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Child Passenger Safety Laws

posted by on Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Child Passenger Safety Laws

State child passenger restraint requirements vary based on age, weight and height. Often, this happens in three stages: 

  • Infants use rear-facing infant seats; 
  • Toddlers use forward-facing child safety seats; and 
  • Older children use booster seats. 

Many laws require all children to ride in the rear seat whenever possible, and most states permit children over a particular age, height or weight to use an adult safety belt. Below you'll find a list of each state's laws and violations. Click on each state to learn about additional weight, height and maximum age violations: 

seat belt laws by state

State Child Restraint Required (age) Adult Safety Belt Permissible Max Fine (1st Off.)
Alabama <1 in rear-facing infant seat; 1-4 in forward-facing child safety seat; 5 (but not yet 6) in booster seat 6-14 $25 + points
Alaska <1 in rear-facing infant seat; 1-4 in child safety seat; 4 - 7 in booster seat >4; 8-16 $50 + points
Arizona <4; 5-7  5-7 $50
Arkansas <5 6-14 $100
California <8 in rear seat if available 8-15 $100
Colorado <1 in rear-facing infant seat in rear seat if available; 1 - 3 in child safety seat; 4-7 in booster seat 8-15 $82
Connecticut <1 in rear-facing restraint system; 1-6 in child restraint system; booster seats only w/ a lap and shoulder belt 7-15 $92
Delaware <7 8-15 $25
Florida <5 Not permissible $60 + points
Georgia <8 in rear seat if available >57"; >40 lbs. in rear seat can use lap belt if lap/shoulder belt unavailable $50 + points
Hawaii <4 in child safety seat; 4-7 in booster seat or child restraint 4-7; 4-7 in rear seat can use lap belt if lap/shoulder belt unavailable $100
Idaho <7 Not permissible $79
Illinois <8 8-15 >40 lbs in rear seat if only lap belt available $75
Indiana <7 8-15; >40 lbs can use lap belt if lap/shoulder belt unavailable $25 + points
Iowa <1 in a rear-facing child seat; 1-5 in child restraint 6-17 $195
Kansas <3 in child restraint; 4 - 7 in child restraint or booster seat 8-13; 4-7 $60
Kentucky <40" in child restraint; <7 in booster seat >57" $50 child restraint; $30 booster seat
Louisiana <1 in rear-facing child safety seat; 1 - 3 in forward-facing child safety seat; 4 - 5 in booster seat 6-12 $100
Maine <40 lbs. in child safety seat; 40 - 80 lbs. and <8 yrs. in safety system that elevates child so that adult safety belt fits properly; <11 in rear seat if available 8-17 $50 
Maryland <8 8-15 $50
Massachusetts < 8-12 $25
Michigan <7; <4 in rear seat if available 8-15
$10 for <4; $25 for 4-8 
Minnesota >7 >8 $50
Mississippi <4 in child restraint; 4-6 in booster seat <7 $25
Missouri <4 in child safety seat; 4 - 7 in child safety seat or booster seat; >4 in booster seat or safety belt 8-16; >4 $50
Montana <6 Not permissible $100
Nebraska <5 6-17 $25 + points
Nevada <6 Not permissible $500 (min $100)
New Hampshire <7 7-17 $50
New Jersey <2 in rear-facing infant seat; <4 in child safety seat; <8 in child safety or booster seat; <8 in rear seat if available Not permissible $75
New Mexico <1 in rear-facing infant seat in rear seat if available; 1-4 in child safety seat; 5 - 6 in booster seat 7-17 $25
New York <3 unless >40 lbs. and no lap/shoulder belt available; 4-7 unless no lap/shoulder belt available
8 - 15; 4 - 7 if no lap/shoulder belt available
$100 + points
North Carolina <7 8-15 $25 + $188 court costs + points
North Dakota < 7 - 17; <6 can use lap belt if lap/shoulder belts unavailable $25 + 1 pt.
Ohio <4 in child safety seat; 4-7 in booster seat 8-14 $75
Oklahoma <5 6-12 in rear seat can use lap belt if lap/shoulder belt unavailable $50
Oregon Child seat required to 40lbs or max upper weight limit of seat; rear-facing <1; booster seat over 40lbs or <8  8-15 $110
Pennsylvania <7 Not permissible $75
Rhode Island <7 in rear seat if available <7; 8-17 $85; $40 between 8-17
South Carolina <1 in rear-facing infant seat; 1-5 in forward-facing child safety seat; 1-5 in booster seat secured by lap/shoulder belt; <5 in rear seat if available. 1-5 or <5 if child's knees bend over the seat edge when sitting straight with back firmly against seat back $150
South Dakota <5 5-17 $25
Tennessee <1 in rear-facing infant seat; 1-3 in forward-facing infant seat; 4-8 in booster seat; <8 in rear seat if available; rear seat recommended for 9-12 9-15 $50
Texas <7 Not permissible $25 min.
Utah <7 8-15 $45
Vermont <1 in rear-facing infant seat in rear seat unless front unless front passenger airbag is deactivated; 1-7 8-17 $25
Virginia <7; children in rear-facing devices must be in a rear seat if available - otherwise, in front only if front passenger airbag is de 8-17 (4-7 with physician's exemption) $50
Washington <8; <13 in rear seat if practical 8-15; in position where only lap belt available $124 to driver if passenger <16; to passenger if  >16
West Virginia <7 <7 $20
Wisconsin <1 in rear-facing infant seat; 1-3 in forward-facing child safety seat; 4-7 in booster seat; <3 in rear seat if available <8 $173.50 if passenger <4; $150.10 if passenger 4-8
Wyoming <8 in rear seat if available Not permissible $50


Sources: Governors Highway Safety Association, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Legislation is continually changing. Therefore, this information is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact appropriate legal counsel for advice.

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