What Are the Child Safety Seat Laws in Each State?

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws governing the use of child safety seats. Child passenger safety laws require the use of approved car seats, booster seats, and appropriate child safety restraints while traveling in a motor vehicle. Once a child is able to use an adult seat belt, they fall under general seat belt laws. Because laws differ from state to state, it’s important to understand the laws where you live.1

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States that require rear-facing seats

Because rear-facing car seats provide better protection in front-end collisions, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends placing children in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible, only switching to a front-facing seat when the child outgrows the car seat’s rear-facing weight and height restrictions.3 

But if you live in one of the following states, you may be required by law to keep your kiddo in a rear-facing style until a certain age.1,4  This makes it even more important to choose an extended rear-facing model like the Evenflo EveryStage, Britax Boulevard, or Graco 4Ever.

State
Rear-facing seat required
AlabamaUntil 1 year or 20 lbs.
AlaskaUntil 1 year or 20 lbs.
CaliforniaUntil 2 years or 40 lbs. or 40 in.
ColoradoUntil 1 year or 20 lbs.
ConnecticutUntil 2 years or 30 lbs.
District of ColumbiaUntil 2 years or 40 lbs. or 40 in.
IllinoisUntil 2 years or 40 lbs. or 40 in.
IowaUntil 1 year or 20 lbs.
KansasUntil 3 years
LouisianaUntil 2 years
NebraskaUntil 2 years and outgrown car seat’s height and weight limits
New JerseyUntil 2 years and 30 lbs.
New MexicoUntil 1 years and outgrown car seat’s height and weight limits
New YorkUntil 2 years and outgrown car seat’s height and weight limits
OklahomaUntil 2 years and outgrown car seat’s height and weight limits
OregonUntil 2 years
PennsylvaniaUntil 2 years and outgrown car seat’s height and weight limits
Puerto RicoUntil 2 years or 30 lbs.
Rhode IslandUntil 2 years or 30 lbs.
South CarolinaUntil 2 years or 30 lbs.
South DakotaUntil 2 years and outgrown car seat’s height and weight limits
TennesseeUntil 1 year or 20 lbs.
VermontUntil 1 year or 20 lbs.
Virgin IslandsUntil 1 year or 20 lbs.
VirginiaUntil 2 years and outgrown car seat’s height and weight limits
WashingtonUntil 2 years and outgrown car seat’s height and weight limits
WisconsinUntil 1 year or 20 lbs.

No matter where you live, we recommend following proven safety standards like those set by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Car seat laws by state

Alabama

  • Children under 1 year or less than 20 pounds must be in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Children 1 through 4 years or 20 to 40 pounds require a forward-facing car seat.
  • Children age 5 must use a booster seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at 6 years old.

Alaska

  • Children under 1 year or less than 20 pounds must be in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Children 1 through 3 years and over 20 pounds require a car seat.
  • Children ages 4 through 7 and under 57 inches tall and/or 65 pounds must use a booster seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at age 4 if the child is at least 57 inches tall or more than 65 pounds.

Arizona

  • Children 4 years and younger must use a child safety seat.
  • Children ages 5 through 7 and less than 57 inches tall must be in a booster seat.
  • Children can use adult seat belts starting at age 5 if they are taller than 57 inches.

Arkansas

  • Children 5 years and younger and under 60 pounds are required to be in a child safety seat.
  • Adult seat belts can be used for children ages 6 through 14 or over 60 pounds.

California

  • Children under 2 years and less than 40 pounds and under 40 inches tall must be in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Children ages 2 through 7 and less than 57 inches tall must be in a child safety restraint system.
  • Children ages 8 through 15 and 57 inches tall may use adult seat belts.

Colorado

  • Children under 1 year or less than 20 pounds must be in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Children 1 through 3 years and 20 pounds or more require a car seat.
  • Children ages 4 through 7 must use a booster seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at 8 years old.

Connecticut

  • Children under 1 year or less than 20 pounds must be in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Children 1 through 6 years and less than 60 pounds require a car seat or booster seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed for children ages 7 through 15 and over 60 pounds.

Delaware

  • Children 0 through 7 years and less than 66 pounds must be in a child safety seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at 8 years old or once the child weighs 66 pounds or more.

District of Columbia

  • Children 7 years and younger must be in a child safety seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at 8 years old.

Florida

  • Children 5 years and younger must be in a child safety seat.
  • Adult seat belt use is not specified for children.

Georgia

  • Children 0 through 7 years and less than 57 inches tall must be in a child safety seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed for children who exceed 57 inches.

Hawaii

  • Children 3 years and younger must be in a car seat.
  • Children ages 4 to 7 must be in a car seat or booster seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at 8 years old.

Idaho

  • Children 6 years and younger must be in a child safety seat.
  • Adult seat belt use is not specified for children.

Illinois

  • Children 7 years and younger must be in a child safety seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at 8 years old.

Indiana

  • Children 7 years and younger must be in a child safety seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at 8 years old.

Iowa

  • Children under 1 year or less than 20 pounds must be in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Children 1 through 5 years require a car seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed for children ages 6 through 17.

Kansas

  • Children 0 through 3 years must be in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Children 4 through 7 years and less than 80 pounds or 57 inches tall require a car seat or booster seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed for children at 8 years old; children ages 4 through 7 and more than 80 pounds or 57 inches tall may also use adult seat belts.

Kentucky

  • Children under 40 inches must be in a car seat.
  • Children 4 through 7 years and between 40 and 57 inches tall require a booster seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed for children taller than 57 inches.

Louisiana

  • Children under 1 year or less than 20 pounds must be in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Children 1 through 3 years or 20 to 39 pounds require a forward-facing car seat.
  • Children ages 4 through 5 or between 40 and 60 pounds must be in a booster seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed for children ages 6 through 12 or over 60 pounds.

Maine

  • Children less than 40 pounds must be in a child restraint.
  • Children 40 to 80 pounds and less than 8 years require a booster seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed for children age 8 and over 57 inches tall.

Maryland

  • Children 0 through 7 years and less than 57 inches tall require a child safety restraint.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed for children ages 8 through 15 or at least 57 inches tall.

Massachusetts

  • Children 0 through 7 years and less than 57 inches require a child safety restraint.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed for children ages 8 through 12 or at least 57 inches tall.

Michigan

  • Children 0 through 7 years and less than 57 inches tall require a child safety restraint.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed for children ages 8 through 15 or at least 57 inches tall.

Minnesota

  • Children 0 through 7 years and less than 57 inches tall require a child safety restraint.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed for children starting at age 8 or 57 inches.

Mississippi

  • Children 3 years and younger require a child safety seat.
  • Children ages 4 to 6 and less than 57 inches or 65 pounds must be in a booster seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed for children at age 6 or at least 57 inches or 65 pounds.

Missouri

  • Children 0 through 3 years and less than 40 inches tall require a child safety restraint.
  • Children ages 4 through 7 and between 40 and 80 pounds and under 57 inches tall must be in a car seat or booster seat.
  • Children at least 4 years old and at least 80 pounds or 57 inches must be in a booster seat or adult seat belt.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed for children ages 8 through 16.

Montana

  • Children 0 through 5 years and less than 60 pounds require a child safety restraint.
  • Adult seat belt use is not specified for children.

Nebraska

  • Children 5 years and younger require a child safety restraint.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed for children ages 6 through 17.

Nevada

  • Children 0 through 5 years and less than 60 pounds require a child safety restraint.
  • Adult seat belt use is not specified for children.

New Hampshire

  • Children 0 through 6 years and less than 57 inches tall require a child safety restraint.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed for children ages 7 through 17, as well as for children under 7 years who are at least 57 inches tall.

New Jersey

  • Children under 2 years and less than 30 pounds must be in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Children younger than 4 years and less than 40 pounds require a car seat.
  • Children under age 8 and less than 57 inches tall must use a front-facing car seat (until they outgrow the manufacturer’s height and weight recommendations) or a booster seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed for children age 8 and older or 57 inches or taller.

New Mexico

  • Children under 1 year must be in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Children 1 through 4 years or less than 40 pounds require a car seat.
  • Children age 5 through 6 or less than 60 pounds must use a booster seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at 7 years old.

New York

  • Children 0 through 3 years and under 40 pounds must use a car seat.
  • Children 4 through 7 years should use a car seat or booster seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at 8 years old or more than 40 pounds.

North Carolina

  • Children 0 through 7 years and less than 80 pounds must be in a child safety restraint.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at 8 years old; children between 40 and 80 pounds can use adult seat belts with no shoulder straps.

North Dakota

  • Children 0 through 7 years and less than 80 pounds or 57 inches tall must use a car seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at 8 years old; children under 7 years who are at least 57 inches tall and weigh 80 pounds may also use adult seat belts.

Ohio

  • Children 0 through 3 years or under 40 pounds must use a car seat.
  • Children 4 through 7 years and more than 40 pounds and over 57 inches should use a booster seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at 8 years old.

Oklahoma

  • Children must use a rear-facing car seat if they are under 2 years or until they outgrow the manufacturer’s height and weight recommendations.
  • Children younger than 4 must use a car seat.
  • Children 4 through 7 years and less than 57 inches tall should use a booster seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at 8 years old or more than 57 inches tall.

Oregon

  • Children under 1 year and under 20 pounds must use a rear-facing car seat.
  • Children younger than 7 years and under 40 pounds must use a car seat.
  • Children more than 40 pounds and under 57 inches tall must use a booster seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at 8 years old or more than 57 inches.

Pennsylvania

  • Children must use a rear-facing car seat if they are under 2 years or until they outgrow the manufacturer’s height and weight recommendations.
  • Children 4 through 8 years must use a booster seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at 8 years old.

Rhode Island

  • Children 0 through 7 years and under 57 inches and 80 pounds must use a child safety restraint.
  • Adult seat belts can be used for children under 7 if they weigh more than 80 pounds or are at least 57 inches tall; all children ages 8 through 17 may use adult seat belts.

South Carolina

  • Children less than 1 year or under 20 pounds must be in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Children 1 through 5 years and less than 40 pounds require a forward-facing car seat.
  • Children age 1 through 5 and 40 to 80 pounds must use a booster seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed for children more than 80 pounds, or if their knees bend over the edge of the seat when sitting straight up against the back of the seat.

South Dakota

  • Children younger than 5 years and less than 40 pounds require a car seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at 5 years old or at least 40 pounds.

Tennessee

  • Children under 1 year or less than 20 pounds must be in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Children 1 through 3 years and more than 20 pounds require a forward-facing car seat.
  • Children age 4 through 8 and less than 57 inches tall must use a booster seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at 9 years old or for any child over 57 inches tall.

Texas

  • Children 0 through 7 years and under 57 inches tall require a car seat.
  • Adult seat belt use is not specified for children.

Utah

  • Children 0 through 7 years and under 57 inches tall require a car seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at 8 years or for children at least 57 inches tall.

Vermont

  • Children younger than 1 year and under 20 pounds must be in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Children 1 through 7 years and over 20 pounds must be in a car seat or booster seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at 8 years.

Virginia

  • Children 7 years and younger require a car seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at 8 years old; children ages 4 through 7 may be able to use adult seat belts with a physician’s exemption.

Washington

  • Children 0 through 7 years and under 57 inches require a car seat.
  • Adult seat belts allowed at age 8 or at 57 inches tall; children under 7 years but over 40 pounds may use lap belts only.

West Virginia

  • Children 0 through 7 years and under 57 inches tall require a car seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at age 8 or at 57 inches or taller.

Wisconsin

  • Children under 1 year or less than 20 pounds must be in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Children 1 through 3 years weighing 20 to 40 pounds require a forward-facing car seat.
  • Children ages 4 to 7 who weigh between 40 and 80 pounds and are less than 57 inches tall must be in a booster seat.
  • Adult seat belts are allowed at 8 years old and over 80 pounds or 57 inches.

Wyoming

  • Children 8 years and younger must use a child safety restraint.
  • Adult seat belt use is not specified for children.

Remember: laws can change frequently, so it’s a good idea to regularly check with your local DMV to make sure you’re abiding by current child safety restraint standards.

No matter where you live, keeping your little ones safe is a top priority. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep your children safe. And if your kids are ready to move up to new car seats, check out our Car Seat Buyers Guide for help.


Compare the best car seats

Car seat
Best for
Price
Type
Head injury criteriaIcon Tooltip  Dark
Chest accelerationIcon Tooltip  Dark
Anti-rebound device
Learn more
Best overall4-in-136443 g-unitsPremier model only

Best infant car seat

Infant340 44 g-units Load leg

Best for budgets

Infant330 51 g-unitsNone

Best extended rear-facing

4-in-1Not specifiedNot specifiedNone

Best for stroller conversion

Infant60360 g-unitsNone

*Amazon.com price as of post date. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Safewise.com utilizes paid Amazon links.


Sources

  1. Governors Highway Safety Association, “Child Passenger Safety.” Accessed August 22, 2022.
  2. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute, “Seat Belt and Child Seat Laws by State.” August 2022. Accessed August 22, 2022.
  3. Hoffman, Benjamin D, MD, American Academy of Pediatrics, “New Child Passenger Safety Seat Guidance Advises Kids to Ride Rear-Facing as Long as Possible; Drops Age Criterion,” August 20, 2018. Accessed August 22, 2022.
  4. State of Rhode Island State Police Department of Public Safety, “Seat Belt Laws & Car Seat Recommendations.” Accessed August 22, 2022.
Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past eight. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime reports and spotting trends. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, NPR, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips.

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