As parents, protecting our children is our most important priority. This includes making sure that each child is properly secured in an age-, height- and weight-appropriate child car seat when on the road.
Here’s another important piece of advice: when reviewing child safety tips, know the law.
In all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands, the law requires child safety seats for infants and children fitting specific criteria.
48 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico require booster seats or other appropriate devices for children who have outgrown their child safety seats but are still too small to safely use an adult seat belt. Only two states, Florida and South Dakota, lack booster seat laws.
Car seats - Map showing age at which kids must be in restraint or booster seat (IIHS)Enlarge Photo
Child passenger restraint laws vary
What your state requires to comply with child passenger restraint laws may be a bit different than the laws in the next state over, or the laws in the state(s) where you’ll go on a holiday trip or summer vacation.
In general, these laws vary based on the age, weight and height of the child or children. Laws also typically cover three child developmental stages:
- Infants – use rear-facing infant seats
- Toddlers - use forward-facing child safety seats
- Older children – use booster seats
Kids ride in the rear of the vehicle
Many state laws stipulate that children remain in the rear of the vehicle for as long as possible, as this is the safest place for children to ride.
Most states permit a child that meets age, height or weight requirement to use an adult safety belt, but still recommend the child stays in the back seat of the vehicle for maximum protection.
Fines and points can be levied
As with any car safety law infraction, drivers who do not adhere to child passenger restraint laws can be hit with a fine. These range from $10 to $500 for a first-time offense.
There’s also the issue of points to contend with. Eight states (Alabama, Alaska, California, Florida, Indiana, Nebraska, New York and North Dakota) and the District of Columbia use driver’s license points as an additional penalty for drivers’ noncompliance with the law.
To review a summary of child passenger safety laws in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands check out this list from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).
More information on child restraint laws is available from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) here.