It’s very important for every parent to stay up to date on car seat laws if you live in Virginia. Sometimes this information may be confusing to find.
We’ve simplified this process for you to save time and effort!
These laws also apply to travelers passing through the state or visiting as well.
It’s great to check the child safety laws of any state you have to drive through with your children!
Look below to see what laws apply to you in Virginia!
Recent Changes to the Law – Effective July 2019
Rear-Facing Car Seats
The minimum weight is your car seat manufacturer’s minimum forward-facing weight. From birth to 2 years old, your child must rear-face in Virginia.
Different car seats have different weight and height specifications for rear facing.
Usually, your child can weigh up to 35 or 40 pounds rear facing, although some seats can handle higher weights. Children must be at least 1 inch shorter than the top of the car seat for rear facing as well.
This law changed due to the dangers of having young children forward facing.
The risk of injury or death in an accident for front facing children younger than 2 is very high. In rear facing mode, your child’s head and neck has support and protection for impact.
This law is affected by the February 2007 enactment, which states rear-facing car seats must be in the back seat. If there is no backseat, the rear-facing seat can be in the front if there is no airbag.
The vehicle must not have an airbag on the passenger side or it must be deactivated.
Rear-facing laws at a glance:
- Children under 2 years old must be rear facing.
- Children that weigh less than the manufacturer’s specified weight for forward facing must be rear facing.
- Children’s rear facing seats must be in the back seat.
- If there is no back seat, these seats can be in the front passenger seat without an airbag.
Forward-Facing Car Seats
The July 2019 rear-facing law may affect children that face-forward if the child is under 2 years old.
This also may affect children that face forward if they are under the minimum weight for forward facing. If either of these things applies to your child, you should turn your child rear facing immediately in Virginia.
Children must be over 2 years old to face forward in Virginia. They should also meet the minimum weight and height requirements of your forward facing car seat.
To ride forward facing, children weigh 20 to 40 pounds or more, and are too tall for rear-facing seats. To determine if your child is ready for forward-facing, you need to have them sit in their rear-facing seat.
If there is less than 1 inch above their head to the top of the seat, they are tall enough.
Children under 8 years old must be in a car seat according to the February 2007 Virginia enactment. Do not transition your child from forward facing directly to seat belt usage, especially if they are younger than 8.
Forward-facing laws at a glance:
- Children over 2 years old can be rear facing.
- Kids must weigh more than the manufacturer’s minimum weight for forward facing.
- Children younger than 8 years old must be in a car seat.
Since February 2007, children younger than 8 years old must be in a restraint system of some kind. This law affects booster seat usage, as many parents transfer their child to seat belt riding too early.
Always follow the guidelines for your car seat’s weights and heights.
There are no laws in Virginia that specify how early a child can or cannot begin using a booster. Generally, children should be over 4 years old to use a booster seat.
You can use a booster seat in Virginia past 8 years old if your child needs it.
For safety, children should be at least 35 inches tall and 40 to 65 pounds before transferring to a booster. Booster seats come in highback and backless options, depending on what your child needs.
Kids that use backless boosters need to be able to sit properly in the seat.
Booster seat laws at a glance:
- Children younger than 8 years old must be in a car seat or booster seat.
- Booster seat guidelines for use must be followed.
Fines and Penalties
The July 1, 2019 rear-facing law and the February 2007 enactment both fall under Virginia’s Child Restraint laws.
These laws, and any other laws that fall under Child Restraints, are considered primary enforcement. This means you can be fined for the first offense.
The first offense penalty is a fine of $50. A second offense and offenses after can lead to a fine as much as $500.
If your child has a medical reason that prevents them from following Virginia law, you must get documentation. There is a fine of $20 if a written exemption statement can’t be provided.
These penalties may be waived by a court if the individual wasn’t financially able to purchase a car seat. All of these fines are given to the Child Restraint Device Special Fund, which helps low-income families get car seats.
Fines and Penalties at a glance:
- First offense: $50
- Second or more offenses: Up to $500
Car Seat Laws for Children with Special Needs In Virginia
Virginia has no specific laws regarding children with special needs and transportation, but general child-safety laws apply.
Special needs children younger than 2 years old must ride rear facing at all times after July 2019.
Children under 8 years old must be in a car seat or booster seat, since February 2007.
Rear-facing children’s seats must also be in the back seat. Rear-facing seats can only be in the front if there is no airbag or it is disabled. These changes were also enacted in February of 2007.
Specialized car seats that meet your child’s specific needs still must comply to Virginia’s general safety laws. Manufacturers are usually more than willing to work with you to meet these safety requirements.
Always follow your car seat’s rules and regulations regarding weight and height. This includes booster seat usage as well. Always call your manufacturer if you are ever unsure or have questions about the car seat.
In Virginia, children with special needs must:
- Ride rear-facing under 2 years old
- Ride in the back seat in a rear-facing seat, or in a front seat with airbag disabled
- Be in a car or booster seat under 8 years old
- Follow car seat guidelines for use regarding weight and height
Virginia Car Seats Laws for Public Transportation
Children do not need to be in a safety seat for public transportation in Virginia. Children are only required to use safety seats under 8 years old and in non-public vehicles since February 2007.
Since 1997, children need car seats riding in cars with family, babysitters, friends and anyone who transports the child.
Kids in between the ages 8 and 17 must use a seat belt in vehicles produced after January 1, 1968.
Older children are exempt from this rule in these modes of public transportation: school buses, limousines, taxicabs, and executive sedans.
Children in Virginia do not need to be in a safety seat while riding in:
- Farm vehicles
- Regulation School Buses
- Other public modes of transportation
These rules are the same for children with special needs. If your child needs restraint for public transportation, you can contact the public service in advance for more information.
Many school buses come equip with the resources necessary to transport your child safely, with or without restraints.
Frequently Asked Questions
When can a child go to a booster seat in Virginia?
In Virginia, children under 8 years old must ride in a car seat or booster. When your child grows past the upper height and weight limits on forward-facing car seats, it is time to transition.
There are no other laws or restrictions in Virginia for booster use.
What are the height and weight requirements for a booster seat?
Children should be at least 35 inches tall and weigh around 40 to 65 pounds before going to a booster. If your child doesn’t meet the minimum requirements for your specific booster, they aren’t ready to transition.
Can my 5 year old ride in a booster seat?
It largely depends on your booster’s minimum height and weight requirements. If your 5 year old is taller than 35 inches and more than 40 pounds, they may be ready.
What age can a child use a backless booster seat?
Children that reach the maximum weight and height of their front facing car seat can use a backless booster. With backless boosters, children must be old enough to sit up and wear the seatbelt properly.
This is usually around 5 to 6 years old.
How long does a child have to be rear facing in Virginia?
Following July 1, 2019, children under 2 years old must be rear facing. They also must rear facing if they weigh less than the minimum forward-facing weight for your car seat.
Virginia car seat laws are designed to keep your child safe for as long as possible. These laws are enforced by the local police force. If you live in Virginia or are just passing through, always follow these guidelines to avoid fines and tickets.
We hope this article has helped you understand car seat laws in Virginia!
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