Car seat safety regulations vary based on local laws and the age, weight and height of the child. The majority of localities establish baseline regulations that state infants must ride in rear-facing seats, toddlers must ride in forward-facing seats and older children may use booster seats.
All states in the U.S. require child safety seats for infants and toddlers. The vast majority of states (48 and Washington D.C.) require booster seats or similar devices for children who have outgrown their child seats but are still too small for adult seat belts.
Although the age of a "child" varies widely between jurisdiction, several state and local laws require all children to ride in a car seat whenever possible. The vast majority of states permit children over a certain age (typically 12 years old) to use an adult seat belt.
Car seat safety regulations require children of certain ages and/or weights to ride in specific safety seats. Local car seat safety regulations also state when it is permissible for a child to use an adult safety belt. These regulations are strictly enforced and are met with fines for first offenses and more serious penalties for subsequent violations.
To view a particular state's car seat safety laws, visit the Governors Highway Safety Association's website to access the interactive map.