Massachusetts requires all children under the age of 8 or shorter than 4 feet 9 inches to be in some variation of a car seat. Children outside this threshold are required to wear the installed car seatbelt.
Every state differs to varying degrees on its car seat regulations which is why it is important to review the information for any state you plan to be traveling in or through.
In this article, we will focus on the New England state of Massachusetts. We will review in detail rear-facing, forward-facing, booster seat laws, as well as the car seat requirements for special needs children.
- Different Types of Car Seats Allowed in Massachusetts
- Rear-Facing Car Seat
- Forward-Facing Car Seat
- Massachusetts Booster Seat Laws
- Massachusetts Seat Belt Law and Applicable Fines
- When Can a Child Ride in the Front Seat in Massachusetts?
- Children with Special Needs
- Car Seat Inspection Sites
- Keep Your Children Safe
Different Types of Car Seats Allowed in Massachusetts
A rear-facing car seat is a seat specially designed for an infant. The rear-facing design is both more secure and more comfortable for a baby that is not yet strong enough to hold up his or her neck. The safest spot for a rear-facing car seat is in the backseat of the vehicle.
Front-facing or forward-facing car seats have higher weight limits and can better accommodate toddlers and young children. However, they still use a full over-the-shoulder harness like a rear-facing car seat.
Booster seats are meant for young children that are too big for a front-facing car seat but not yet big enough to fit securely and safely in the car’s installed seatbelt.
Massachusetts does allow parents to use convertible or all-in-one seats as long as they are positioned into the appropriate configuration for the age and height of the child.
NOTE: Car seats are invalidated after a certain age because they are no longer in line with newly updated regulations. Plus, they can also lose their structural integrity after several years of use.
Rear-Facing Car Seat
According to the Mass.gov website, all children under the age of 8 or less than 57 inches tall must be placed in a child passenger restraint that is federally-approved. However, the state recommends keeping children in a rear-facing seat as long as possible. Ideally, the child will stay in the rear-facing position until he or she is 2-years-old. However, some children may hit the maximum weight and height limits before turning two.
Rear-facing is safest even for slightly older children. Toddlers between the ages of one and two are five times safer in a seat that is rear-facing than they are in a forward-facing position.
A rear-facing car seat should always be placed in the backseat of the vehicle. For those who drive pickup trucks with no backseat, Mass.gov states that a rear-facing car seat may be buckled onto the truck, but only if the airbag can be turned off.
Forward-Facing Car Seat
Once a child reaches the maximum weight and height limits recommended by the manufacturer, it is time to move them to the forward-facing position. Massachusetts recommends that forward-facing car seats be equipped with a harness and a tether.
This will ensure that the child is properly restrained and that the seat will remain securely fastened inside the vehicle. Mass.gov recommends that children remain in the forward-facing car seat until they reach the age of four or weigh 40 pounds.
Massachusetts Booster Seat Laws
It is recommended that parents keep their children in a harnessed car seat as long as possible. However, it is acceptable to move them into a booster seat once they are 4-years-old. The child must properly fit in the booster with the lap belt going across the hips, and the shoulder harness going across the chest.
The state of Massachusetts has Child Passenger Safety Technicians that can help parents ensure their booster seats are properly installed. You can reach one of these technicians at 1-800-227-7233.
Massachusetts Seat Belt Law and Applicable Fines
Massachusetts law states that all passengers in a motor vehicle weighing under 18,000 pounds must be properly secured with a safety belt or car seat. In addition, the seat must be properly secured.
Fines for not wearing a seatbelt start at $25, but drivers can also be fined for any passengers inside their car under the age of 16 that are not properly buckled. This means that any child not in the proper car seat will be additional fines that the driver will be required to pay.
There are a few exceptions to the seat belt law in Massachusetts. Drivers operating vehicles that were made prior to 1966 are exempt. Other exceptions include vehicles weighing more than 18,000 pounds. Passengers on school buses are also exempt from the seat belt requirements.
When Can a Child Ride in the Front Seat in Massachusetts?
The state recommends that all children ride in the backseat as it is the safest place for them to be. However, those 12 and under are required to remain in the backseat at all times. Once a child turns 13, he or she is allowed to be in the front according to Mass.gov.
Children with Special Needs
Massachusetts has Certified CPS technicians that can help you find the proper seat for your child with special needs. There are several adaptive and specialized car seats that are approved by the state. These include but may not be limited to:
- Car beds
- Specialized rear-facing seats
- Convertible car seats
- Large medical seats
- Belt-positioning boosters
These special seats are designed for children with permanent or temporary conditions that prevent them from being placed in a traditional child safety seat.
Car Seat Inspection Sites
The state wants to keep children safe. Since car accidents are the leading cause of death of small children, Massachusetts has set up car seat inspection sites in various places around the state.
These sites help parents ensure that their children are in the correct car seat and that the car seat is properly secured in the vehicle. Child Passenger Safety Technicians are on-site at each of these inspection sites.
Keep Your Children Safe
It is recommended that you register your car or booster seat with the manufacturer after purchase. This registration will ensure that you receive any updates, recalls, or other information that you may need from the manufacturer. It is a simple step that could mean the difference in keeping your child safe on the road.