Car Seat Safety Laws By State

Car seat laws including booster seat regulations are different in each state. Doing a road trip from the Midwest to the East Coast can get you navigating through several baby safety restraint laws and it can be quite confusing honestly.

In 1978, Tennessee became the pioneering state to enforce the usage of safety seats for young children, following the federal government’s obligation for states to make car seats mandatory. By 1985, this safety measure had been adopted by every state in the country, making it mandatory to use baby car seats.

This comprehensive guide outlines car seat regulations for all 50 states, with regular updates (at least twice a year) to reflect any changes. Recently, rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft have prompted several states to implement specific regulations, which we have diligently included here to ensure all applicable laws are covered.

To provide a comprehensive guide covering all aspects, we have included laws that apply to alternative car seat safety devices beyond the traditional infant, convertible, or booster seats. For instance, we have detailed the regulations in each state regarding belt positioning alternatives like Ridesafer, highlighting the distinct differences from the laws about booster seats or booster-aged seats. This ensures that our guide is thorough and informative, offering valuable insights for all readers.

Although we have consulted a practicing attorney to review this guide, we want to emphasize that we are not legal professionals. To ensure clarity, we have intentionally avoided technical language and legal jargon. Our goal is to make this guide easily accessible and understandable for everyone.

We do not engage in the sale of any products, and we are not driven by any ulterior motives to provide misleading guidance for monetary gain. We have made an effort to stay impartial and provide an objective review of the laws in each state.

For States that have enacted taxi laws and regulations, we have also included relevant information regarding car seat usage during taxi rides. This is especially important for families traveling with young children who may use taxi services to get around.

We have also provided information on child restraints for airplane rides, including FAA recommendations and state-specific regulations. We have not shared our tips in this guide but can find several tips on the rest of the Safer For Baby website on using car seats safely.

Car seat laws are minimum safety standards:

It is worth highlighting, as noted by Amie Durocher in her blog Saferide4kids.com, that the safety laws being implemented in State legislatures serve as the minimum safety standards that are both effective and enforceable. For example,

  • American Academy of Pediatrics(AAP) recommends in its 2018 update that “infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. Most convertible seats have limits that will allow children to ride rear-facing for 2 years or more.” The safe minimum period in this case recommended by AAP is 2 years but some States may require kids to ride in the rear-facing seat until they are 1 year old. Fortunately, most states are now requiring rear-facing seats for kids under 2 years and not younger.
  • In the same 2018 update, AAP recommends that “all children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection.”In contrast, while many State laws mandate the use of child restraints for children up to 8 years old, with some requiring booster seats at this age, there are a few states that have even lower age limits. However, the best practice suggests that children should continue using a child restraint or a seat belt positioning device until they can properly fit the seat belt. Typically, this occurs when the child reaches a height of 4’9″, which is usually around the age of 10 or even older.

What this means to you as a parent:

State laws aren’t the safest and most effective standards when it comes to car seat safety for your child. It is important for you as a parent to stay updated on the latest recommendations and guidelines provided by institutions like AAP, as they are based on current research and studies. While following state laws is mandatory, going the extra mile to ensure that your child is safe while traveling in a vehicle is always worth it. So, even if your state allows for an early transition to a forward-facing seat, it is best to follow the AAP’s recommendation of keeping your child rear-facing for at least 2 years.

In addition, it is important to note that car seats have weight and height limits in addition to age limits. It is vital to adhere to these limits as they are designed for your child’s safety. This means that even if your state law allows for a transition to a booster seat at 8 years old, if your child has not reached the minimum weight or height requirement, it is safest to continue using a forward-facing car seat.

Links to Car Seat Safety Laws in All States:

AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY DC
  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Table Summary of Seatbelt and Child Seat Laws in All US States:

Seat belt lawChild seat law
StateInitial effective datePrimary enforcement?Who is covered? In what seats?Maximum base fine 1st offense, additional fees may applyMust be in child safety seatAdult belt permissibleMaximum base fine 1st offense, additional fees may applyPreference for rear seatLast month using rear-facing seatWhich age to transition to forward facingEnd of year to stop using forward-facingStart of year to transition to booster seatEnd of year to stop using booster seatStart of year to transition to seat beltMonth to stop using seatbeltMax Weight requirement for rear-facingMinimum weight requirement for forward facingMax weight requirment for forward facingMinimum weight requirement for seatbeltMaximum Weight requirement for seatbeltMinimum height for rear seatMaximum height for rear seatMin height for forward-facingMax height for forward-facingMin height for boosterMax height for boosterMin height for seatbelt
AL07/18/91yes; effective 12/09/99 (secondary for rear seat occupants; effective 9/1/19)15+ years in all seats$25younger than 1 or less than 20 pounds in a rear-facing child restraint; 1 through 4 years or 20 – 40 pounds in a forward-facing child restraint; 5 but not yet 6 in a booster seat$25 Footnote 1law states no preference for rear seat12455614202140410NoneNoneNoneNoneNoneNoneNone
AK09/12/90yes; effective 05/01/0616+ years in all seats$15younger than 1 or less than 20 pounds in a rear-facing child restraint; 1 through 3 years and more than 20 pounds in a child restraint, 4 through 15 years who are either shorter than 57 inches or who weigh more than 20 but less than 65 pounds in a booster4 through 7 years who are at least 57 inches or 65+ pounds; 7 through 15 who are shorter than 57 inches or weigh less than 65 pounds$50 Footnote 1law states no preference for rear seat12341516None202065NoneNoneNoneNone
AZ01/01/91no8+ years in front seat; 8 through 15 in all seats$104 years and younger; children 5 through 7 who are 57 inches or shorter5 through 7 who are taller than 57 inches$50law states no preference for rear seat45
AR07/15/91yes, effective 06/30/0915+ years in front seat$455 years and younger and less than 60 pounds6 through 14 years or 60+ pounds$100law states no preference for rear seat
CA01/01/86yes; effective 01/01/9316+ years in all seats$20younger than 2 years and less than 40 pounds and less than 40 inches in a rear-facing infant seat; 7 years and younger who are less than 57 inches must be in an appropriate child passenger restraint system Footnote 28 through 15 years or at least 57 inches$100 Footnote 1children 7 years and younger who are less than 57 inches must be in the rear seat Footnote 2
CO07/01/87no16+ years in front seat$71younger than 1 year and less than 20 pounds in a rear-facing child restraint; 1 through 3 years and 20-40 pounds in a child restraint; 4 through 7 years in a booster seat8 through 15 years$811 year and younger and less than 20 pounds must be in the rear seat if available
CT01/01/86yes; effective 01/01/86 (secondary for rear seat occupants > 16, effective 10/1/2021)8+ years in all seats$50younger than 2 years or less than 30 pounds in a rear-facing child restraint; 2-4 years or between 30-40 pounds in a forward or rear-facing child restraint; 5-7 years or between 40-60 pounds in a forward or rear-facing child restraint or a booster seat secured with a lap and shoulder belt8 through 15 years and 60+ pounds$50 Footnote 3law states no preference for rear seat
DE01/01/92yes; effective 06/30/0316+ years in all seats$25younger than 2 years and less than 30 pounds must be in a rear-facing seat with a 5-point harness; younger than 4 years and less than 40 pounds in either a forward or rear-facing seat with a 5-point harness; 4 through 15 in a booster based upon manufacturer’s guidelines or a seatbelt Footnote 4 (effective 06/30/24)children who have reached the upper height and weight limits per the manufacturer’s guidelines of a belt position booster seat through age 15 Footnote 4 (effective 06/30/24)none Footnote 5 (effective 06/30/24)children 11 years and younger and 65 inches or less must be in rear seat if passenger airbag is active Footnote 4
DC12/12/85yes; effective 10/01/9716+ years in all seats$50 Footnote 6younger than 2 years must be in a rear-facing child restraint unless the child weighs 40 or more pounds or is 40 or more inches tall; 3 years and younger in a child restraint; 4 years through 7 years must be in a child restraint or booster seat8 through 15 years$75 Footnote 1law states no preference for rear seat
FL07/01/86yes; effective 6/30/096+ years in front seat; 6 through 17 years in all seats$305 years and youngernot permissible Footnote 7$60 Footnote 1law states no preference for rear seat
GA09/01/88yes; effective 07/01/968 through 17 years in all seats; 18+ years in front seat$15 Footnote 87 years and younger and 57 inches or less Footnote 9more than 57 inches$50 Footnote 17 years and younger must be in rear seat if available
HI12/16/85yes; effective 12/16/858+ years in all seats$45younger than 2 years in a rear-facing child restraint; 2 through 3 years in a forward or rear-facing child restraint; 4 through 6 years in a passenger restraint system with harness or booster seat; 7 through 9, who are shorter than four feet and nine inches in height, in a passenger restraint system with harness or booster seat7 through 9 years who are taller than 4 feet and 9 inches$100 Footnote 10law states no preference for rear seat
ID07/01/86no7+ years in all seats$106 years and youngernot permissible$79law states no preference for rear seat
IL01/01/88yes; effective 07/03/0316+ years in all seats$25younger than 2 years must be in a rear-facing child restraint unless the child weighs 40 or more pounds or is 40 or more inches tall; 7 years and younger8 through 15 years; children who weigh more than 40 pounds seated in the rear where only a lap belt is available$75law states no preference for rear seat
IN07/01/87yes; effective 07/01/9816+ years in all seats$257 years and younger Footnote 118 through 15 years$25 Footnote 1law states no preference for rear seat
IA07/01/86yes; effective 07/01/8618+ years in front seat$25younger than 1 year and less than 20 pounds in a rear-facing child restraint; 1 through 5 years in a child restraint or a booster seat6 through 17 years$25law states no preference for rear seat
KS07/01/86yes; effective 6/10/10 (secondary for rear seat occupants >18)14+ years in all seats$60/no court costs: 14 -17 years; $30/no court costs: 18+ yearsall children 3 and younger must be in a child restraint; children 4 through 7 who weigh less than 80 pounds and children 4 through 7 who are less than 57 inches tall must be in a child restraint or booster seatall children 8 through 13 years; children 4 through 7 years who weigh more than 80 pounds, and children 4 through 7 years who are taller than 57 inches$60law states no preference for rear seat
KY07/15/94yes; effective 07/20/067 and younger and more than 57 inches in all seats; 8+ in all seats$2540 inches or less in a child restraint; 7 and younger who are between 40 and 57 inches tall in a booster seattaller than 57 inches$50 child restraint; $30 booster seatlaw states no preference for rear seat
LA07/01/86yes; effective 09/01/9513+ years in all seats$50younger than 2 years and until reaching the weight or height limit as set by the manufacturer must be in a rear-facing system; at least 2 through 3 years and until reaching the weight or height limit as set by the manufacturer must be in a forward-facing restraint; at least 4 years through 8 years or until reaching the weight or height limit as set by the manufacturer must be in a booster Footnote 129 through 17 years; children who have outgrown the height or weight limits of the child booster seat as set by the manufacturer$10012 and younger must be in the rear seat if available
ME12/26/95yes; effective 09/20/0718+ years in all seats$50younger than 2 years, or until exceeding manufacturer’s recommended weight or height limit, in a rear-facing restraint system; 2 years and older and less than 55 pounds in a child restraint system with an internal harness in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions; children less than 80 pounds who are shorter than 57 inches and less than 8 years in a booster17 and younger who are taller than 57 inches or heavier than 80 pounds$5011 years and younger and less than 100 pounds must be in rear seat if available
MD07/01/86yes; effective 10/01/97 (secondary for rear seat occupants; effective 10/01/13)16+ years in all seats$50younger than 2 years in a rear-facing child safety seat until the child reaches the weight or height limit specified by the manufacturer; 7 years and younger and less than 57 inches8 through 15 years; children who are at least 57 inches$50law states no preference for rear seat
MA02/01/94no13+ years in all seats$25 Footnote 137 years and younger and less than 57 inches8 through 12 years; children who are at least 57 inches tall$25law states no preference for rear seat
MI07/01/85yes; effective 04/01/0016+ years in front seat$257 years and younger and less than 57 inches8 through 15 years; children who are at least 57 inches tall$103 years and younger must be in the rear seat if available
MN08/01/86yes; effective 06/09/097 and younger and more than 57 inches in all seats; 8+ in all seats$257 years and younger and less than 57 inchesnot permissible$50law states no preference for rear seat
MS07/01/94yes; effective 05/27/067+ years in all seats$253 years and younger must be in a child restraint; 4 through 6 years and either less than 57 inches or less than 65 pounds must be in a booster seat6 years and younger who either weigh 65 pounds or more or who are 57 inches or taller$25law states no preference for rear seat
MO09/28/85no (yes for children <16)16+ years in front seat$10all children who are 3 years and younger and all children who weigh less than 40 pounds must be in a child restraint; 4 through 7 years who weigh at least 40 pounds but less than 80 pounds and who are 4’9″ or shorter must be in either a child restraint or booster seat; children 4 years and older who weigh at least 80 pounds or who are at least 4 feet and 9 inches tall must be in either a booster seat or safety beltall children 8 through 16 years; all children 4 years and older who weigh 80 pounds or more or who are taller than 4’9″$50; $10 for violations involving children taller than 4’9″ or who weigh 80 pounds or morelaw states no preference for rear seat
MT10/01/87no6+ years in all seats$205 years and younger and less than 60 poundsnot permissible$100law states no preference for rear seat
NE01/01/93no18+ years in front seat$25younger than 2 years in a rear-facing child restraint or until the child outgrows the maximum allowable height or weight as prescribed by the manufacturer; 7 years and younger in a child safety seat8 through 17 years Footnote 14$25 Footnote 1children 7 and younger must be in rear seat if available
NV07/01/87no6+ years in all seats$25younger than 2 years in a rear-facing child restraint; 5 years and younger and less than 57 inches in a child restraint systemnot permissible$500 Footnote 15children 2 years and younger must be in a rear seat if available; front seat permissible only with written physician certification and a deactivated passenger airbag
NHn/ano lawno lawno lawyounger than 2 years in a rear-facing child restraint system; 6 years and younger who are less than 57 inches, in accordance with manufacturer instructions7 through 17 years; younger than 7 who are at least 57 inches tall$50law states no preference for rear seat
NJ03/01/85yes; effective 05/01/00 (secondary for rear seat occupants; effective 1/20/11)7 years and younger and more than 57 inches; 8+ in all seats$20younger than 2 years and less than 30 pounds in a rear-facing infant seat; younger than 4 years and less than 40 pounds in a rear-facing child safety seat until a child outgrows the manufacturer’s top height or weight recommendations or in a forward-facing child safety seat; younger than 8 years and less than 57 inches in a forward-facing child safety seat until a child outgrows the manufacturer’s top height or weight recommendations or booster seatnot permissible$75children 7 years and younger and less than 57 inches must be in the rear seat if available, no child shall be secured in a rear facing infant seat in a front seat of any motor vehicle which is equipped with a passenger-side airbag that is not disabled
NM01/01/86yes; effective 01/01/8618+ years in all seats$25 Footnote 6younger than 1 year in a rear-facing child restraint; 1 through 4 years or less than 40 pounds in a child restraint; 5 through 6 or less than 60 pounds in a booster seat7 through 17 years$25children younger than one year in a rear-facing child restraint must be in the rear seat if available
NY12/01/84yes; effective 12/01/8416+ years in all seats$50 Footnote 16younger than 2 years or until a child outgrows the manufacturer’s top height or weight recommendations in a rear-facing child restraint; younger than 4 years unless they weigh more than 40 pounds and are seated where there is no available lap/shoulder belt; 4 through 7 years unless they are seated where there is no available lap/shoulder belt8 through 15 years; children who weigh more than 40 pounds or children 4 through 7 years in a seating position where there is no available lap/shoulder belt$100 Footnote 1law states no preference for rear seat
NC10/01/85yes; effective 12/01/06 (secondary for rear seat occupants)16+ years in all seats$257 years and younger and less than 80 pounds8 through 15 years + children 40-80 pounds in seats without shoulder belts$25 Footnote 1children 4 years and younger who weigh less than 40 pounds must be in the rear seat unless the front passenger airbag is deactivated or the restraint is designed for use with airbags
ND07/14/94yes; effective 08/01/202318+ years in all seats$207 years and younger and less than 57 inches8 through 17 years; 7 years and younger and at least 57 inches$25 Footnote 1law states no preference for rear seat
OH05/06/86no8 through 14 in all seats; 15+ years in front seat$30 driver/$20 passenger3 years and younger or less than 40 pounds in child restraint; 4 through 7 years who weigh 40 pounds or more and who are shorter than 57 inches in a child restraint or booster seat8 through 14 years Footnote 17$75 Footnote 17law states no preference for rear seat
OK02/01/87yes; effective 11/01/979+ years in front seat$20younger than 2 years or until a child outgrows the manufacturer’s top height or weight recommendations in a rear-facing child restraint; younger than 4 years in a child restraint; 4 through 7 years, if not taller than 4 feet 9 inches, in a child restraint or booster seat8 years; children who are taller than 4 feet 9 inches Footnote 18$50law states no preference for rear seat
OR12/07/90yes; effective 12/07/9016+ years in all seats$115younger than 2 years must be in a rear facing child restraint; 7 or younger: 40 pounds or less must be in a child restraint; more than 40 pounds but 4 feet and 9 inches or less must be in a booster seattaller than 4 feet and 9 inches; 8 through 15$115law states no preference for rear seat
PA11/23/87no (yes for children <18 years)18+ years in front seat$10younger than 2 years in a rear facing child restraint until a child outgrows the manufacturer’s top height or weight recommendations; 2 through 3 years in a forward-facing child safety seat; 4 through 7 years in a booster seat8 through 17 years in all seats$75law states no preference for rear seat
RI06/18/91yes; effective 6/30/1118+ years in all seats$40younger than 2 years or less than 30 pounds must be in a rear-facing child restraint; 7 years and younger and less than 57 inches and less than 80 pounds7 years and younger who either weigh 80 pounds or more or who are at least 57 inches tall; 8 through 17$85children 7 and younger must be in rear seat if available
SC07/01/89yes; effective 12/09/05 Footnote 198+ years in all seats$25younger than 2 years in rear-facing child restraint until exceeding manufacturer height/weight limit; children younger than 2 who outgrow rear-facing system and children 2 and older must be in forward-facing restraint with harness until exceeding manufacturer height/weight limit; children 4 and older who outgrow forward-facing child restraint must be in belt positioning booster using lap/shoulder belts until child is at least 8 years or at least 57 inches8 years or at least 57 inches tall if (1) lap belt fits across hips and thighs, not abdomen (2) shoulder belt crosses center of chest and not neck (3) knees bend over seat edge when sitting up straight with his/her back firmly against seat back$1507 years and younger must be in the rear seat if available
SD01/01/95no18+ years in front seat$204 years and younger and less than 40 pounds5 through 17 years; all children 40+ pounds, regardless of age$25law states no preference for rear seat
TN04/21/86yes; effective 07/01/0416+ years in front seat$30younger than 1 year or 20 pounds or less in a rear-facing child restraint; 1 through 3 years and 20+ pounds in a forward-facing child restraint; 4 through 8 years and less than 4’9″ in a booster seat9 through 15 years or any child 12 or younger who is 4’9″ or taller$50children 8 years and younger and less than 4’9″ must be in rear seat if available; rear seat recommended for children 9 through 12
TX09/01/85yes; effective 09/01/857 years and younger who are 57 inches or taller; 8+ years in all seats$2007 years and younger and less than 57 inchesnot permissible$25 minimum; maximum unlistedlaw states no preference for rear seat
UT04/28/86yes; Footnote 20 effective 05/12/1516+ years in all seats$45 Footnote 207 years and younger and shorter than 57 inches8 through 15 years; all children 57 inches or taller$45 Footnote 21law states no preference for rear seat
VT01/01/94no18+ years in all seats$25younger than 1 year or less than 20 pounds in a rear-facing child restraint; 1 through 7 and more than 20 pounds in a child restraint or booster seat8 through 17 years and more than 20 pounds$25children 1 year and younger or less than 20 pounds must be in the rear seat unless the front passenger airbag is deactivated
VA01/01/88no18+ years in front seat$25younger than 2 years in a rear-facing child restraint or until the child reaches the minimum weight limit for a forward facing child safety seat as prescribed by the manufacturer; 7 years and younger in a child safety seat8 through 17 years Footnote 22$50children in rear-facing devices must be in a rear seat if available; if not available, they may be placed in front only if front passenger airbag is deactivated
WA06/11/86yes; effective 07/01/0216+ years in all seats$124younger than 2 years must be in a rear-facing system until the child reaches the weight or height limit as set by the manufacturer; younger than 4 who are not required to be rear-facing must be properly secured in a child restraint system that is forward-facing and has a harness until the child reaches the set weight or height limits; older than 4 and shorter than four feet nine inches must be in a booster seatall children who are taller than 4’9” and younger than 16; 4 and older if in a seating position where there is only a lap belt available$12412 years and younger must be in rear seat if practical
WV09/01/93yes; effective 07/1/20138+ years in front seat; 8 through 17 years in all seats$257 years and younger and less than 4’9″7 years and younger and 4’9″ or taller$20law states no preference for rear seat
WI12/01/87yes; effective 06/30/098+ years in all seats$10children younger than 1 and all children who weigh less than 20 pounds are required to be in a rear-facing child restraint; children 1 through 3 years who weigh at least 20 pounds but less than 40 pounds are required to be in a rear-facing or a forward-facing child restraint; children 4 through 7 who both weigh at least 40 pounds but less than 80 pounds and who are less than 57 inches tall are required to be in a forward-facing child restraint or booster seat8 years and younger and more than 80 pounds and 57 inches or taller$75children 3 and younger must be in a rear seat, if available
WY06/08/89no9+ years in all seats$25 Footnote 23 driver/$10 passenger8 years and youngernot permissible$50children 8 years and younger must be in the rear seat if available

To find all the footnotes for each State, use this spreadsheet link

Resources:

  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)