Child Passenger Safety & Restraint Use: a State-by-State Analysis

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for a child passenger in the United States.

child passenger seat belt safety statisticChild safety seats are required in every state because they’re proven to maximize safety for a child passenger in the event of a car accident. Using a car seat reduced the risk of death to infants by 71% and to toddlers by 54%. Sadly, child restraint systems are often used incorrectly, or sometimes, not at all.

There’s a reason car manufacturers are required to display warning labels regarding airbags because the airbag deployment zone is extremely dangerous for young passengers. Airbags deploy with tremendous force and speed, which can cause serious injury or death to a child.

This is why it’s recommended that most children, 13 years or younger, sit properly restrained in the back seat of a vehicle.

Child Car Seat Laws in Louisiana

Age and size-appropriate child restraint use is the most effective method for reducing injury and death among child passengers.

The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission (LHSC) regulates our state’s child passenger safety laws. More specifically, Louisiana state law requires:

  • Children less than 12 months old, or less than 20 lbs., must be restrained in a rear-facing child safety seat.
  • Children aged 1 to 4, or 20-40 lbs., must be restrained in a forward-facing child safety seat.
  • Children 4 and 5 years old, or 40-60 lbs., must be restrained in a booster seat.
  • Children age 6 to 13, or more than 60 lbs., must be restrained in either a booster seat or a seat belt regardless of seating position.
  • When the passenger side front airbag is active, children younger than age 6, or less than 60 lbs., must be in the rear seat, if available.

Child car seat laws are not suggestions. Violations of the child restraint laws are standard offenses. Drivers with child passengers can be ticketed and fined for breaking child safety laws; in Louisiana, fine amounts increase with subsequent violations.

Fortunately, Louisiana offers extensive help for drivers in need of assistance with their child safety seats and restraints. There are numerous technicians available to provide education and instillation assistance should it be necessary.

Vital Statistics: A National Overview

While all states have child safety seat laws, these laws are not the same state-to-state. This is also the case with mandatory safety belt laws; some states have secondary enforcement of such laws, which means a driver can’t be pulled over simply for not wearing his seat belt; and some state laws don’t cover passengers sitting in the back seat.

primary seat belt laws definitionFor example, New Hampshire is the only state without a mandatory safety belt law. Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, and Montana, among others, have secondary enforcement laws.

Louisiana, California, Texas, and Florida, to name a few, utilize primary enforcement, meaning the driver may be cited solely for belt law violations, and the law covers all passengers in a vehicle.

According to the CDC, restraint use among children often depends on the driver’s seat belt use. Almost 40% of children riding with unbelted drivers were themselves unrestrained.

In other words, children who see their driver buckle up are more likely to do so as a passenger.

The CDC also notes other disparities in seat belt use among children: black and Hispanic children are more likely to not be buckled up compared to other groups; older children (8-12 years old) are more likely to be unbuckled compared to younger children (4-7 years old).

See the chart below for state details regarding enforcement of safety belt laws and at what age a child must be in a child restraint or booster seat:

State Enforcement Type for mandatory seat belt laws (all ages) Age of child for mandatory use of restraint or booster seat
Alabama Primary 5 and younger
Alaska Primary 7 and younger
Arizona Secondary 7 and younger
Arkansas Primary 5 and younger
California Primary 7 and younger
Colorado Secondary 7 and younger
Connecticut Primary 6 and younger
Delaware Primary 7 and younger
District of Columbia Primary 7 and younger
Florida Primary 5 and younger
Georgia Primary 7 and younger
Hawaii Primary 7 and younger
Idaho Secondary 6 and younger
Illinois Primary 7 and younger
Indiana Primary 7 and younger
Iowa Primary 5 and younger
Kansas Primary 7 and younger
Kentucky Primary 7 and younger
Louisiana Primary 5 and younger
Main Secondary 7 and younger
Maryland Secondary 7 and younger
Massachusetts Secondary 7 and younger
Michigan Primary 7 and younger
Minnesota Primary 7 and younger
Mississippi Primary 6 and younger
Missouri Secondary 7 and younger
Montana Secondary 5 and younger
Nebraska Secondary 5 and younger
Nevada Secondary 5 and younger
New Hampshire No Law 6 and younger
New Jersey Primary 7 and younger
New Mexico Primary 6 and younger
New York Primary 7 and younger
North Carolina Primary 7 and younger
North Dakota Secondary 6 and younger
Ohio Secondary 7 and younger
Oklahoma Primary 7 and younger
Oregon Primary 7 and younger
Pennsylvania Secondary 7 and younger
Rhode Island Primary 7 and younger
South Carolina Primary 5 and younger
South Dakota Secondary 4 and younger
Tennessee Primary 8 and younger
Texas Primary 7 and younger
Utah Primary 7 and younger
Vermont Secondary 7 and younger
Virginia Secondary 7 and younger
Washington Primary 7 and younger
West Virginia Primary 7 and younger
Wisconsin Primary 7 and younger
Wyoming Secondary 8 and younger

* Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), Jan. 2017

Thousands of people die every year because they don’t buckle up. Children watch our behavior behind the wheel, so it stands to reason that despite the particulars of your state’s enforcement, buckling up is a good way to instill these important safety precautions in a child passenger, who will eventually become a teen driver.

The CDC, in combination with state agencies and other organizations like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), are developing strategies to increase seat belt and child restraint use in Louisiana, and across the board.

This includes adopting primary seat belt laws in all states, incentive and education programs for parents, and seat belt checkpoints, to name but a few.

Child Passenger Safety

Tony Tramontana - Medical Malpractice AttorneyChild passenger safety is everyone’s responsibility. If you have any questions about an auto accident or injury caused by a negligent driver or defective child restraint, we at the Monroe Law Office of J. Antonio Tramontana want to hear from you.

For a free case review, please fill out the form to the right, or call us directly at (888) 982-1290.