Child Passenger and Safety Restraint Laws Widely Vary by State in the us

In the United States, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in children. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in the year 2009, over 1,300 children under the age of 14 were killed in motor vehicle crashes; additionally, over 173,000 were injured.

The government agency states most car accident related deaths and injuries are preventable. One of the preventative ways to spare injury and death in motor vehicle crashes is to use proper safety restraints.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), all 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws regarding child restraints. While all states have laws, each has its own different set of statutes regarding safety restraints for children.

Child passenger restraint requirements vary based on age, weight and height. Generally, all children under the age of three must be properly restrained in a car seat or booster seat in the U.S., although some states have stricter laws and others are lax.

Tennessee has the most stringent laws, as a child has to reach the age of nine before using a seat belt is legal, and may be required up to age 12, depending on the child’s weight and height.  

Florida is perhaps the most lax in its laws regarding child safety restraints, as children three and under are required to be in a seat, but once a child reaches the age of four, she is allowed to be in a seat belt, according to governing websites; no weight or height requirement is listed.

Currently, the majority of states, including the District of Columbia, require a child to be in a restraint seat when riding in a motor vehicle until the age of seven; ten states require a child to reach the age of five; and six states say a child must be six-years-old.  The height and weight requirements may vary by state.

To determine your state’s laws, you can visit the Governor’s Highway Safety Association website for exact information. 

A U.S. government website,, states,”each day more than 11 children ages 19 and under are killed in a motor vehicle crash.”

Remember, just because a law may allow a child to no longer be in a child safety or booster seat, does not mean a parent has to stop using one. While it is important to follow the law, it is equally, if not more essential, to use common sense when it comes to the safety of a child.