 lbs must be in a rear-facing infant seat. After turning 1 year old or 40 lbs, they must use a forward-facing safety seat. Once they’re 5, they can use a booster seat until age 6, when they graduate to an adult seat.

Alaska, Louisiana

Children under a year old or under 20 lbs must be in a rear-facing infant seat. After turning 1 year old or exceeding 20 lbs, they can start using a forward-facing safety seat. Once they’re 4, they can use a booster seat until age 5 (Louisiana) or age 7 (Alaska), when they can start to use an adult seat.

Arizona

Children 4 years old or younger must use a safety seat. Once they’re 5, they can use a booster seat until age 7 or over 57″, when the use of an adult seat becomes permissible.

Arkansas

Children under 6 years of age or 60 lbs must be a child safety seat. Once they turn 6 or exceed 60 lbs, they can immediately begin to use an adult seat.

California

Children under 2 years or 40 lbs must be in a rear-facing infant seat. Additionally, if a child is under 8, they must remain in the rear seat of the car.

Colorado, Vermont

Children under 1 year old or 20 lbs must use a rear-facing infant seat. In Vermont, these children MUST be in the rear seat unless the passenger airbag in the front seat is deactivated. Other front-facing restraints are required until the age of 7.

Connecticut

Children under 2 years old or 30 lbs must use a rear-facing infant seat. At the age of two, the child can be moved into a front-facing child restraint until they are 7. However, between the ages of 5 and 7, they can also use a booster seat if they are 40-60 lbs.

Delaware, Idaho, Indiana

The laws in these states are simple: if a child is 7 years or under (or less than 66 lbs in Delaware), they need a child restraint seat. That’s it.

Florida

Child restraints are required for children under 5 years old. That’s the only real law, but you should use common sense in making sure that your child stays safe, too.

Georgia, Illinois

A child under 8 years must use a child restraint in Illinois. In Georgia, they must sit in the back seat of the car, though they do not necessarily need to use a restraint (though it’s a good idea for safety reasons). The front seat is unsafe and illegal.

Hawaii

Children under 4 years need to use a child safety seat. Once they turn 4, they must use a booster seat or child restraint until turning 7.

Iowa

Children under a year or 20 lbs must be in a rear-facing child seat. After that, they still need a child restraint until age 5.

Kansas, Kentucky

Children must be in child restraints until they turn 4 years old or 40″. From that point, they’ll need a booster seat until they’re 7 or 57″.

Maine

If under 40 lbs, a child must be in a child safety seat. After that, a booster seat is required until they weigh 80 lbs. Beyond that, all children under 100 lbs should be in the back seat.

Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire Washington, West Virginia, North Dakota

By far the most common law, these states require that children 7 and under use a child restraint if under 57″ tall. Beyond that, any child can use an adult safety belt.

Children should also always be in the rear seat if available. In some of these states (namely Michigan,) this is the law.

However, even when it isn’t the law, it’s necessary for children’s safety. The airbags in the front seat of the car can injure or even kill small children if they go off. The risk of death is 84% higher for them in the front seat.

Mississippi

Children 3 and under must be in a child restraint. At age 4, a booster seat can be used until age 6, 57″ tall, or 65 pounds.

Missouri, Ohio

Children under 4 years or under 40 lbs must be in a child safety seat. At age 4, they can begin to use a shorter child safety seat or a booster seat until they are either 7 years old or weigh 80 lbs.

Montana, Nevada

If your child is both under 6 years old and under 60 lbs, they need a child safety restraint. Beyond that, any child can use an adult safety belt.

Nebraska, South Carolina

Children under 2 years old must be in a rear-facing infant seat. Between 2 and 8 years, a forward-facing seat or a booster seat secured with a shoulder belt is permissible. Children 7 and younger should be placed in the rear seat.

New Jersey

In New Jersey, children under 2 years and 30 lbs must be in a rear-facing child seat. At 4 years, they can graduate to a front-facing one. Children under 8 must also go in the rear seat.

New Mexico

Children under 1 year must always go in a rear-facing infant seat in the backseat of the car. Once 1-4 years or under 40 lbs, a front-facing seat is sufficient. Children 5 and 6 years old or under 60 lbs must go in a booster seat.

New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island

For children under 2 years, a rear-facing restraint is required. Beyond that, a child restraint should be worn until age 7 (unless no lap/shoulder belt is available in New York).

North Carolina, Oregon

Children 7 and under are always to use a child restraint if under 80 lbs. Beyond that, any child can use an adult safety belt.

Oklahoma

Children under 2 years must always go in a rear-facing child restraint. Children 2-4 years can go in a front-facing seat and children 4-7 years may use a booster seat instead.

South Carolina

Children under 2 years belong in a rear-facing infant seat. Once they are 2, they can go in a forward-facing seat or a booster seat secured by a lap/shoulder belt.

South Dakota

Children under 5 years old or 40 lbs must use a child restraint that practically suits them. Once they turn 5 or exceed 40 lbs, they can begin to use an adult seat right away.

Tennessee, Wisconsin

Children under a year old or less than 20 lbs must be in a rear-facing infant seat. Between 1 and 3 years or 20 and 80 lbs, a forward-facing seat is acceptable. If a child is between 4 and 7 years, they must sit in a booster seat in the rear of the car until they turn 8, at which time an adult safety belt is permissible.

Texas, Utah

Children in these states only require a restraint if they’re under 7 years old as well as being under 57″. Choose the restraint practically- rear-facing, front-facing, or booster based on the baby’s size.

Virginia

Children under 2 years old must use a rear-facing infant seat. As in Vermont, these children must be in the rear seat in Virginia unless the passenger airbag up front is deactivated. Other front-facing restraints are required until the age of 8.

Wyoming

Children 8 years and under are always to use the rear seat of the car. Beyond that, any child can use an adult safety belt.

Fines for Violating Child Passenger Safety Regulations

Though you should follow the above regulations simply for the well-being of your child, there are also fines in place to ensure that you adhere to the guidelines. Each state has its own fines for violating the law, so we’ve listed the maximum fine from each state. Look for your state to see what kind of fine you’ll face if you’re caught with a child passenger safety violation.

$25 Fines

The following states have a maximum fine of $25:

  • Alabama
  • Delaware
  • Indiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Vermont

$50 Fines

The following states have a maximum fine of $50:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • Wyoming

$75 Fines

The following states have a maximum fine of $75:

  • Illinois
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania

$100 Fines

The following states have a maximum fine of $100:

  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana
  • Montana
  • New York

Other Fine Amounts

The following states have fines of different amounts:

  • Colorado / $82
  • Connecticut / $92
  • Florida / $60
  • Idaho / $79
  • Iowa / $195
  • Kansas / $65
  • Nevada / $500
  • North Carolina / $213
  • Oregon / $110
  • Rhode Island / $85
  • South Carolina / $150
  • Utah / $45
  • Washington / $124
  • West Virginia / $20
  • Wisconsin / $175

More Tips for Children’s Safety

While following your state’s laws is crucial in keeping your child secure, more steps need to be taken in order to ensure that kids are as safe as possible. Here, we talk about some of the additional measures you can take when driving to make sure that no one gets hurt. Read on for some pointers on child safety beyond simple car seat use.

Drive Responsibly

The first thing that you need to do to keep children safe while driving is to be a safe driver. Many people text while driving, and even if you only do so at stoplights, it still impacts your reaction time. Texting drivers are more likely to get into accidents, which can prove fatal to children. The same applies to driving while intoxicated- even one drink can impair your motor skills and judgment.

Make sure that you drive responsibly. No text or glass of wine is worth your own life, and it’s definitely not worth the life or well-being of an innocent child.

Take a Defensive Driving Course

While you may not be familiar with online driving schools, courses exist. Not only are they helpful, but they’re easy to take and reasonably priced.

Many people take these courses for material benefits. They want better insurance rates, traffic tickets dismissed, and penalty points removed from licenses. However, anyone can take an online driving school course and become a safer driver. For the sake of both yourself and your children, this is likely an amazing idea.

More on Child Passenger Safety

While learning the letter of the law can be tricky, it’s absolutely essential when it comes to national child passenger safety. Parents and caregivers need to use certified child passenger safety seats, refer to the vehicle owners manual, perform a seat check including checking the belt positioning of a booster seat with every use, and ensure that the seat belts fit properly. Have as much knowledge in your arsenal as possible.

Now, you know the child passenger safety laws in each state and have some tips on how to keep children safe beyond the legalities. It’s time to get some more tips on how to stay safe while driving! Click here for a free demo of our defensive driving courses.

Be careful and stay safe.

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