As a newly inducted mom of a lovely daughter and a travel enthusiast, I made sure to familiarise myself with the child car seat laws of some countries my family plans to visit. It is essential since these laws vary by state, country, and continent. Some places implement these rules strictly while other areas are still on the process of drafting one.
I have heard fellow parents tell some horror stories about how it was such a hassle for them not knowing these child car seat laws. There were instances where they have to hire companies on arrival since they were not aware that baby car seats are required on vehicles—whether you are driving your car, riding a taxi, or hiring a car. Unfortunately, sometimes there were no available baby car seats or the sizes are incorrect for their child.
To help, I have made a compilation of all the child car seat laws in some countries so that you can familiarize yourself with them.
List of Child Car Seat Laws
Alabama’s 32-5-222 law states that children until the age of six should use an integrated child passenger restraint system. This restraint system includes the following provisions:
- Infants who are at least one year of age or not exceeding 20 pounds should use convertible seats that are in the rear-facing positions.
- Kids with ages one to five who are also not exceeding 40 pounds are required to be seated in a convertible seat which is forward-facing.
- Children who weigh more than 40 pounds should be in booster seats.
There is also a part in the law which states that wearing seatbelts is mandatory until age 15.
The state law in Alaska requires children below one year old or weighing less than 20 pounds to use a rear-facing child car seat. From here until the age of four, they must then ride a forward-facing convertible seat. Lastly, kids who are between ages four and eight must be placed on a booster seat unless they have a minimum height of 4’9’’ or a minimum weight of 65 pounds.
Unlike Alabama, Alaska’s Sec 2 AS 28.05.095 also states that everyone, whether a child or an adult, who exceeds eight years old must use a seatbelt as mandated.
All children who are below eight years old and who do not exceed four feet and nine inches in height are required to be in a child restraint system. This child restraint system should be correctly installed and approved by certified evaluators in the state.
There are exemptions to this law, however. If the vehicle cannot accommodate several child car seats, they are not required to comply with the law. They only have to put at least one child, not all, in a proper restraint system. They have to strap a seatbelt on them.
According to the O.C.G.A. 40-8-76, children under eight years old must be in a child passenger-restraining system at the back seat. The restraining structure to be used must be appropriate for the height and weight of the kid. The United States Department of Transportations must also approve it under the provisions of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213.
This law only encompasses private vehicles, passenger automobile, pickup trucks, and vans. Exempted from this law are the taxi cabs or any public transit vehicle.
O.C.G.A. 40-8-76 also states that once the child reaches four feet and nine inches, even if they are not yet eight years old, they are already legally allowed to sit in front, given that they strap themselves using an adult seat belt. The law also exempts children who have physical or medical conditions that prevent them from being strained on a car seat. It requires, however, a written statement from the child’s physician.
Children under eight years old must be placed in a child restraint system as required by the 625 ILCS 25/4 Child Passenger Protection Act. The United States Department of Transportation should approve these booster seats before using them. Children who reach 40 pounds before turning eight are also allowed to sit in the back seat provided that they use a lap-shoulder or lap-only belt.
Kids who are 40 inches tall or less are required to be in a child restraint system during travel. The restraint system should satisfy the requirements provided by the FMVSS 213. Those children who are between 40 and 57 inches tall and are eight years old should use a child booster seat while those whose height is only between 40 and 50 inches tall and are under the age of seven should use a booster seat that has a shoulder seat belt.
Eight-year-old children and those below 57 inches in height are prescribed to be in a child passenger restraint. This law requires the car owners and parents to properly secure the car seats depending on the manufacturer’s instructions.
MCA 63-7-301 of the Mississippi Department of Health mandates all children under seven years old to use a properly fitting child restraint during travel to meet the necessary provisions in the federal motor vehicle safety standards. The child car seat law requires those from four to seven years of age, measuring 4′9’″ in height, and weighs less than 65 pounds to install a belt-positioning booster seat system instead of any other kind of convertible car seat.
Children in Nebraska must be transported using a child passenger restraint system which satisfies the standards of the FMVSS 213. Those who are under the age of two shall use a rear-facing car seat. The parents can eliminate the use of this car seat until the child outgrows it as prescribed by the manufacturer’s allowable user height and weight.
In addition, children who are ages 8 to 18 must ride in a secured occupant protection system.
The child car seat laws of New Jersey are more complicated and specific than the provisions of its neighboring states. The NJSA 39:3-76.2A states the following:
- Children under two years of age and who have a maximum weight of 30 pounds shall be in a rear-facing child restraint system equipped with a five-point harness.
- Children under four years old and who weigh less than 40 pounds must use a forward-facing child restraint installed with a five-point harness. They can also use a rear-facing car seat given that they do not exceed the maximum height and weight recommendations of the manufacturer.
- Children under eight years old and who are at most 57 inches tall must be in a booster seat. They can also use a forward-facing child restraint with a five-point harness given that they do not exceed the maximum height and weight recommendations of the manufacturer.
Children under four years old should be in a rear-facing or forward-facing car seat which satisfies the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Those who are less than eight years of age and who have not reached 4’10’’ are required to be seated on a booster seat. Older children, ages 8 to 15 years old, should be properly restrained in an occupant-restraining device.
An occupant-restraining device is a car seat with a shoulder belt, seat safety belt, or any safety tool which adheres to the minimum requirements of the FMVSS.
Canadian children who measure less than 63 cm are required to travel using a car seat that is personalized depending on the weight of the child. This law only applies to private vehicles and exempts other modes of transportation such as buses, coaches, and vans. The penalty for violating this law is CND 115 to CND 154 in fine, alongside three demerit points.
Japan law mandates all children under six years of age to use a car seat. Although they are not that strict regarding the specifications of the car seats, they still post some recommended guidelines, these being the following:
- For children under two years old or less than 20 pounds: rear-facing car seat
- For children under four years old and less than 40 pounds: forward-facing car seat
- For children under eight years old and less than 80 pounds: booster seat
In the event that you are caught violating this law for the first time, you will lose one point on your driver’s license. Succeeding offenses will require you to pay a fine instead.
Unlike some countries in Europe and the US, Japan does not require the presence of a child car seat when riding a taxi or a bus. Drivers are also exempted from this law in case they forget to place their children on a car seat due to an injury or illness on the way to the hospital. This law also states that the baby does not have to be seated on the car seat whenever he or she needs a diaper change or while the mother is breastfeeding him or her.
The car seat law in Korea requires all children under six years old (Western age) to be transported using a booster seat or car seat. Violators must pay a fine of 60,000 won on their first offense.
Senate Bill 1971 requires children 12 years old and younger to be placed on a child restraint system when traveling in a private vehicle. The bill also prohibits children under 150 cm from sitting on the front passenger seat as a safety precaution. Lastly, the bill also seeks to penalize adult companions who leave any child unattended inside the vehicles.
Violators are fined based on the following circumstances:
- PHP 1000 on the first offense
- PHP 2000 on the second offense
- PHP 5000 and suspension of driver’s license for a year on the third and succeeding offenses
Starting in 2012, Singapore required children below 1.35 m to use the appropriate child constraint, as per Singapore’s Road Traffic Rules law. The seat must tailor-fit the height and weight of the child. In addition, these booster seats should come with a seat belt or an adjustable seat belt. Those who exceed the height requirement of 1.35 m are enforced to wear a seat belt, regardless of their age.
Violators must pay a fine of at least $1000 or face imprisonment.
Children under 135 cm are required to use a child restraint seat which is suitable for both their height and weight. Once they have exceeded the required height, no matter what his or her age is, they are only required to use their car seat belt. This child car seat law also states that the seat to be used should satisfy UN R44 or R129.
You have to remember, however, that you are not allowed to place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat unless you deactivate the airbag. It is the responsibility of the driver and the car owner to install the right safety equipment to ensure the survival of the child passengers.
All children that are both less than ten years old and less than 135 cm in height must be seated on an R129/UN R44-approved child car seat. If the parents still feel the need to place their children in a convertible seat, they can use a booster seat until their kid reaches 150 cm.
The law also allows the parents to transport their children to place their car seats on the front seat if there is no adequate space available at the back or if there are no seat belts installed at the back seat.
The child car seat law requires the placement of a UN R44/R129-approved child restraint for children younger than 12 years old or are shorter than 150 cm, whichever comes first. If you are a foreigner traveling in the country, make sure to bring a travel car seat with you since this regulation also requires children to be placed on car seats in taxis.
Children under 150 centimeters in height, regardless of their age and weight, should use a child restraint seat as approved by the UN R44/R129. Babies are also allowed to ride on a rear-facing car seat located on the front seat, provided you deactivate the airbag on the compartment.
Unlike in Germany, you do not have to worry about bringing a travel car seat since the regulation does not cover taxis.
Unlike other child car seat laws in Europe, the provisions in the Netherlands are a little bit more complicated. The law states the following terms:
- All children under 135 cm must be seated on a certified car seat as evaluated by UN R44/R 129.
- Given that the car does not have seat belts installed in the back seat, kids that are three years or older can ride in the back seat.
- If there is no room for three car seats in a scenario where the parents want to transport three children, kids who are three years or older may use the seat belt instead.
It is mandatory for all children under 18 years of age and less than 135 cm tall to sit on a UN R44/R129-approved convertible car seat. It must also be in the back seat of the car. If police catch you violating this law, they will require the parents to do either of the following: find another vehicle which can transport the child or let the parent ask someone to bring them a car seat. Either way, the fine for this violation will not be lower than 300 euros.
Australia & Oceania
There are various child car seat laws in each Australian state, but most of the territories have the following conditions:
- Six-month-old baby: Must be restrained in an approved infant capsule or convertible car seat
- Six months to four years of age: Must be using a rear-facing or forward-facing child car seat
- Four to seven years old or older: Must be using a booster seat installed with an adult lap-sash seatbelt or forward-facing car seat with an inbuilt harness
- Children 145 cm or taller (regardless of age): Use an adult lap-sash seatbelt
This law is also applicable to buses with 12 seats or more. However, if the seating capacity is less than 12, the rules won’t apply anymore.
As per New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 1754, UNR44, and American Standard FMVSS 213’s provision, all children under seven years old must be in a car seat that is suitable for their height and weight. The government also allows placing car seats on the front seat provided that the owner or driver deactivates the airbag.
If you are driving in Nigeria, you should follow these child car seat laws to ensure the safety of the kids:
- Kids ages 0 to 12 months are not allowed to ride in the front of the vehicle.
- Children from ages one to seven should be in the back seat.
- Children above age seven may ride the car facing in front but should be wearing safety belts.
- Adults are not allowed to carry children on the lap.
The child car seat laws in South Africa states that citizens should adhere to the following conditions: car seats should be ECE-verified and should be the right size for the child.
South African car seats follow the European regulations. Hence, all car seats should pass the evaluation and certification by the Economic Commission for Europe or ECE. Parents buying these devices should look for a certification sticker placed on the seat which will show its certification number and codes.
There are also weight limits for the different types of baby seats with these being the following:
- Reclining baby seats - 0 to 10 kg
- Toddler seats - 9 to 18 kg
- Booster seats - 15 to 25 kg
- Bum-booster seats - 22 to 36 kg
Parents should make sure that the seats they are purchasing are appropriate for their child’s weight.
Travel Car Seat Tips
If you are traveling with your baby and the country you are going to has a particular child car seat law, make sure to abide by it. There are two options on how to go about these—bring your car seat or rent from a car hire company. Here are some factors you need to scrutinize when choosing between the two:
- Check the prices of the car seat in advance. There are reviews online where you can find some feedback from previous customers. Compare the prices with the cost of bringing your own. Do not forget to include the extra luggage charges on your computation.
- Some airlines have a list of car seats which are allowed to enter their planes. Do not forget to check whether your car seat is on the list or not.
- Aside from the price, make sure to take into account the sizes of these travel car seats as well. There are hire companies which offer single seaters while others provide group car seats for your children. When you receive the car seat, ensure first that it is suitable for the weight and age of your kid. Remember to check the label on its back as well to see whether the car company is telling the truth regarding its specifications.
- Some companies offer car seats that are not in the best conditions. Hence, it is best if you check its different parts first such as the harness and buckles.
- Check if the car company is offering its service in installing these car seats. If not, bring your guide so you won’t need any assistance from there anymore.
- Confirm whether the company’s car seats abide by the requirements of the child car seat laws. This way, you won’t have to worry about paying fines in a foreign country.
It might be a hassle for you to study all of these things. However, remember that it is better to go through this road than enter an unsafe environment with your child.