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Car Seat Safety and Car Insurance

A child passenger restraint system is the most important part of safely transporting kids. In fact, thousands are injured or killed each year due to improper restraints such as a seat with a harness or a booster seat. Not using the proper child car seat could reduce your car insurance claim if your child suffers injuries in an accident.

Not using the proper child car seat could reduce your car insurance claim if your child suffers injuries in an accident.

Here's everything you need to know about car seats for children.

The Four Types of Car Seats

Safety seats are designed to protect children in the event of an accident. There are four kinds of safety seats for children, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

Booster Seat with a High Back

This type of booster is designed to boost the child's height so the seat belt fits properly. It also provides neck and head support and is ideal for vehicles that don't have head rests or high seat backs.

Backless Booster Seat

A backless booster is designed to boost the child's height so the seat belt fits properly. It does not provide head and neck support. It is ideal for vehicles that have head rests.

Combination Seat

As your child grows, this seat transitions into a booster seat from a forward-facing seat with a harness.

All-in-One Seat

This seat can change from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat (with a harness and tether) and to a booster as a child grows.

U.S. Car Seats Are Federally Approved

The federal government has a set of standards that every child safety seat must meet. Car-seat manufacturers self-certify that their child-safety-seat products meet those federal standards, then the government verifies this compliance. So, if you buy a Britax, Clex, Chicco Kidfit, Evenflo, Maxi Cosi or some other make and model of a child safety seat, you can be sure the model went through a government-approved testing and certification process.

However, if you buy a child safety seat from another country, it may not meet standards in the United States. If you a parent with questions or concerns, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can help. For one thing, parents can have their child safety seat inspected by a NHTSA-approved child passenger safety technician. Also, they can register the car seat on the NHTSA website to receive any recall notices or safety updates. To learn more, go to nhtsa.gov.

The AAP's Child Car-Seat Safety Guidelines

A policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics contains the five following recommendations for a child's optimal safety while riding in a vehicle:

  • All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing child safety seat until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the seat's manufacturer.

  • All children who have outgrown a rear-facing child safety seat's height or weight limit for their car safety seat should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by the seat's manufacturer.

  • All children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their car safety seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the auto lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between 8 and 12 years of age.

  • When children are old enough and large enough to use the car seat belt alone, they should always use lap and shoulder seat belts for optimal protection.

  • All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection.

Car Seat Safety - Get the Right Insurance Coverage

Backward-Facing Car Seat or Booster Seat?

Using child safety seats reduces the risk of death in a car crash by 71% for infants, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If infants are riding in a seat with no restraints, they are four times more likely to be injured in a car crash compared to infants using child safety seats.

Infants should be in a federally approved rear-facing car seat in the back of the auto until they reach the car seat's manufacturer-designated weight or height limit. A rear-facing car seat has a harness and, in car crashes, cradles and moves with your child to reduce the stress to the child's fragile neck and spinal cord. After that, children can start to use a forward-facing car seat rated for their weight and height; this forward-facing seat should also be installed in the back seat.

Once children have passed the size limit for their forward-facing car seat, they may switch to a belt-positioning booster seat. When they reach 4 feet, 9 inches (usually between the ages of 8 to 12), they will be ready to use the vehicle's standard lap and shoulder belts. To sum up the stages, from infant to big kid:

Birth to 3 years old: rear-facing car seat

Four to 7 years old: forward-facing car seat

Eight to 12 years old: booster seat

Thirteen and older: standard lap and shoulder belt

Of course, every child is different, just like every car seat and booster seat is different. So, take a look at the manufacturer's manual on car-seat use and the product's height and weight range.

Proper Installation Is a Must for Car-Seat Safety

Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when installing a car seat. If you need further assistance, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website offers installation instructions and videos on how to properly install a car seat. Remember, it is important that your car seat properly fits into the car and that your child properly fits into the car seat.

Always follow a car seat manufacturer's height and weight limits.

By law, all cars made after 2002 must come equipped with a LATCH system. An acronym that stands for "lower anchors and tethers for children," the LATCH system secures your child's safety seat to the car itself using two devices:

  • "Anchors" are used to secure the bottom of the car seat; you'll find the anchors poking up between the bottom and top cushions of the backseat. In some cars, many parents find it easier to secure a child safety seat using the anchors rather than a seatbelt.

  • "Tethers" are used to secure the top of the car seat; you'll find the tethers at the top of the backseat, on the ceiling of the car or on the floor of the car.

The LATCH system can be used with either rear-facing or forward-facing car seats.

Resources for Further Research

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

This federal agency offers car-seat recommendations based on your child's age and size. Not only that, you can compare car seats using the NHTSA's Car Seat Finder.

American Academy of Pediatrics

This organization offers reports and tips on child safety related to safety seats.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

This federal agency tests, evaluates and rates child safety seats and offers recommendations and tips.

Consumer Reports

Every year, this magazine tests, evaluates and rates the latest baby seats and booster seats.

Highway Traffic Safety Administration

This federal agency offers driver education courses. If you take a Highway Traffic Safety Administration driver's education course, you'll not only become a better defensive driver, but you may also be eligible for a car-insurance discount from your auto insurer.

What Are the Child-Seat Laws in Your State?

Every state has its own particular statutes and regulations related to child safety in a vehicle. Whether you have a backless booster or a seat with a harness, it pays to know the laws of your state. No matter the age, children should ride in the backseat for as long as possible.

More than 90% of children aged 4 to 8 years who were seriously injured in a crash were not properly restrained in a booster, according to Partners for Child Passenger Safety. When a child graduates to a seat belt, the lap belt should lie snugly across the upper thighs, never the stomach, and the shoulder belt should cross the shoulder and chest, not the face or neck.

Below are the laws of each state regarding car seats. Note: An asterisk (*) means the state doesn't have a specific law that prohibits leaving children unattended in a car.

Alabama*

According to the Alabama Department of Transportation, infants until at least 1 year of age or 20 pounds should be in rear-facing car seats. Children should be in a forward-facing seat until at least five years old or 40 pounds and a booster seat until six years old. A seatbelt is required when the child outgrows a booster seat. You can be fined up to $25 for every violation and receive points for failure to comply.

Alaska*

Alaska's car-seat safety law requires that children less than 1 year of age or less than 20 pounds be secured in a rear-facing car seat. Once they've outgrown this requirement, children ages one to 4 should be placed in a forward-facing car seat with a five-point harness. Children 4 to 8 years old who are less than 65 pounds and under 4′ 9" must ride in a car seat or booster. When the child outgrows a booster seat, the child can use a regular seatbelt.

Arizona*

Children should ride in the back seat for as long as possible.

Children under the age of 5 years should ride in an approved child car safety seat designed for their age, weight and height. Infants should be rear-facing when possible, and all children should ride in the back seat to reduce the risk of injuries related to airbag deployment. Arizona law states that children ages 5 to 7 years must ride in a booster unless they are at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall. Once they reach this height, they're allowed to transition to an adult safety belt.

Arkansas*

Arkansas has laws mandating the use of restraint systems, based on age and weight, for children under the age of 15. Infants up to at least 1 year of age or up to 20 pounds must ride in a rear-facing seat. Over 20 pounds and from ages 1 to 6 or 60 pounds, children should be placed in a forward-facing seat, convertible seat or booster. Children ages 6 to 15 years should ride with a lap-and-shoulder seatbelt combination. Failure to follow these laws may result in a fine of up to $100.

California

California law requires that all children under 2 years of age use a federally approved rear-facing car seat until they are either 40 pounds or 40 inches tall. From this point up to the age of 8, all children must be properly secured in a forward-facing car seat or belt-positioning booster seat. At age 8 or at 4 feet 9 inches tall, kids may graduate to the vehicle's factory-installed seat belts. Find more safety information on the California Highway Patrol website. Under California law, a parent or other caregiver may not leave a child 6 or younger in a car without the supervision of someone 12 or older if there are potentially dangerous conditions or if the engine is running or keys are in the ignition.

Colorado

Under Colorado law, infants under 1 year old and weighing less than 20 pounds must ride in a rear-facing car seat. If your auto does not have a back seat, you cannot legally transport an infant; after a child reaches 1 year of age or 20 pounds, he or she may legally ride in the front seat, but the state—not to mention auto safety experts everywhere—strongly recommends against this. Colorado law requires children to ride in a booster or other car seat until 8 years old. However, the state recommends continuing the use of booster seats until your child is 4 feet, 9 inches tall and is able to pass the 5-Step Test for seat belts. For more information on Colorado's car seat regulations, visit the CODOT website.

Connecticut

Until infants reach both the age of 1 and 20 pounds, they must be properly secured in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of the auto. Toddlers must ride in a forward-facing car seat until they outgrow its manufacturer-designated weight limit. After that, a switch to a booster seat is appropriate, and children must use one of these until they reach both 7 years old and 60 pounds. A lap-and-shoulder belt have to be engaged when using a booster. Connecticut state law protects children under the age of 12 against being left unsupervised in an auto if there's a substantial risk of harm. Doing so is a class A misdemeanor. Beyond that, doing so between the hours of 8:00 pm and 6:00 am ups the charges to a class C felony, and doing so at a location licensed to sell alcohol for consumption is a class D felony. The State of Connecticut Department of Transportation website has some helpful information and resource links.

Delaware*

Delaware car seat law states that all children must be properly secured in a safety seat until the age of 8 or 65 pounds, whichever happens first. Infants should be in a rear-facing car seat in the auto's back seat until reaching the seat's weight limit. After that, the child may change over to a belt-positioning booster seat until the above-specified time. It's recommended that kids remain in the back of the vehicle at least until the age of 13.

Florida

Children under 5 years old must be properly secured in a federally approved car seat. Failure to follow this rule can result in a $60 fine and 3 points on your driver's license. Infants must be positioned facing the rear of the auto until they are 1 year old and weigh at least 20 pounds. Kids 3 years and younger must use your vehicle's integrated child seat or a separate child car seat. Children 4 through 5 may use a seat belt with a booster, as per a January 2015 law. Children 6 through 17 must use a seat belt at all times. Florida law states that children under the age of 6 years should not be left in a auto for more than 15 minutes or for any length of time when the engine is running or if the child is in distress or in danger. A violation of the law may result in a fine of up to $500 and is a second-degree misdemeanor. The violation becomes a third-degree felony if the child is harmed. Also, a 2016 Florida state law made it legal for bystanders to break an auto's window to assist a vulnerable person or domestic animal they believe is in danger due to being left unattended inside.

Georgia*

All children under the age of 8 who are less than 57 inches tall must ride in the back seat of a car. If the vehicle does not have a back seat, Georgia law allows children under 8 years but weighing more than 40 pounds to ride in the front seat, provided they are properly restrained in the car or booster. The recommended age for moving to the front seat is 13 years. Children under 8 years old must ride in an approved car seat or booster appropriate for their age, height and weight as defined by the manufacturer. If an officer observes an unrestrained child or seat belt offense, he or she can stop the auto and issue a citation—there does not need to be any other cause for stopping the auto. Violating Georgia's car-seat laws can result in a fine of up to $50, as well as one point against your license per improperly restrained minor. A second offense can double the points and fines.

Hawaii

Under Hawaii law, all kids up to age 4 must be properly secured in a car seat, and all kids 4 through 7 years old must be properly secured in a car or booster seat. If you fail to properly restrain a child passenger, you'll have to take a 4-hour safety course and may face fines of $100 to $500. Leave children in a rear-facing car seat until they reach its size limit, then switch to a forward-facing car seat until it's outgrown. Place car seats in the back seat of the auto; never use them in a front seat with an active airbag.

Use an appropriately rated booster at least until the age of 8, but preferably until the child can be safely secured in the auto's factory-installed seat belts—usually at 4 feet, 9 inches tall. You can get a $25 Hawaii State tax credit for purchasing a car or booster. Hawaii law prohibits leaving a child under the age of 9 alone in an auto without the supervision of someone at least 12 years of age for more than five minutes.

Car Seat Safety - Get the Right Insurance Coverage

Idaho*

Infants and toddlers up to 2 years old—or up to the weight and height limits established by the manufacturer—should always be secured in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of the vehicle. A forward-facing car seat is appropriate from that point on, up to 4 years of age or until the child reaches the height and weight limits for the seat. Generally, kids should be at least 40 pounds before moving on to a seatbelt-positioning booster seat. These are to be used for children up to 4 feet, 9 inches tall. At 4 feet 9 inches tall, kids should be able to be properly secured by most auto's built-in seatbelt systems.

Illinios

The Illinois Child Passenger Protection Act requires that all kids under the age of 8 be properly secured in a federally approved car seat or booster seat. Up to age 1 and 20 pounds, babies should ride in a rear-facing car seat; if a back seat is unavailable, the front passenger seat may be used, provided it doesn't have an enabled airbag. Then, use a front-facing car seat with a harness system until the child reaches its size limit. After that, a belt-positioning booster is appropriate. It's against the law in Illinois to knowingly endanger a minor. It's also against the law to leave a child 6 or younger unsupervised in a vehicle for more than 10 minutes by someone who's at least 14 years old. A first-time violation of this law is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to $2,500 in fines and one year's imprisonment.

Indiana*

Child passenger safety laws in Indiana require that all kids less than 8 years old be properly restrained in an approved child restraint system, including a car seat or belt-positioning booster. Children under 12 months should always ride in a rear-facing child safety seat, and they should remain rear-facing until they reach the top weight and height requirements allowed for their car seat. After this time, and up until the age of 3 years, they should ride in a forward-facing seat with a harness. A booster seat in the back seat is appropriate for most children ages 4 through 7 years. Children age 8 and older should continue to ride in a booster until they are tall enough to fit properly in a standard seat belt. Children should remain in the back seat through the age of 12 years to reduce the risk of injuries associated with accidents and airbag deployment. For more information on Indiana's car seat laws, visit the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute online.

Iowa*

The Iowa child restraint law states that children under 1 year old and weighing less than 20 pounds must be properly secured in a rear-facing car seat. From 1 to 6 years of age and once the child weighs more than 20 pounds, a forward-facing car seat or booster seat should be used. From ages 6 to 18, all children must be secured in either an appropriately rated booster or the vehicle's own restraint system. Failing to properly secure a child is probable cause to be stopped by a law enforcement officer in Iowa. Violation of the state's restraint laws may result in about $200 in fines. If the child is under the age of 14, the driver will receive a citation as well.

Idaho*

According to Idaho law, infants and toddlers up to 2 years old—or up to the weight and height limits established by the manufacturer—should always be secured in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of the vehicle. A forward-facing car seat is appropriate from that point on, up to 4 years of age or until the child reaches the height and weight limits for the seat. Generally, kids should be at least 40 pounds before moving on to a seat belt-positioning booster seat. These are to be used for children up to 4 feet, 9 inches tall. Note that lap belts alone are not adequate for securing a child in a booster; they require a shoulder strap, too. At 4 feet 9 inches tall, kids should be able to be properly secured by most auto's built-in seat belt systems.

Kansas

Children 1 year of age and younger must be secured in a federally approved rear-facing car seat. When they've outgrown that as per the manufacturer's weight and height limit, they switch to a forward-facing car seat. Once kids have outgrown their car seat, often around the age of 4, a belt-positioning booster seat is the next step. This is to remain in use until your child passes the manufacturer's weight limit, which typically occurs around the age of 8. Children under 8 may only use the vehicle's built-in seat-belt system if they either weigh more than 80 pounds or are at least 4′ 9" tall.

Kentucky

Children under 40 inches tall must ride in an approved car seat or infant seat. Infants younger than 1 year old should ride in the back seat, facing the rear of the vehicle. Once a child reaches 40 inches, the child should move to a booster seat. Kentucky House Bill 315 requires that children younger than 8 years and between 40 and 57 inches tall ride securely in a booster. The Kentucky State Police have put together an informative booklet on top car seat errors. To learn more about child seat safety, view the booklet.

Louisiana

In Louisiana, it's legally mandated that any baby under the age of 1 or weighing less than 20 pounds be secured in an appropriately rated rear-facing car seat in the back seat of the auto. It's recommended that children continue to be secured this way until the age of 2, provided they don't surpass the seat manufacturer's stated size limit. Children over the age of 1 and 20 pounds who are no longer in a rear-facing car seat be secured in a forward-facing car seat until the age of 4 or surpassing 40 pounds. Kids who are 4 to 6 years old and who weigh 40 to 60 pounds must be in a belt-positioning backless or high-backed booster seat. Beyond that, it's recommended that you wait until a child also reaches 4 feet, 9 inches tall before discontinuing use of the booster seat, as this is the height at which people can be properly secured by standard auto restraint systems. Under Louisiana State law, "It is unlawful for any driver or operator to leave a child or children under the age of six years unattended and unsupervised in a motor vehicle." Doing so can result in a fine of up to $500 and/or up to 6 months in jail.

Maine

Children who weigh less than 40 pounds must be in an infant, convertible or combination car seat. Until 1 year of age and 20 pounds, they must be in a rear-facing car seat; it's recommended that you keep them in this position even past these milestones until they reach the manufacturer's stated size limit. At this point, they should change to an appropriate forward-facing car seat with a safety harness. Kids who weigh between 40 and 80 pounds are required to be properly secured in a car or booster seat that is designed for their height and weight. Typically between ages 4 and 7, children should switch to booster seats.

Maryland

Maryland law requires all children under 8 years who are less than 4'9″ tall to ride in an approved child restraint seat. Children 8 to 16 years who are too tall to ride in a child restraint seat must use the vehicle's seat belt. These rules apply to both in-state and out-of-state vehicles. Although Maryland does not prohibit children from riding in the front seat of an auto, with the exception of rear-facing car seats, it is recommended that all children younger than 12 years ride in the back seat. That's because airbag deployment can cause serious injuries to young children. In Maryland, children must be 8 years or older to be left unsupervised. This applies to cars as well as homes and other "enclosures." If a child is caring for a younger sibling, the minimum age is 13 years. This means a 12-year-old child is too young to be legally left unattended in a vehicle with a younger sibling.

Massachusetts*

All children riding in passenger motor vehicles must be in a federally approved child passenger restraint that is properly fastened and secured according to the manufacturer's instructions until they are 8 years old or over 57 inches tall. When children outgrow their booster seats (usually around age 8 or when they are taller than 57 inches), they must wear a seat belt that is properly adjusted and fastened according to the manufacturer's instructions until the age of 13.

Michigan

Michigan law requires children under 4 years to ride in an approved car seat in the back seat; if all back seats are occupied by children younger than 4 years, a child of this age may ride in a car seat in the front seat of the auto. If the child is in a rear-facing car seat, the airbag must be turned off for the child to ride in the front. All children must be properly restrained in a car seat or booster seat until they reach 8 years of age or 4′ 9″ tall, whichever comes first. No-back booster seats are recommended for motor vehicles with a headrest, while high-back booster seats are recommended for vehicles without a headrest. Booster seats should never be used with a lap belt only. For more information on transporting children safely, please refer to the Michigan State Police website.

Michigan law states that it is illegal to leave a child unattended in a car for any length of time or under any circumstance that poses an unreasonable risk of injury or harm to the child. People doing so are guilty of a misdemeanor and may face up to 93 days in jail and a fine of up to $500 or both. If the child is harmed, imprisonment may last up to 1 year and the fine may double. If serious harm comes to an unattended child, the violation becomes a felony and is punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000 or both. Death of a child is punishable by up to 15 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

Minnesota*

In Minnesota, all children must be in a child restraint until they are 4'9" tall or at least age 8, whichever comes first. Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat's manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether. Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness and tether until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat's manufacturer. Use after outgrowing a forward-facing harnessed restraint; safest to remain in a booster until 4 feet, 9 inches tall or at least age 8, whichever comes first. After that, seat belts are fine. For more information, check out the state's child safety seat law.

Mississippi*

Infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until age 2 or until the child reaches the seat's weight or height limit. Toddlers and preschoolers who have outgrown the rear-facing seat should change over to a forward-facing car seat with harness until they reach its size limit. After that, a booster is appropriate until they grow to 4 feet, 9 inches tall. At this height, it's safe to use the vehicle's factory-installed seat belt. All children must be secured with a seat belt. Kids should sit in the back seat until at least the age of 13, as they're safer there in the event of an accident or airbag deployment.

Airbags can be dangerous for children 13 years and younger.

Missouri

Missouri's child restraint laws specify that all children under 80 pounds or 4'9" tall must be properly secured in a car or booster seat. Infants should be in a rear-facing car seat, which is advisable until 2 years of age or until a child reaches the size limit of your rear-facing child restraint system. All kids younger than 4 or weighing less than 40 pounds must be in an appropriate rear- or forward-facing car seat. When a child is at least 4 years old and weighs more than 40 pounds—both conditions must be met—he or she should move to an appropriately rated belt-positioning booster seat. At either 80 pounds or 4'9" tall, a child may be in a booster rated for his or her size, or may discontinue use of a booster and use the vehicle's factory-installed restraint system.

Montana

Montana law states that any child under the age of 6 years and weighing less than 60 pounds must ride in a child safety restraint system. Children younger than 1 must ride in an approved rear-facing car seat. Between the ages of 1 and 3 years, most children become large enough and heavy enough to move to a forward-facing car seat. Children shouldn't move up to a new car seat until they outgrow their current seat type.

Nebraska

Nebraska law states that all children up to age 6 must be secured in an appropriately rated car or booster seat. Then, children 6 to 18 must be secured in an appropriate safety seat or with the vehicle's factory-installed seat belt system. That said, age isn't nearly as important as weight and height in determining what's safest for any given kid. Here are some recommendations that provide more guidance beyond the minimum safety standards set by law. Infants and toddlers up to 2 years or 20 pounds should be in a rear-facing car seat, after which they should switch to a forward-facing car seat until they reach its size limit. Then, a belt-positioning booster seat is appropriate until it's outgrown. Children are generally able to be properly secured in a vehicle's seat belt once they reach 4′ 9" tall.

Nevada

Children younger than 6 years and weighing less than 60 pounds must ride in an approved child safety restraint system. Children older than 6 years must wear a safety belt at all times, and children of all ages are generally safest riding in the back seat of the auto and away from areas of airbag deployment. Failure to properly restrain child passengers can result in fines, community service, and suspension of your driver's license. It's illegal in Nevada for any minor to ride in the back of an open pickup truck or flatbed unless for the purpose of parades, farming, or ranching.

New Hampshire*

Children in New Hampshire are required to ride in a federally approved safety seat until they reach 7 years of age or 57 inches in height. Infants should ride in a rear-facing seat until they reach the weight and length limits listed by the manufacturer. At that point, they can move to a forward-facing seat until around the age of 4 years, when a booster seat becomes more appropriate. Children are only ready to move out of a safety seat and begin using the vehicle's seat belt when they can sit all the way back against the seat with their knees bent comfortably at the edge of the seat. Drivers who fail to properly restrain children in their vehicle face a fine of $50 for a first offense and $100 for a second or subsequent offense. Also of note, New Hampshire is the only state with no adult seat belt law.

New Jersey

New Jersey requires that all kids under 2 years old and 30 pounds be secured in a federally approved rear-facing car seat with a five-point harness. Then, all kids under 4 years of age and 40 pounds shall be secured in an appropriate forward-facing car seat until they reach its manufacturer-designated size limit. Children under 8 years of age and less than 57 inches tall must use an appropriately rated belt-positioning booster seat. After both of these thresholds are reached, kids can switch to the vehicle's factory-installed seat belts.

New Mexico

Car safety seat laws in New Mexico state that all children younger than 7 years old or weighing less than 60 pounds must be properly secured in a car or booster seat appropriate for their age, height, and weight. All children 7 to 12 years of age and who weigh over 60 pounds must be properly restrained in a booster appropriate for their age, height, and weight until they can be safely secured with the vehicle's seat belts.

New York

New York law states that all children under the age of 4 years must ride in a child safety seat. Children have to ride in a child restraint system until they turn 8 years old. Infant seats are generally for babies weighing 22 pounds or less and who are 25 inches or less in length. These seats should be rear-facing. Infants and toddlers weighing 40 pounds or less qualify for convertible child safety seats. Follow the manufacturer's instructions as to when these seats should be repositioned from rear-facing to front-facing. Children who have outgrown toddler and convertible seats should be placed in a certified booster seat for children ages 4 to 8 years and weighing 40 to 80 pounds. Once your child reaches 4 feet, 9 inches, he or she is tall enough to use an adult seat belt in most vehicles. Children 12 years of age and younger should ride in the back seat whenever possible due to safety concerns over injuries related to the deployment of airbags. Children under the age of 16 must wear a seat belt whether they are in the front or back seat.

North Carolina

As per the North Carolina Child Passenger Safety Law, all kids under age 16 must be secured in an age, height, and weight-appropriate restraint system, whether it's a car seat, booster seat, or the vehicle's built-in seat belts. Minors of at least 16 years and adults are covered under the North Carolina Seat Belt Law. If the car has both a back seat and a passenger-side front airbag, children younger than 5 years and weighing less than 40 pounds must be seated in the rear of the automobile. This tactic protects them from injuries associated with airbag deployment.

North Dakota*

The Child Passenger Safety Law in North Dakota says that all children 7 and younger must be properly secured in a car or booster seat rated for their size. For infants and toddlers, it should be a rear-facing car seat, used until the child outgrows its height and weight limitations. A forward-facing car seat is appropriate until the child is too big for it (usually around 4 years of age and 40 pounds). After that, a booster is a next step. Children may move to the vehicle's built-in seat belts at 80 pounds and 57" tall. At this size, they should be able to sit properly in the seat and have the shoulder belt across their shoulders and chest (not their face or neck) and have the lap belt go over their thighs close to the hip. All minors must be secured in an appropriate car or booster, or with a seat belt, no matter where they're sitting in the car. Kids are always safer in the back seat in the event of an accident, and they can also be harmed by airbag deployment. You may be fined $25 and have 1 point assessed against your driver's license if you're driving with an improperly secured child passenger. Find more details about regulations and best practices on the North Dakota Child Passenger Safety website.

Ohio*

Until children reach 4 years of age and 40 pounds, Ohio law requires that they are secured in a car seat appropriate for their size. For infants up to 1-year-old or 20 pounds, it should be a rear-facing car seat, which is then followed by a forward-facing car seat. Children who are over 4 years and 40 pounds may use a booster seat; this is required until the child reaches 8 years of age and a height of 4 feet, 9 inches tall. Once a child reaches this age and height, he or she may switch over to the vehicle's seat belts. Keep in mind that kids are always safest in the back seat in the event of an accident or airbag deployment.

Oklahoma

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, properly installed car and booster seats reduce the risk of death in a traffic crash by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers. Oklahoma children should ride in a rear-facing car seat until their second birthday or until they have outgrown the weight and height limits of the seat. Between 2 and 4 years, they must ride in a forward-facing car seat with an internal harness. A booster seat is appropriate for children aged 4 to 8 years unless they are taller than 4′ 9″ or they can properly fit into a regular seat belt. Even after moving to a seat belt, children are not allowed to ride in the front seat due to a risk of injury from the car's airbags.

Oregon*

In Oregon, babies must be in a rear-facing car seat until they've reached both 1 year of age and 20 pounds of body weight. After these thresholds, they have to be in a forward-facing car seat until reaching 40 pounds or the upper size limit of the car seat in use. From this point, they use a belt-positioning booster seat until they are either 4′ 9" tall or 8 years old and able to be properly secured by the vehicle's built-in seat belts.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania law specifies that children under 2 years of age must be properly restrained in a rear-facing car seat until they surpass their weight and height limit. From then up to 4 years old, children have to be in an appropriate front-facing car seat with a harness. After outgrowing this safety seat, children from 4 to 8 are required to use a booster seat. From then on, they must use the vehicle's factory-installed seat belts. Find lots more child passenger safety advice and information on the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation website.

Car Seat Safety - Get the Right Insurance Coverage

Rhode Island*

As per Rhode Island's primary seat belt law, kids 13 and up must use the vehicle's seat belts no matter where they're sitting. Through age 12, child passengers must be secured in a car or booster seat or the vehicle's factory-installed restraint system. More specifically, babies up to 1 year of age and 20 pounds should use a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of the vehicle (preferably in the center seat). After that, a front-facing car seat should be used until at least 40 pounds, or until the child surpasses the manufacturer's stated size limit. The next phase for child passengers is a booster seat, which should remain in use until the child reaches 4 feet 9 inches in height, and preferably at least 80 pounds.

South Carolina*

In South Carolina, children from birth to 1 year or weighing less than 20 pounds must be properly secured in a rear-facing child safety seat. Children ages 1 through 5 years who weigh at least 20 pounds but less than 40 pounds must ride in a forward-facing car seat. Children in this age group who weigh 40 to 80 pounds must be properly secured in a belt-positioning booster seat. Children are not required to ride in a booster if they weigh more than 80 pounds or can sit with their backs against the seat and with their legs bent over the seat edge without slouching. However, children under 6, regardless of weight, cannot sit in the front passenger seat unless there are no available rear seats. For more information, check out South Carolina's car-seat regulations.

South Dakota

In South Dakota, infants under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat, preferably in the middle of the back seat. Once they reach the age of 12 months and 20 pounds, they can move to a front-facing seat. However, rear-facing seats are safer and should be used as long as the infant does not exceed the maximum height or weight limits allowed by the manufacturer. Children 4 to 7 years old who have outgrown their front-facing seat with harness should transition to a booster seat. Until at least age 8, most children are not tall enough and do not have strong enough hipbones to safely ride in a vehicle using only a standard seat belt. Children 12 and under should never ride in the front seat due to the risk of airbag-related injuries. In South Dakota, all vehicle occupants 17 years of age and under must use a seatbelt or child safety seat. Failure to follow this rule is a primary offense in the state, which means a law enforcement officer can pull you over for not properly restraining minor passengers, even without another violation. Drivers are responsible for all minors in the vehicle.

Tennessee

Any child under 1 year of age or weighing less than 20 lbs. must be in an appropriate rear-facing car seat in the back seat of the vehicle (provided there is a back seat). Kids age 1 to 3 and over 20 lbs. have to be in a forward-facing, properly rated car seat in the back seat of the vehicle (again, as long as there is a back seat). However, if your infant car seat is rated for rear-facing use up to a higher weight limit—usually 30 or 35 lbs.—you may continue to use it that way until your child reaches the limit. Children 4 to 8 years old and all children less than 4′ 9″ in height must use a seat belt-positioning booster seat in the back seat, assuming there is one. Those age 9 to 12 and over this height have to be secured with the vehicle's built-in restraint system. While it's not the law, it's still recommended that these children ride in the rear seats; they're better protected in the event of an accident, including from injuries that can be caused by airbag deployment. The state drops this recommendation at age 13.

Leaving a child alone in a car has many risks.

It is against the law in Tennessee for a person to knowingly leave a child younger than 7 years unsupervised in a vehicle on public property. It doesn't matter if the child is unattended for 5 minutes or 50 minutes if conditions pose a risk to the child's safety, the engine is running, or the keys are inside the motor vehicle. A child is considered supervised if left in the company of a person at least 13 years of age. Leaving a child unattended and at risk is a Class B misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of $200 or $500 dollars, depending on the number of violations.

Texas

Infants and toddlers up to 2 years old should be secured in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of the vehicle in accordance with the manufacturer's installation, restraint, and size limitation instructions. From then on, up until they reach the size limitation set by the seat's manufacturer, children should be in a forward-facing car seat. After outgrowing the car seat, which typically occurs at around 4 years of age and 40 pounds, a belt-positioning booster seat is required. Follow all product directions. Children may graduate to the vehicle's seat belts when they can be properly secured by them. Generally, this is between 8 to 12 years old, when the child is at least 4′ 9" tall. Texas is one of the early adopters of laws specifically for this situation. As per state law, it's illegal to leave a child under 7 years of age unsupervised in an auto for more than 5 minutes. Someone at least 14 years old must provide supervision. Violations are Class C misdemeanors; if a child suffers injury, it becomes a child endangerment felony, punishable by six months to two years in jail and up to $10,000 in fines.

Utah

Infants should ride in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible or until they are 2 years old and 30 poiunds or they exceed the size limits set forth by the car seat's manufacturer. Once they outgrow a rear-facing seat, toddlers should ride in a forward-facing seat with a harness until they outgrow it. Older children can ride in a booster seat until they reach the height of 4 feet, 9 inches and your car's regular seat belts fit correctly.

Under Utah State law, the person responsible for the child is guilty of a class C misdemeanor if the person knowingly, intentionally, recklessly or with criminal negligence leaves a child in a vehicle; the vehicle is on public property or private property with public access; the child is not supervised by someone at least 9 years old; and the conditions present a risk to the child of hyperthermia, hypothermia, or dehydration.

Vermont*

Vermont car seat laws state that infants ride in a rear-facing seat until at least 1 year of age and 20 pounds. However, if infants who do not exceed the maximum weight and height requirements for the car seat should continue riding in the rear-facing seat and position until they do (up to 35 pounds). After babies outgrow their rear-facing position or seat, they can safely ride facing the front of the vehicle. Young children who have outgrown the harness system on their car seat, which usually happens at around 40 inches or 40 lbs., can move to a booster and use the car's lap and shoulder belt. Children should continue using a booster until they are 4'9" tall and are able to properly use the adult seat belt. Children under 12 years of age should always ride in the back seat.

Virginia

Virginia mandates that all children ride in a child restraint device until their 8th birthday. There is no weight or height requirement; the law is based solely on age. After that, it's much safer to make sure a kid can be properly secured with the vehicle's seat belts before discontinuing the use of an appropriately rated booster seat. Usually, this happens at 4′ 9" tall, when the child can sit up straight with the lap belt going over the upper thighs and the shoulder belt crossing the shoulder and chest. Children 8 through 17 years must be properly belted in the vehicle's safety belt unless they are riding in taxicabs, limousines, or school buses. Virginia law states that children are not allowed to ride unrestrained in the rear cargo area of vehicles. In Virginia, children 7 years old and under should not be left alone for any period of time, including in vehicles.

Washington

Washington State children must ride in a child restraint until their 8th birthday or until they reach a height of 4 feet, 9 inches. The restraint system, which may be a car seat, booster seat or vest, must be used correctly according to the vehicle and seat manufacturer's instructions. Infants should ride in a rear-facing seat with a five-point harness for as long as possible, per manufacturer instructions regarding weight and height requirements. Older infants and toddlers should transition to a forward-facing upright seat. Children who are 8 years or older or at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall and wear a seat belt must use it correctly or continue to ride in a booster. Vehicles with lap-only seat belts are exempt from booster requirements. Children under 13 years old should sit in the back seat whenever possible to prevent potential injuries from airbag deployment in the event of an accident. It's a misdemeanor to leave children under 16 years old unattended in a vehicle with the engine running. Subsequent violations will result in license revocation.

West Virginia*

West Virginia requires all minors to buckle up, and all children under the age of 8 years should be properly restrained in a child passenger safety device system that meets applicable state and federal motor vehicle safety standards. If a child less than 8 years reaches the height of 4′ 9", the vehicle's standard safety belt is sufficient protection. Children should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the age of 2 years or exceed the height and weight limits set by the seat's manufacturer. Rear-facing car seats should never be placed in the front of an automobile where there's an active airbag. From 2 to 4 years, children can ride front-facing in a car seat with a 5-point harness, and after 4 years and 40 pounds, a booster is appropriate. Children should not ride in the front seat of an auto until they are at least age 13.

Wisconsin*

Children under 4 years old and 40 pounds must be in an appropriate car seat. Up to 1 year old and 20 pounds, it should be a rear-facing seat; for the remainder of this window, it should be a front-facing car seat. From over 4 years and 40 pounds up to age 8 and 80 pounds or 4′ 9" tall, children must be secured in an appropriate booster. After that, kids must use the vehicle's seat belts. Front passenger seats are only safe if there isn't an enabled airbag, as deployment can cause serious injury to kids under 13. Transporting an improperly restrained child passenger under the age of 4 can result in a fine of $175.30. A first-time violation involving a child age 4 to 8 comes with a penalty of $150.10, and fines increase with subsequent infractions. For more information, check out Wisconsin's specific child car safety laws.

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