Child Safety Seats

Securing a child in a correctly installed child safety seat can significantly reduce the possibility of death or injury.

All children under age 8 must be properly secured in a child safety seat or booster seat when riding in vehicles manufactured after January 1, 1968. Children should ride rear facing from birth to 2 years, or as long as the safety seat manufacturer allows. If the vehicle does not have a back seat, a rear facing child seat may be placed in the front passenger seat if the vehicle is not equipped with a passenger side air bag or if the passenger air bag is turned off. Children should ride facing forward in a child safety seat or booster seat until at least age 8, or until they can attain a proper seat belt fit.

Criteria for sitting without a booster seat:

  • Lap belt lies snugly across the upper thighs
  • Shoulder belt lies snugly across the shoulder and chest
  • Tall enough to sit without slouching
  • Able to keep knees naturally bent over the edge of the vehicle seat
  • Able to sit all the way back against the vehicle seat back
  • Able to keep feet flat on the floor
  • Able to sit this way for entire trip

A waiver of the child restraint law may be granted by a licensed physician if using a child restraint would be unreasonable due to the child’s weight, physical fitness or other medical reasons. The person responsible for transporting this child must carry the signed written statement by the physician identifying the child and stating the grounds for the waiver.

The driver is responsible for making sure that children are properly secured. If you are convicted of violating the child restraint law, you will be fined $50. A second or subsequent offense could mean a $500 penalty.

When traveling with children: 

  • The safest place to install a child safety seat is in the center of the back seat.
  • Numerous child safety seat checks are held in localities across Virginia. Attend one of these checks to make sure that your child’s safety seat is installed correctly. Visit www.vdh.virginia.gov for more information.
  • Never hold a child in your lap. In a crash, the child may be crushed between your body and the dashboard or the back of the seat.
  • Make sure that all car doors are securely closed and locked before driving. If your car is equipped with a child safety lock, turn it on. Don’t allow children to play with door handles or locks. If you must open a door, pull the vehicle off the road and come to a complete stop.
  • Never allow children to ride in the luggage area of hatchbacks, station wagons or vans.
  • Never leave a hatchback open when a child is riding in the back seat. 
  • It is illegal to transport children under age 16 in the bed of a pickup truck, even if equipped with a camper shell.
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