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Vehicular crashes continue to be the number one cause of accidental death for U.S. children less than 12 years old. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) adopted the first federal standard for child restraint systems in 1971. Tennessee was the first state to pass a child restraint law in 1978. Since then, every state and the District of Columbia have enacted its own set of statutes that build upon the federal requirements. These regulations are aimed at reducing the number of injuries and deaths of children as a result of automobile accidents.
Most state statues use age as a factor in placing a child into a specific child restraint system. Many states allow children to graduate into a different device (such as a seat belt) once the child reaches a certain height and/or weight, regardless of age. The queries below address height and weight requirements for age based on the literal text of the law. Because PHLR takes a strict “no interpretation” policy while answering questions, some of the queries may seem improbable because of the way the law is written. To avoid this ambiguity, read through the primary and secondary queries to gain a maximum understanding of the state statutes.
This page has been updated through November 2013.
PHLR National Program Office research: Child Safety Seat Laws