All states and territories require child safety seats for infants and children fitting specific criteria, but requirements vary based on age, weight and height. Often, this happens in three stages: infants use rear-facing infant seats; toddlers use forward-facing child safety seats; and older children use booster seats.
Many laws require all children to ride in the rear seat whenever possible, and most states permit children over a particular age, height or weight to use an adult safety belt.
First offense fines for not complying with a state's child passenger safety laws vary from $10 to $500. Some states also use driver's license points as an additional penalty for noncompliance.
- 49 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico require booster seats or other appropriate devices for children who have outgrown their child safety seats but are still too small to use an adult seat belt safely.
- The only states lacking booster seat laws is South Dakota.
- 11 states (California, Connecticut, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York [eff. 11/01/2019], Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia) require children younger than two be in a rear-facing child seat.
- 5 states (California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey and New York) have seat belt requirements for school buses. Texas requires them on buses purchased after September 2010.
NOTE: GHSA does not compile any additional data on child passenger safety laws other than what is presented here. For more information, consult the appropriate State Highway Safety Office.
Sources: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and State Highway Safety Offices.