Every year, hundreds of children are killed in motor vehicle accidents and thousands more are injured. The use of proper restraints can help reduce the risk of death by about 75% for children under three, and by nearly 50% for children eight and under.

Not only is it the smart and responsible decision, but using the correct child restraints is required by law in all 50 states. So, what are the car seat laws in Kansas?

According to Kansas car seat laws, infants who weight up to 20 pounds must be in a rear-facing, infant-only seat or convertible car seat. For toddlers, the weight limit is 20-40 pounds and they must be in a rear-facing or front-facing convertible car seat or a 3-in-1. Children 4-8 years old must weigh 40-100 lbs. and be in a front-facing booster car seat. All car seats must be secured through a harness strap for infants or toddlers, and a seat belt for children 4 years or older.

Infant Car Seat Law

In Kansas, all children under the age of four must be securely buckled into a federally approved child safety seat or in a vehicle manufacturer’s integrated child safety seat, no matter where they’re seated in the vehicle.

An infant is defined as a baby that’s under one year (12 months) old. Infants should always be placed in a rear-facing car seat. If the seat is an infant-only car seat, it must only be used in the rear-facing position. 

Infant car seats are designed for newborns and small babies, and they’re smaller and more easily portable than the larger, convertible types of seats. Infant car seats are designed to only be used in the rear-facing position.

Your baby will likely outgrow their infant car seat before they reach 12-months of age, but you can switch to a convertible seat or a 3-in-1 and continue to use it in the rear-facing position.

AgeInfant (birth to one year old)
WeightUp to 20 pounds (varies by seat manufacturer)
Car Seat TypeInfant-only seat or Convertible in rear-facing position
Seat DirectionRear-facing only
Harness StrapsShould be at or below shoulder level 

According to the law, children ages one, two, or three may ride in a forward-facing car seat once they outgrow their rear-facing infant seat. However, they should always ride in the back seat, because it’s safer, and it’s recommended that they stay rear-facing as long as their seat will safely allow.

Infant Car Seat Law Kansas

Certain car seats, like convertible or 3-in-1 car seats, usually have higher weight limits for rear-facing placement, which allows you to keep your child in a rear-facing seat for longer than an infant-only car seat. A car seat placed in the backseat and in the rear-facing position is the safest place for your child.

Convertible seats can convert from rear-facing to forward-facing using a harness and tether. The 3-in-1 (or all-in-one) type can convert from rear-facing to forward-facing to booster seat. 

AgeOver 1 year old (toddler – preschool age)
Weight20-40 pounds
Car Seat TypeConvertible or 3-in-1
Seat DirectionRear-facing or front-facing (depends on seat limits)
Harness StrapsShould be at or above shoulder level 

Rear Facing Car Seat Law

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a rear-facing car seat is the best type of seat for young children to use. This type of car seat includes a harness, which keeps the child tightly secured and cradled in the seat during a crash.

A harness moves with the child on impact, and reduces the chances of injury to the neck and spinal cord. 

At the minimum, your child must be in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least one year old and at least 20 pounds (or the seat’s upper limits). However, it’s recommended that your child stay in the rear-facing position until they reach 35 pounds, or whatever the car seat’s weight limit is. 

When sitting in a rear-facing car seat, the infant should be sitting in a semi-upright position at an angle of 45 degrees or less. Most car seats have a measuring device or chart on the side that will show you the seat’s angle.

Check your car seat’s instruction booklet for the exact angle recommendation for your specific seat. 

The seat’s base should be completely flat. You may need to use a towel or foam noodle underneath the seat to keep it flat, depending on the angle of your vehicle’s seat. 

Note: Never place a rear-facing car seat in a vehicle seat that’s equipped with an airbag.

Booster Car Seat Law

In Kansas, children aged four to eight, or those under 80 pounds, or those who are under 4’9” tall must be restrained using a booster seat with a lap and shoulder belt when available. 

The safest option is to keep your child in their forward-facing car seat as long as possible. Once your child reaches the seat’s upper height and/or weight limit, it’s time to switch to a booster seat. 

The booster seat should still be placed in the vehicle’s back seat for the safest conditions. 

All children who are ages 4, 5, 6, or 7 must ride in a booster seat, unless one of the following conditions are met: 

  • The child is 4 feet 9 inches tall, or taller
  • The child weighs 80 or more pounds
  • The vehicle only has a lap belt available

In any of those cases, the child must be restrained by the vehicle’s seat belt system if the booster isn’t used. 

Age4-8 years
Weight40-100 lbs. (check booster seat’s specifications)
Car Seat TypeBelt-positioning booster seat
Seat DirectionFront-facing
Seat BeltMust be used with both lap belt and shoulder belt (when available

Once the child reaches age 8, they may ride using a seat belt only. However, it’s recommended that the child be at least 4’9” tall and weigh 80 pounds before switching to a standard seat belt. And, it’s important that you ensure that the child is big enough for the seat belt to fit properly before ditching the booster seat. 

Kansas Booster Car Seat Law

For a seat belt to fit properly and safely restrain your child, the lap belt must fit snugly over the top of the thighs, not across the child’s stomach. In addition, the shoulder belt should fit snugly over the shoulder and chest, not across the child’s neck or face. 

If the seat belt doesn’t fit across the child’s body properly and in the proper positioning, then they need to stay in their booster seat a little longer.

It’s also a good idea to consider your child’s maturity and whether they can sit properly without playing with or disengaging the seat belt.

When Can a Child Sit in the Front Seat?

While there aren’t any rules codified as law in Kansas about when children can sit in the front seat, there is still general guidance we can follow.

According to the Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Office, all children under the age of 12 should sit in the back seat. The back seat is the safest place for a child. 

However, if a child must ride in a front seat, you should slide the seat back as far as possible to avoid air bag impact. This is especially important for children riding in a front-facing car seat. Children in a rear-facing car seat should never ride in a front seat. 

Leaving Child Unattended Law

In Kansas, it’s illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle for an extended period.

According to Senate Bill No. 77, drivers may not leave children who are ages 5 or under unattended and unsupervised in a vehicle for more than five minutes, unless the vehicle is being loaded or unloaded.

If any law enforcement officer observes a child unattended and unsupervised in a vehicle is authorized to remove the child from the vehicle using any means necessary. Drivers who violate the law can be cited and fined.

It’s important to note that this law is enforceable on both public and private property. So, even if your car is parked in your driveway, you still cannot leave children unattended to play in the vehicle. 

Can You Smoke in the Car with Children?

Kansas doesn’t currently have any laws in place banning smoking in the car with children. However, several other states do currently have laws on the books which prohibit smoking in vehicles carrying children.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that vehicles carrying children be smoke-free to reduce childrens’ exposure to secondhand smoke. The concentrations of secondhand smoke can become very high in cars where an individual is smoking.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reported that studies have shown that exposing children to secondhand smoke can increase the risk of lower respiratory illness, ear infections, asthma, and SIDS.

Further, exposing children to secondhand smoke may increase their risk of developing cancer during adulthood. The AAP recommends that vehicles remain smokefree when children are riding.

Using a Second-Hand or Used Car Seat

If you’re thinking about using a second-hand car seat, there are some things to consider to ensure that it’s safe for your child. Read each of these statements, and if you can verify that each of them apply to the car seat, it may be safe for you to use. 

  • The seat has never been involved in a moderate to severe car crash.
  • The seat has original labels with the manufacture date and model number (to check for recalls and verify whether the seat is too old).
  • The seat has no recalls, or, the recall can be fixed by the manufacturer. 
  • The seat has all its original parts, or, you can get the missing part from the manufacturer.
  • The seat has its instruction booklet, or, you can order one from the manufacturer.

Can You Keep Using Your Car Seat After an Accident?

It’s recommended that you replace your car seat after a moderate to severe crash in order to ensure that the seat is still 100% safe for your child. However, you don’t need to replace your car seat after a minor accident. 

To know if a crash is considered “minor” versus moderate or severe, you should ask yourself a few questions about the accident. In order for it to be a minor crash, all of the following must be true: 

  • The vehicle could be driven away from the accident. 
  • The vehicle door nearest to the car seat wasn’t damaged.
  • None of the vehicle’s passengers sustained any injuries.
  • No airbags deployed during the crash.
  • There is no visible damage to the car seat. 

If you cannot answer “yes” to those questions, or if the car seat was involved in a moderate to severe crash, the seat should be replaced right away. A car seat that’s been in a crash may lose some of its integrity and may not offer full protection to your child. 

Other Useful Resources

Check out this page on Child Passenger Safety from the Kansas Highway Patrol to learn more about Kansas’ 4-Steps for Kids policy on child seats and vehicle restraints. 

Remember, you should select a car seat based on your child’s age, size, and weight, while also ensuring that you choose a seat that properly fits in your vehicle. Use a car seat every time you travel with your child. 

To help you select the right type of car seat, use this simple graphic from the NHTSA:

You can also check out this video to help you choose the right car seat for your child.

Car Seat Installation Tips To Ensure Safety 

It’s always a good idea to read the car seat’s instruction booklet and check your vehicle’s owner’s manual for car seat information before you begin installing your car seat. Your vehicle may be equipped with anchors, or you may need to use the seat belt system to secure the car seat. 

Place the car seat in your vehicle’s back seat and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Ensure the seat is secured tightly and that it doesn’t move or slide more than one inch in any direction. 

If the car seat is front-facing with a tether strap, ensure that you connect the tether anchor and tighten the strap. This feature helps prevent whiplash or injury to the neck, head, or spinal cord during a collision. 

If the car seat is rear-facing, ensure that you install it at the appropriate recline angle. Most seats have built-in adjusters or angle indicators that will show you what angle the seat is set to. 

If you’re uncertain about installing your car seat or have any questions, reach out to your local fire department or police station. Most of these offer free assistance and inspections to ensure your car seat is properly installed. Many hospitals will perform this check before you leave with your baby as well. 

Important Safety Videos 

For step-by-step instructions and demonstrations on how to install your car seat, check out these videos from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: 

Rear-Facing Infant Seat with Seat Belt Installation

Rear-Facing Infant Seat with Lower Anchors (LATCH) 

Forward-Facing 3-in-1 Car Seat with Lower Anchors (LATCH)

Forward-Facing Combination Car Seat with Belt and Tether

Installing a Combination Car Seat as a Booster Seat

Another helpful resource is the NHTSA Car Seat Glossary that breaks down all the different terms, vehicle parts, and car seat parts that you need to know about when choosing, installing, and using a child safety seat in your car.

Why You Should Obey Car Seat Laws?

Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in children, and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), at least 59% of car seats are installed incorrectly. Each state has its own specific regulations when it comes to car seat requirements, and Kansas is no exception.

Kansas child car seat safety laws are designed to protect your children from preventable injuries and death. Injuries for children requiring treatment at a hospital in Kansas for 2017 were 190 children every hour. You can find more information about Kansas car seat laws on the highway patrol website.

Final Thoughts

The Child Passenger Safety Act (KSA 8-1343) is a law that requires all children under the age of four to be secured in a federally approved child safety seat. Whether the seat is an infant seat, convertible seat, 3-in-1, and whether it’s rear-facing or front-facing depends on the child’s age, size, and weight, and your vehicle. 

Children ages four to eight must be in a child safety seat or booster seat, unless they’re taller than 4’9” or weigh over 80 pounds. 

All children must be protected by a safety belt if they’re not secured in a car seat or booster seat. Remember, the safest place for your child is in the back seat. If you can’t seat them in the back seat, try to slide the front seat back as far as possible if it’s equipped with airbags. 

Drivers can be cited and fined if children aren’t properly secured using the appropriate restraint system while riding in a motor vehicle.

It’s also illegal in Kansas to leave children under five unattended and unsupervised in a car, even if it’s on your private property. Small children can become seriously injured or die if they become trapped in a hot car. Children should never be allowed to play in or around motor vehicles.

Ensuring that children are seated and restrained correctly can be the difference between serious injury or death and walking away unharmed in the event of a vehicle crash. Not only is it the law to use the proper restraints when transporting children in your vehicle, it’s the right thing to do. 

For more information about all the different types of car seats, recommendations on the right seat for your vehicle, and tips with installation, check out the NHTSA page dedicated to all things car seats. 

Author

Welcome to my car seat blog! As a mom of 3, I put together with other hard-working moms a highly informative one-stop car seat resource, full with many reviews and buyer guides. I hope you find it invaluable. Thank you for trusting me & my team! - Keren

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