Car Seat Laws and Regulations by State

Car Seat Laws and Regulations by State

With the school year in full swing, you might not be thinking about the holiday season that is quickly approaching (and the driving that goes with it!) If you're lucky enough to have extended family within a 500 mile radius, you've probably got a road trip in your near future. First instinct is to pack the kids and all the essentials into the car and jet off for Thanksgiving. Before you pass go and collect your $200, however, there’s one essential, always exciting, check left - car seat regulations! There's nothing worse than getting pulled over in a different state because their laws are slightly different than you're used to. Digging through each individual state's car seat laws can leave your mind spinning, wishing you'd decided to stay home rather than trek to the grandparents house. So, in the interest of saving you time (and headaches), here's a compilation of car seat laws by state (and Washington D.C.) in one place so you don't go insane searching the depths of the web. (We'd be impressed if you managed a road trip through Hawaii though!)

Three smiling kids sitting in their car seatsThree smiling kids sitting in their car seats

Alabama: Children less than 1 year or less than 20 lbs. are required to be restrained in a rear facing car seat. Children must be in forward-facing seats until age 5 or 40 lbs., after which they must use a booster seat until age 6. Seat belts are required up until age 15.

Alaska: Children less than 1 year or less than 20 lbs. must be in a rear-facing car seat. Children between 1 and 5 years and more than 20 lbs. must be restrained in a child safety seat. Children between the ages of 4 and 8 who weigh between 20 and 40 lbs. and are less than 57 in. tall must use a booster seat or a child safety seat. Children over the age of 4 who are more than 65 lbs. and 57 in. can be restrained by the vehicle seat belt. Children age 8 to 16 who are less than 65 lbs. and 57 in. tall should be restrained at the discretion of the driver.

Arizona: Children under the age of 5 must be properly secured in a child safety seat. Children 5 to 8 years old and taller than 57 in. must use a booster seat. Children under age 16 must be properly restrained in all seats of the vehicle.

Arkansas: Children under the age of 5 and less than 60 lbs. must be restrained in a child safety seat. Children 5 to 9 years old and less than 57 in. must be in a booster seat. All children under age 16 must be properly secured at all times.

California: Children under 2 years, 40 lbs., and 40 in. are required to be in a rear-facing car seat. Children under 8 years and less than 57 in. must be in a proper child restraint system in the back seat of the vehicle. Children age 8 to 16 or over 57 in. must be secured by a properly fitting seat belt.

Colorado: Children less than 1 year or less than 20 lbs. must be in a rear facing car seat in the back seat of the vehicle. Children under age 4 and less than 40 lbs. must be restrained with the proper safety restraint. Children under the age of 8 must use a forward-facing car seat or a booster seat.

Connecticut: Children under age 2 or under 30 lbs. must be in a rear-facing car seat with a five-point harness. Children age 2 to 4 and 30 to 39 lbs. must be in a forward-facing car seat. Children age 5 to 7 or 50 to 59 lbs. can use a booster seat or any of the prior restraints. Children who are 8+ years and over 60 lbs. can use the vehicle seat belt.

Delaware: Children under 8 years or 65 lbs. must be properly restrained in a federally approved child safety seat. Children under age 12 or 65 in. are required to sit in the back seat. Children age 8 to 15 are required to be properly secured by the vehicle’s seatbelt.

District of Columbia: Children under 2 years, less than 40 lbs., and less than 40 in. must be in a rear-facing car seat. Children under the age of 8 are required to be properly restrained in a child safety seat according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Children up to age 16 must be restrained either in a safety seat or a seat belt.

Florida: Children under 6 must be secured in a federally approved child restraint device. All children under 18 must wear a seat belt.

Georgia: Children under the age of 8 must use a car seat or booster seat appropriate for their height and weight. Children under 8 years and less than 57 in. must ride in the back seat.

Hawaii: Children under 1 year and less than 20 lbs. must ride in a rear-facing car seat. Children under the age of 4 are required to ride in a child safety seat appropriate for their height and weight. Children age 4 to 7 are required to use a booster seat or a child safety seat.

Idaho: Children under 7 years old must be properly restrained in a child safety restraint.

Illinois: Children under the age of 2, less than 40 lbs., or less than 40 in. tall must be secured in a rear-facing car seat. Children under 8 years are required to use a proper child restraint system.

Indiana: Children under 1 year and less than 20 lbs. must be restrained in a rear-facing car seat. Children at least 1 year and more than 20 lbs. can be restrained in a forward-facing child safety seat with an internal harness system. Children 30 lbs. or more can be restrained in a booster seat. All children under 16 years must be properly restrained.

Iowa: Children less than 1 year and less than 20 lbs. must be secured in a rear-facing car seat. Children 1 to 6 years must be secured in a child restraint system. Children 6 to 11 years must be restrained by either a child restraint system or the vehicle’s seat belt. All children up to 18 years must be secured by a safety belt.

Kansas: Children less than 1 year must be restrained in a rear-facing car seat. Children over 1 year and between 20 to 40 lbs. must ride in a forward-facing car seat. Children 4 to 8 years, less than 80 lbs., or under 57 in. must be restrained in a booster seat.

Kentucky: Children less than 40 in tall must be properly restrained in a federally approve child safety seat. Children under 8 years who are between 40 in and 57 in. tall must be restrained in a booster seat.

Louisiana: Children less than two years must ride in a rear-facing car seat. When a child is older than 2 and has outgrown their rear-facing seat, they should remain in a forward-facing car seat with an internal harness. When a child is at least 4 years old and has outgrown their forward-facing car seat, they should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat. When a child is at least 9 years old and has outgrown their booster seat, they should ride with the vehicle seat belt. Children under the age of 13 must be restrained in the back seat.

Maine: Children less than 30 lbs. must ride in a child safety seat. Children less than 8 years and weigh 40 to 80 lbs. must ride in a federally approved child restraint system. Children 8 to 18 and more than 57 in. should be properly secured with the vehicle seat belt. All children under 12 years and less than 100 lbs. should sit in the back seat of the vehicle.

Maryland: Children under 8 years and under 57 in. must ride in an appropriate child safety seat. All children 8 to 16 years must be restrained by the vehicle’s seat belt.

Massachusetts: Children must ride in a car seat/booster seat until either the age of 8 or over 57 in. tall. After this, children must be properly restrained with the car’s seat belt until age 13.

Michigan: Children under 4 years must be properly restrained in a child restraint system in the rear seat, if possible. Children under 8 years and less than 57 in. must be secured in a booster seat or child restraint system.

Mississippi: Children under 4 years must be secured in a child safety seat. Children between 4 and 7 years and less than 65 lbs. or 57 in. tall are required to use a booster seat.

Missouri: Children under 4 years or less than 40 lbs. must be secured in an appropriate child safety seat. Children age 4 to 7, less than 80 lbs. and less than 57 in. tall must be in a booster seat or appropriate child safety seat. Children over 8 years, 80 lbs. or 57 in. must be secured in an appropriate booster seat or the vehicle seat belt system.

Montana: Children under 6 years and less than 60 lbs. must be secured in an appropriate child safety seat, as determined by the child’s height and weight.

Nebraska: Children under 2 years must ride in a rear-facing car seat unless they reach the height/weight limit as set by the manufacturer. Children under 8 years must be secured in a federally approved child safety seat in the back seat.

Nevada: Children under 6 years and less than 60 lbs. are required to ride in a car seat appropriate for their height and weight.

New Hampshire: Children under 7 years or less than 57 in. tall must be secured in a federally approved child safety seat.

New Jersey: Children under 2 years and less than 30 lbs. must be secured in a rear-facing car seat with a five-point harness. Children under 4 years and less than 40 lbs. shall be restrained in a forward-facing harness with a five-point harness once they hit the weight limit for rear-facing. Children under 8 years and less than 57 in. tall must use a booster seat once they hit the weight limit for the forward-facing seat. Children over 8 years and more than 57 in. must be secured by the vehicle seat belt.

New Mexico: Children under 1 year and less than 20 lbs. must be restrained in a rear-facing car seat. Children under 7 years or less than 60 lbs. must be properly secured in a child safety seat. Children between 7 and 12 years must use a booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly.

New York: Children under 4 years must be properly secured in a child safety seat. Children under 8 must be secured in a child restraint system. *Effective November 1, 2019: Children under 2 years must use a rear-facing car seat*

North Carolina: Children under 8 years and less than 80 lbs. must be secured in an appropriate child restraint system. Children under 8 years and less than 40 lbs. must be secured in the rear seat of the vehicle.

North Dakota: Children under 8 years must ride in a child restraint seat according to manufacturer’s instructions. Children under 8 years but taller than 57 in. can use the vehicle’s seat belt. Children under 18 must be properly restrained regardless of location in vehicle.

Ohio: Children under 4 years or less than 40 lbs. must use a federally approved child safety seat. Children less than 8 years and less than 57 in. must use a booster seat. Children age 8 to 15 must use a child safety seat or safety belt.

Oklahoma: Children under 2 years must be secured in a rear-facing car seat. Children between 2 and 4 years must be secured in a car seat with an internal harness. Children 4 to 8 years and less than 57 in. tall must use a child safety seat or a booster seat. Children more than 8 years or more than 57 in. may use the vehicle safety belt.

Oregon: Children under 2 years must ride in a rear-facing car seat. Children must ride in a child safety seat until 40 lbs. or the limit set by the manufacturer. Children under 8 years or 57 in. tall must use a booster seat.

Pennsylvania: Children under 2 years must be secured in a rear-facing car seat until the child reaches the height/weight limit set by the manufacturer. Children 4 to 8 years must be restrained in the appropriate booster seat. Children 8 to 18 years must be restrained by the vehicle seat belt.

Rhode Island: Children under 2 years and less than 30 lbs. must be restrained in a rear-facing car seat. Children over 2 years who have outgrown their rear-facing set must use a forward-facing child safety seat. Children under 8 years, less than 57 in., and less than 80 lbs. must be secured in a child restraint system in the rear seat.

South Carolina: Children under 2 years must be properly restrained in a rear-facing car seat in the rear of the vehicle. Children age 2 to 4 must be secured in a forward-facing car seat with a harness system. Children over 4 years who have outgrown the height/weight limits of the forward-facing seat must be secured by a booster seat. Children more than 8 years and at least 57 in. tall may be restrained by the vehicle seat belt.

South Dakota: Children under 5 years and less than 40 lbs. must be properly secured in a child restraint system. All children under 18 years must wear a seat belt.

Tennessee: Children under 1 year or less than 20 lbs. must be secured in a rear-facing car seat in a rear seat. Children age 1 to 3 and more than 20 lbs. must be secured in a forward-facing car seat in the rear seat. Children 4 to 8 years and less than 57 in. tall must be secured in a booster seat.

Texas: Children under 1 year or less 35 lbs. must ride in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of the vehicle. Children 1 to 4 years and 20 to 40 lbs. may sit in a forward-facing car seat in the back seat. All children under 5 years and less than 36 in. tall must use a child safety seat. Children under 5 years and more than 36 in. must use a booster seat.

Utah: Children up to 8 years must be properly restrained in a car seat or booster seat.

Vermont: Children under the age of 1 or less than 20 lbs. must be restrained in a rear-facing car seat. Children under 8 years should be restrained in a car seat or booster seat appropriate for their height/weight as determined by the manufacturer. Children 8 to 15 years should be restrained by either a child safety system or the vehicle’s seat belt system, per height/weight restrictions.

Virginia: Children under 2 years must be restrained in rear-facing car seats, or until they reach the minimum height/weight requirements for forward-facing seats as set by the manufacturer. Children under 8 years must be secured in a child restraint or booster seat.

Washington: Children under 8 years and less than 57 in. tall must be secured in a child restraint system. Children under 13 years must sit in the rear seat when permitted. *Effective January 1, 2020: Children under 2 years must use rear-facing car seats. Children age 2 to 4 must use forward-facing car seats with a harness. Children over 4 years but less than 57 in. must use booster seats*

West Virginia: Children should be in rear facing seats until at least age 2. Children should ride in the proper safety restraint seat until at least 8 years old and 57 in. Children over 4 years and 40 lbs. can use a booster seat.

Wisconsin: Children less than 1 year and 20 lbs. are required to be in rear facing car seats. Children up to 4 years and 40 lbs. should use a forward-facing car seat with a harness. Children under 8 years, less than 80 lbs., or less than 57 in. must use a booster seat. Children under 13 should ride in the back seat.

Wyoming: Children less than 1 year and less than 20 lbs. are required to use a rear facing infant seat in the back seat. Children who are over 1 year old and 20 to 40 lbs. must use a forward-facing seat in the back seat of the car. Children who are 40 to 80 lbs. can use a booster seat. Children under the age of 12 should always ride in the back seat.

Happy Travels! If you decide to opt out of driving, we’ve still got you covered with these airplane travel tips for your next family trip.
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