Car Laws & Safety

Montana Car Seat Laws: Rear & Forward Facing [2021 Update]

Montana car seat laws are broken down by children’s age and weight. Children who are not properly restrained in a vehicle face great risks.

In order to protect children from such negative outcomes, Montana has various child passenger safety laws. Correctly using a safety seat can reduce the risk of death by as much as 71%.

There are four types of child safety restraints that the state recognizes. In this article, we will cover in detail the laws concerning each type of restraint. The restrains have to be appropriate for the height and weight of the child based on manufacturer standards.

Montana Car Seat Safety Law

The law states that any child under 6 years of age and weighing less than 60 pounds must use an approved child safety seat. Additionally, that safety seat must fit them according to the seat height and weight certifications. 

The law can be found in full, here. While this may seem vague, it means that parents must use the proper child safety seat type according to their child’s age, weight, and height.  

Rear-Facing Car Seat Law

A rear-facing infant car seat or a convertible rear-facing seat must be used by children age birth to 12 months and weighing 20 pounds or less. 

However, it is recommended that you keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. At least until the age of 2. Rear-facing car seats are the safest type of seat for young children in the case of an accident. This is because they cradle the child, helping to reduce both impact and movement forward or backward. 

Forward-Facing Car Seat Law

At 1 year of age and 20 pounds or more, a forward-facing seat or convertible seat may be used. Children should continue to use a forward-facing seat until they are 4 years old and/or 40 pounds. 

In recent years the American Academy of Pediatrics has updated recommendations about when to turn your child around. While they recommend rear-facing until at least 2, the longer the better. Many rear-facing seats weight limits will accommodate children until ages 4 or 5. 

Child Booster Seat Law

When your child is 4 years old and/or 40 pounds they can use a child booster seat. 

Nevertheless, it is advised that you keep your child in a forward-facing child seat until they reach the max height and weight limits. For some, this can be 5 or 6 years of age with some seat weight limits extending up to 60 pounds. 

Age is not the only factor you should use to determine readiness for a booster seat. Your little one should be able to, and responsible enough to, sit upright in the booster for the entire duration of the journey. 

They should continue to use the booster seat until they are 8 years of age and/or 80 pounds. 

Lap-Shoulder Seat Belt Law

Once your child is taller than 4 feet 9 inches, they can transition to a lap-shoulder seat belt. This is usually between 8 and 12 years of age. They should remain restrained in the back seat of the vehicle. A booster seat is a belt positioner, so until the belt can be properly positioned sans booster, they should continue to use it. 

How do you know if your little one is ready to transition out of the booster seat and into the seat belt? The five-step readiness check can help. 

Five-Step Readiness Check

Check for the following when your child is sitting in your vehicle’s back seat. 

  1. Their back is flush with the seat back and their knees bend at the edge of the seat.
  2. Their feet can rest on the floor.
  3. The seatbelt crosses their collarbone and is centered on their chest. 
  4. The lap belt crosses their hips and touches the top of their thighs.
  5. They can comfortably sit this way for the entire trip. 

You must answer “yes” to all of these in order to stop using the booster seat. Also, while your child may pass the test in one vehicle they may fail in another vehicle. Continue using the booster in cars in which they don’t pass. 

When Can My Child Ride In the Front Seat? 

The state recommends that children continue to ride in the back seat until at least 13 years of age. There is no definitive law, but the back seat is usually the safest place for young children.

This is commonly due to injuries associated with airbags. When your child can sit in the front it is a good idea to move the seat all the way back, away from the spot where an airbag would deploy.  

Car seats and booster seats should never be used in the front seat of a vehicle. 

Montana’s Four Stages of Seat Safety

  • Rear-facing seats, including infant car seats and convertible seats. These have a harness and cradle your child in a crash. 
  • Forward-facing seats, including convertible seats. They have a harness and a tether that work to inhibit forward motion in a crash. 
  • Booster seats. These seats elevate your child so that the lap and shoulder belt fit properly. 
  • Seat belt. The lap and shoulder belt must fit your child properly in order to properly restrain them in an accident. 

montana car seat law

Montana Car Seat Law for Taxi/Uber

The laws are unclear as to whether or not taxis/uber’s are exempt from the child safety seat law. 

Taxis are exempt from the general seat belt law. The law states that “a motorbus, schoolbus, taxicab” are examples of exempt vehicles. 

Accident Replacement Guidelines

There are no laws or guidelines in the State concerning replacing a child seat after an accident. The AAP recommends that after an accident you always replace your car seat. This is regardless of if any damage can be seen or not. 

Leaving a Child in a Car

It is the law in Montana that children shall never be left unattended in a vehicle. This is defined in Montana law 37.95.132 TRANSPORTATION (5). 

Leaving your child alone in the car poses a myriad of health and safety risks including everything from heat exhaustion to abduction.  

Smoking in a Car with a Child 

Montana does not seem to have any laws that prohibit smoking in a vehicle with a child. Still, many states do have laws against smoking in a car with a child. And for good reason, secondhand smoke is extremely hazardous. 

What Happens If I Don’t Follow the Law? 

Violation of Montana’s car seat law can result in a fine of up to $100. Violating the State’s seatbelt law can result in a fine of up to $20. 

Besides fines, you are also risking the safety and welfare of your child by choosing not to use a car seat or restraint system. 

Where Can You Learn More? 

Montana’s Child Passenger Safety Page is full of information and resources. You can review the laws and guidelines, learn how to find, install, and use a car seat. Additionally, you can locate where to go to receive help from a certified car seat technician. 

Child Car Safety

Whether you are a resident, a visitor, or just passing through the beautiful scenery of Big Sky Country, you must follow the child car seat laws. These laws are in place to keep your most precious cargo, children, safe. 

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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