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Home United States Quick Law Reference

Quick Law Reference - Child Restraint and Seatbelt Laws by State

Child restraint/belt use laws

There are mandatory safety belt laws in 49 states and the District of Columbia. In some states, these laws cover front-seat occupants only, although belt laws in 24 states and the District of Columbia cover all rear seat occupants, too.

Belt use laws in only 30 states and the District of Columbia are standard, or primary, meaning police may stop vehicles solely for belt law violations. Police authority to enforce belt laws in other jurisdictions is limited. Officers must have some other reason to stop a vehicle before citing an occupant for failing to buckle up.

The safety belt defense is allowed in 16 states. Damages collected by someone in a crash may be reduced for failure to use a belt. The reduction is permitted only for injuries caused by nonuse of belts, and, in some states, the reduction may not exceed a fixed percentage of the damages.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have child restraint laws. Child restraint laws require children to travel in approved child restraint devices, and some permit or require older children to use adult safety belts. The age at which belts can be used instead of child restraints differs among the states. Young children usually are covered by child restraint laws, while safety belt laws cover older children and adults. Because enforcement and fines differ under belt use and child restraint laws, it's important to know which law is being violated when a child isn't restrained. Child restraint laws are standard for all children covered except Colorado, Nebraska, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. In Colorado, the law is secondary only for children ages 4 through 5 years who must be in booster seats. Nebraska's law is secondary only for those children who may be in safety belts and standard for those who must be in a child restraint device. Ohio's law is secondary for children ages 4 through 14 years. In Pennsylvania, the law is secondary only for children ages 4 through 7 years who must be in booster seats.

Ideally, all infants and children in all vehicles should be covered by safety belt laws or child restraint laws or both. But differences in the way the laws in various states are worded result in many occupants, especially children, being covered by neither law. Lawmakers are eliminating these gaps by amending their child restraint and safety belt laws. They also should make certain that police can stop drivers to enforce restraint laws covering older children. All children younger than 16 in 44 states and the District of Columbia are covered by one, or both laws.


For the complete list of ages for Children in safety seats, please click here.






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