All 50 states have child car seat laws. The laws vary from state to state. Differences can include what type of child car seat is required, such as the use of booster seats, the penalties you can face for not abiding by the regulations, and the kind of transportation that requires use of car seats, such as taxis. Regardless of local laws, it is recommended that a child be kept in a correctly installed car seat or booster seat until he is 8 years of age, 4’9”, or he outgrows the height and weight limits on a booster seat. Most booster seats can accommodate a child up to 100 pounds and 5’ tall. Even without a booster seat, it is recommended that all children under age 12 ride only in the back seat of a vehicle.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (www.nhtsa.gov) reports that car crashes are the number one killer of children ages 1 to 12 in the United States. Using a car seat that fits your child and your car and is correctly installed is the safest way for children to travel in your vehicle.
Knowing child car seat laws in your state is also important to keeping your child safe and keeping you penalty free. Child car seat violations are also primary in most states, which meansthat your vehicle can be stopped solely for a violation of the child car seat law. A good source for looking up child car seat laws is www.iihs.org/laws/safetybeltuse.aspx. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website has a great list of laws by state, as well as two interactive maps that give details by state on the enforcement of safety belt laws and the age at which children must be in a restraint. Another great website to reference is www.carseatlaws.com. The homepage of this site has general safety guidelines, a car seat guide and a searchable list of state laws. It may also be a good idea to do Google search of car seat laws as they are subject to change. This year both Arizona and California increased the age at which children must be in booster seats. Now, in both California and Arizona, a child must be in a booster seat until age 8 or until 4’9”.
If you are traveling, it is also important to research to see if car seat laws are different in your destination. For example, if you have a six year old and live in New Hampshire, your child does not have to be in a booster seat by law. But, if you are traveling from home in New Hampshire to go on vacation in New York, you have to invest in a booster seat as New York requires a booster seat with shoulder and lap belt until age 7. It may also be important to know if your child needs a car seat on an airplane and at your destination. The Federal Aviation Administration website, www.faa.gov is a great resource for traveling with children. With a little research, you can make an informed decision on what kind of child car seat is the best to use and also which is necessary to be within the limits of the law, no matter what state you are in.