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Vehicular crashes are the number one cause of accidental death for U.S. children less than 12 years old. In 1971, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration adopted the first federal standard for child restraint systems, which are most commonly known as car seats. Since then, every state, and the District of Columbia has enacted its own set of laws expanding on the federal requirements. These laws aim to reduce the number of child injuries and deaths in automobile accidents.

States use a variety of criteria to graduate children to less restrictive devices, such as a seat belt, as they get older and grow. Many states use age either as the primary factor or as a supporting factor in making these distinctions. Other states only consider whether a child has reached a certain height and/or weight, regardless of age. The questions below break down these requirements first by age, then by device, and any height and weight requirements. Reading the primary and secondary questions together is essential for a complete understanding of these laws.

This page displays child safety seat laws from January 1, 2014 to May 1, 2015. To explore variation in these laws click the "Start here" button below.


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Did you know?

Only 12 states require that children less than 1 year old be secured in a rear-facing child restraint system.

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