Massachusetts requires all children under age 8 and under 57 inches in height to be secured in a child passenger restraint device, such as a car seat or booster seat. Kids outside of this threshold should be secured with a vehicle seat belt.
A car seat can reduce the risk of fatal injury by up to 71% among infants under 1 and 54% for children aged 1-4. And every 33 seconds, a child in the U.S. is involved in a car accident. So there is no question that car seats are vital to keeping your kids safe on the road.
In this article, we will focus on the car seat laws in the New England state of Massachusetts. We will cover the rules and regulations you need to know as a parent or caregiver and special recommendations for children with special needs. So let’s get right to it.
State of Massachusetts Car Seat Law
Massachusetts’s car seat laws can be summarized as follows:
- Children under the age of 8 must be restrained in a child safety seat or booster seat according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- If a child is over 8 years old but taller than 57 inches, they can use a seatbelt with or without the booster seat, but that seatbelt must meet federal safety standards.
- Children between the ages of 8 and 13 must be strapped by the vehicle safety belt.
The law gives exemptions to;
- School buses
- Vehicles manufactured without seatbelts (before 1966)
- Kids with medical waivers
The state does not enforce the type of child passenger restraint, the weight and height limits of the restraint systems, or any other specifics related to the installation and use of child safety seats. However, the official website of Massachusetts has recommendations for selecting, installing, and using a child safety seat.
Types of Car Seats & Recommendations by the State of Massachusetts
The mass.gov website suggests the following types of child safety seats for various age groups.
Infants (birth to 12 months) should always be secured in a rear-facing-only car seat. Then you can upgrade to a convertible seat that is still rear-facing until they reach the car seat’s height and/or weight limits.
However, the state recommends that children remain in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible—ideally up to age 3. Toddlers between the ages of 1 and 2 are five times more secure when in a rear-facing seat than in a forward-facing one. Source
Once a child has exceeded the weight and height limits for a rear-facing car seat, they can move to a forward-facing car seat with a harness and a tether. Generally, it’s for kids between 4 and 5 years old and weighs between 40 and 65 pounds. But the limits vary by the manufacturer, and you have to adjust according to the specific guidelines of your car seat.
MA Booster Car Seats Requirements:
You can switch your child to a booster seat once they exceed the height and/or weight limits for a forward-facing car seat. For most kids, this is when they reach 4 to 8 years old and weigh between 60 to 80 pounds.
The state allows all kids taller than 57 inches to use a seatbelt without the booster seat. However, according to Washington research, kids between 4 to 8 are 45% less likely to be injured in a booster seat than when using a seatbelt alone. So it’s recommended that you use one for as long as possible.
Recommendations for Special Needs Children
Massachusetts offers several relaxations for special needs children regarding car seat laws. Kids physically unable to use regular car seats can use child restraints specifically designed for their special needs. And if they can’t even use those, they are exempted from the car seat law after review and approval from a licensed physician.
Several adaptive and specialized car seats are approved by the state, such as:
- Car beds
- Specialized rear-facing seats
- Convertible car seats
- Large medical seats
- Belt-positioning boosters
Massachusetts department of health has Certified CPS technicians who can help you install and use car seats for special needs children. You can reach one of these technicians at 1-800-227-7233 or visit the website to contact them.
Fines and Penalties For Violating MA Car Seat laws
Except for the vehicles exempted from the law (buses, taxis, etc.), all other vehicles driven in Massachusetts must comply with the state’s car seat law.
Parents or guardians who do not abide by the car seat law can be fined up to $25. However, the violation isn’t considered a negligence case and therefore doesn’t result in any points on their driving record.
But more importantly, failing to follow the car seat law can risk your child’s safety. We recommend that you take the time to understand and follow the law for your child’s safety.
Safety Tips to Remember
Here are some additional tips to help you stay safe on the road:
- AAP recommends keeping your kids in the back seat until they are at least 13. Even car restraints are best used in the back seat. But if you must use the front seat, ensure the passenger side airbags are off and the child is as far away from the dashboard as possible.
- Car seats expire after a certain time and should be replaced accordingly. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to know how long your car seat will last.
- Register your car seat with the manufacturer or carseat.org. This will keep you updated with important safety notices and important information in case of any recalls.
- Finally, if you are ever in doubt, always follow the instructions given by your car seat manufacturer. They know their product best and will provide the most up-to-date information.
Massachusetts car seat law is designed to keep your child safe and secure on the road. And the state has made a decent effort to educate and help parents understand and comply with all the car seat laws.
The health department provides Certified CPS technicians to help install and use car seats for special needs children. And the fines and penalties are there to ensure that people follow the law for safety.
It’s now up to you to ensure your child is safe and secure on the road. Ensure you stay current on safety guidelines and follow Massachusetts laws to ensure your child’s well-being.