Child passenger safety laws vary from state to state. The legal minimums are nowhere near the best practice principles we teach as Child Passenger Safety Technicians. In short, the ideal is for children to ride rear facing until age 3-4, forward facing with a 5 point harness until age 5-6, in a booster until age 10-12, and in the back seat until age 13.
The legislative process is long and drawn out and takes quite some time to catch up with the most current recommendations, which are set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. By following the best practice recommendations, your child will be riding safely and you will always be in compliance with local regulations.
Below you will find a map of the United States. When you click each state, it will take you to a website that explains that state’s statutes regarding Child Passenger Safety. Most states have what is referred to as a “proper use” clause. This means and requires that the child’s seat be used according to the manufacturers instructions.