If your child is 4’9″ inches or eight years or younger in Tennessee, they should be in a booster seat. Tennessee law for car seats mandates that all children below the age of 15 must wear either car seat belts or booster belts. The same law stipulates that the belt type will depend on the child’s age and weight. 

Most school holidays will include me and my kids going to Tennessee. Knowing the various car and booster belt laws has kept me away from trouble. If you plan to travel to the Volunteer State, read the whole article if you don’t want to find yourself in trouble with the local police. 

In this article, I cover the various seat laws in Tennessee for kids under 15. I start with an overview before highlighting booster seat laws and requirements. Finally, I’ll present the possible consequences of breaking Tennessee’s seat belt laws. 

It is best to speak with a lawyer to get precise legal advice. The material in this article is not legal advice; it is for educational purposes only. 

Overview Of TN Law For Car Seats

tn law for car seats

A seat belt saves you and your children from being thrown out of a car in a collision and suffering severe or fatal injuries. Tennessee has specific laws for children and their seat restraints according to age and size. Here is an overview of Tennessee seat belt law specifically for children. 

AgeWeight/HeightCar Belt Law
As long as the child’s weight is within the limit, you should use the seat in the rear-facing position even if it has a more excellent weight rating, such as 30 pounds.20 pounds or lessHarness the child in a rear-facing seat.
The seat should be in the back.
As long as the child’s weight is within the limit, you should use the seat in the rear-facing position even if it has a more excellent weight rating, such as 30 pounds.
1-3 yearsAbove 20 poundsPut the child in a forward- or rear-facing seat with a harness. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (A.A.P.) recommends that the child sit rear-facing until age 2. By absorbing impact forces and keeping the child in place in the case of an accident, rear-facing seats protect the child’s neck andA.A.P.ine. 
If possible, or as directed by the manufacturer, the child should be in the backseat of the car.
4-8 yearsPut the child in a forward- or rear-facing seat with a harness. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that the child sit rear-facing until age 2. By absorbing impact forces and keeping the child in place in the case of an accident, rear-facing seats protect the child’s neck and spine. Secure the child in a booster seat with proper belt positioning.
If available, put them in the rear seat.
Less than 4’9″ inches in height
9-12 years,Use the booster seat system if the child is above 8 years old but under 4’9″.Secure them in a seat belt system.
Should sit in the back seat if one is available.
4’9″ inches or more in height
13-15 yearsN/AUse a passenger restraint system with safety belts that comply with federal motor vehicle safety regulations to restrain the child.
Regardless of age, any youngster at least 4’9″ tall, even under 9 years old, should be buckled up in the backseat.

The above laws are stipulated in the T.C.A. 55-9-602

Remember, any vehicle driver carrying a child under 16 years is responsible for ensuring they are buckled up. Failure to comply will result in the driver paying a fine of $50. However, if the child’s parent or legal guardian is in the vehicle but not driving, they are held responsible. 

According to Tennessee seat belt law, children 12 years or younger are generally safer in the back seat if available. Allowing your child to sit in the front passenger seat will expose them to airbags, which can be fatal when they deploy. Turn off the airbag if you must put a child safety seat in the front. 

What Are The Booster Seat Laws In Tennessee? 

baby in a car seat

Booster seats are necessary to ensure your child’s safety in the car. They lift children to a height where they can use the lap and shoulder belts in the car without harm. Child car seats come in three distinct types. 

Rear-Facing TN Law For Car Seats

The rear-facing car seat has a harness. In case of a crash, the seat cradles and moves with your child. The movement reduces the stress on the child’s fragile neck and spinal cord. I describe the three types of rear-facing car seats below. 

  • Infant car seat (rear-facing only): It is specially designed by manufacturers for infants and tiny babies. The seat is small and portable. Hence, most babies outgrow it before their first birthday. 
  • Convertible car seat: The seat can change from rear to forward-facing. It permits children to stay in the rear-facing position much longer. It’s ideal if your child is above one year but weighs less than 20 pounds. 
  • All-in-one seat: The seat can change from a rear-facing to a forward-facing seat with a rope and a harness. It can eventually convert to a booster seat as the child grows.

On Ford Lincoln’s YouTube channel, Jason Webb of Franklin Fire Department (Tennessee) demonstrates how to install booster, rear, and forward-facing car seats properly.


Forward-Facing Car Seat Requirements In Tennessee

A forward-facing car seat’s harness and tether prevent your kid from moving forward during an accident. You should install it upright and according to the manufacturer’s instructions. There are three types of forward-facing car seat requirements. 

  • Convertible seat: The benefit of this kind of seat is that you can convert it from a rear-facing to a forward-facing as your child grows. The tether secures a forward-facing car seat and limits your child’s forward head movement in a crash. The tether is on the top rear in all three forward-facing car seats. 
  • Combination seat: Easy to change from a forward-facing car seat with a tether and harness to a booster.
  • All-in-one seat: You can use it as a belt-positioning, rear-facing, or forward-facing booster. The benefit is that it might have higher limits in height and weight in a rear-facing position than those of rear-facing seats only. 

Using a forward-facing booster seat with a five-point harness, you protect your child’s fragile body parts. The harness directs the crash forces away toward the more vital body parts (shoulder and hips). 

What Are The Booster Seat Requirements in Tennessee?

The vehicle’s lap and shoulder belts properly fit over the child’s body, hips, and chest due to the booster seat’s elevation and positioning. There are three main types of booster types of seats: 

  • Booster seat with a high back: The seat’s shape helps to boost the child’s height so that the seat belt fits properly. It provides neck and head support and is ideal for vehicles that don’t have headrests or high seat backs. 
  • Backless booster seat: The shape of the backless booster seat helps to boost the child’s height so the seat belt fits properly. However, unlike the booster seat with a high back, it does not offer neck and head support. Use it if your car has headrests. 
  • Combination seat: If your child weighs between 40 and 65 pounds, using a booster seat with a harness is the safest option. However, your child shouldn’t weigh more than 120 pounds if not wearing a harness. These conditions heavily depend on the model of the booster.

In this YouTube channel by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, you learn how to use and install a high-back booster seat.


When your child attains the age of 13, they can now move to wearing a car seat belt. However, consider your child’s height before doing so. Remember that your child needs to be 4’9″ inches to fit in seat belts comfortably. If your child is shorter than this and wears a seat belt, they can easily suffer neck and stomach injuries from a loose belt.

Before using vehicle seat belts, your child should be able to sit with their back flat against the seat and their knees bent at the edge. To safely confine your child in a crash, the belt should fit snugly across the shoulder and chest and lie across the upper thighs. It should not lie on the stomach area or across the neck or face. 

Fred, from the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning’s YouTube channel, explains the five steps kids must complete before using a seat belt in a moving car. 


Backless Booster Seat Requirements In Tennessee

Your child should be tall enough to fit into a backless booster seat before switching from a forward-facing. Here are a few tips that you should be aware of if you want to use a backless booster seat in Tennessee. 

  • The backless booster seat is recommended for children who have outgrown their forward-facing car seat and are at least four years old or 40 pounds. 
  • Your child should still wear their lap and shoulder belt when using the seat. 
  • Your child should not use a backless booster seat after the age of 8 years or reaching 80 pounds in weight. 

You should only use a backless booster seat if your vehicle has high seat backs to support your child’s head. If your child’s ears are just below the top of the seat or headrest, then the seat back is high enough. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s YouTube channel demonstrates how to use and install a backless booster seat.


What Are the Penalties For Violating The Tennessee Seat Belt Laws?

States with primary seat belt laws allow police to stop you and give you a ticket even if there is no other offense if you and your passengers are not wearing seat belts. Tennessee is one of the states that follow primary seat belt laws.

However, for secondary seat belt law states, a law enforcement officer can only issue tickets for seat belt violations if the vehicle was pulled over for a different offense. 

Tennessee’s penalty for breaking seat belt laws is $25 for the first offense. For each repeat offense, you will pay $50. 

The driver is responsible for underage passengers wearing seat belts but with the following exemptions: 

  • Licensed drivers over 16 years old are responsible for themselves. They will get a ticket if they fail to wear a safety belt if seated in the front seat (18+ years) or in the back seat (16-18 years). 
  • If a parent (guardian) is in the vehicle with their child, the parent becomes responsible instead of the driver. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the specific car seat laws in Tennessee?

The specific car seat laws in Tennessee are.

  • All children under one year and weighing under 20 pounds should ride in a rear-facing seat or until they exceed the height the car seat manufacturers allow. 
  • Children who have outgrown the rear-facing seat due to height and weight limits should use a forward-facing seat with a harness up to the limit the car manufacturer allows. 
  • All the children whose weight and height exceed the forward-facing seats should use a belt-positioning booster seat.  
  • Those under the age of 13 should sit in the back seat. 

What are the booster seat requirements in Tennessee? 

The height and weight requirements for a booster seat are that the child must be at least four years old and weigh between 40 and 80 pounds. 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics(A.A.P.), children should use booster seats until they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall and between the ages of 8 and 12. That way, the child’s shoulder belt fits properly over the chest bones, not across the neck or face. 

What are the seat belt laws in Tennessee? 

All driver and front seat passengers must have a seat belt fastened adequately. 

Passengers in the back seat should put on their safety belts. They are likely to injure buckled front-seat passengers and themselves when thrown around or out of a vehicle during a crash. 

Seat belt statutes in Tennessee exempt taxis from child restraint laws. However, taxi drivers should allow parents to use a child restraint system in the taxis.

What are the specific requirements for using backless booster seats in Tennessee? 

In Tennessee, you can use a backless booster if your child is over 40 pounds and is between the ages of 4 and 8. During a trip, your child should be able to sit upright the entire time without slouching or fidgeting.