Car Seat Laws MA: Safe Driving with Kids

April 24, 2018

How well do you know the car seat laws in Massachusetts? Here’s a quick test to find out:

  • True or false: kids don’t need a car seat or booster seat once they reach 47 inches in height?
  • True or false: it makes good financial sense to shop for car seats at garage sales or second-hand stores?
  • True or false: rear-facing car seats should be replaced (or turned around) as soon as the child’s feet can touch the seat in front of him?
  • True or false: Being cited for a car seat violation will result in a surcharge on your Massachusetts car insurance?
  • True or false: it’s okay to let children under eight ride without a car seat if they are traveling in a taxi or a limousine for a special event?

As you may have guessed, the answer to ALL of the above is false. Child passengers should be secured in a booster seat until they reach 8 years of age or 57 inches in height. After that, they should continue sitting in the back seat (while using a regular seat belt) until at least age thirteen. Here are the answers to some other car seat FAQs:

What Do Car Seat Laws Say about Front-Facing Seats?

Thinking of turning your child’s seat from rear-facing to front-facing? Don’t rush to make this move just because his legs are getting longer. Experts say children should remain rear-facing until they reach the maximum height and weight limits indicated by the seat’s manufacturer. In fact, recent Mass.gov guidelines on car seats report, “ a child between the age of 1 and 2 is five times safer in a rear-facing car seat than in a forward-facing seat.”

When Is It Time to Replace a Harnessed Seat with a Booster?

Here again, it’s best to follow the instruction manual for the particular seat you have. Somewhere around 4 years of age and/or 40 pounds is a typically good time to start thinking about converting the seat.

Is It Illegal/Unsafe to Use a Second-Hand Car Seat?

Used car seats may be okay, assuming:

  • The seat was never involved in a moderate-to-severe car accident.
  • The seat has all its original parts.
  • The seat is not expired.
  • The seat was never part of any recall.

Being sure about all these criteria isn’t always easy when you buy second-hand, so—unless you are able to confirm with the seller/manufacturer—your best bet is to buy a new car seat.

Do I Need to Replace My Child’s Car Seat After a Crash?

It depends on the severity of the crash and several other factors. Typically, if you were able to drive the car away from the scene, no one was injured, and no airbags deployed, you are in the clear. To be sure, ask your Massachusetts insurance agent about keeping or replacing the seat. Here’s a good overview on if/when you need to replace a car seat.

What Should I Do with an Unsafe Car Seat?

If you have an old car seat hanging around your basement or garage, think twice before putting it out on the curb. It may be older than its manufacturer’s warranty, or otherwise recalled. It’s not safe to let someone else use it in those scenarios. Instead of trashing it or selling it, look into car seat recycling programs in your area. Some AAA locations run car seat recycling drives. Local police or fire departments may also be able to point you in the right direction.

Are Car Seats Required Even in Massachusetts Cabs/Limos?

Yes! Police don’t make exceptions for your special events, occasional trips into the city, or even transportation emergencies. Luckily, many cab companies are equipped for child passengers, and will bring a car seat if you request it in advance. This requires a bit more planning on your part, but (aside from using public transportation) it’s the best way to avoid a citation.

Do Car Seat Laws in MA Require Installation by a Child Passenger Safety Technician?

You aren’t required to have your car seat installed by a local expert, but it may save you a lot of frustration and anxiety (especially if you are a new parent). Most towns in Massachusetts offer car seat installation support through their police or fire departments. Here’s a full list of car seat installation officials in Massachusetts. Remember that in most cases you will need to call ahead and schedule an appointment.

Do Grandparents and Babysitters Know about Car Seat Laws in MA?

Good question. Even though you may be very familiar with MA car seat laws, the adults you trust to care for your children (and drive them around) won’t always be so knowledgeable. If a car seat exchange is involved in dropping the kids at Grandma’s or Auntie’s, conduct a trial run to ensure your caregiver is able to properly install the seat.

Will My Insurance Go Up for Failure to Obey Car Seat Laws in MA?

If a car seat citation is the only one you receive, you probably won’t see any surcharge on your car insurance premium. (Here’s a list of driving infractions that are surchargeable in Massachusetts.) That said, Massachusetts car seat laws were designed for a very important reason. Keeping your kids safe should outweigh any possible excuse for failure to use the proper restraints.