As in all other states, Michigan requires that all children be secured in a DOT-approved car seat in the back seat of the vehicle whenever that vehicle is moving. According to Michigan car seat laws for 2020, children under the age of 13 must be in the back seat and never the front. All individuals over the age of 13 and all adults must wear seatbelts every time that they are drivers or passengers in a moving vehicle. All car and booster seats must meet minimum safety standards set by the Department of Transportation.
There are exceptions to these rules, of course, but most of them do not apply to children. They also recommend that you follow the instructions of the manufacturer of the car seat that you purchased regarding height and weight recommendations. Since the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that all children under the age of two be secured in a car seat that faces the rear of the vehicle, this is also the recommendation that the state of Michigan now makes.
Laws for Rear-Facing Car Seats
Babies under two years of age should be in rear-facing car seats. They should remain in them until they reach the age or height recommended by the seat’s manufacturer. Once the baby reaches the highest weight and height listed in the manufacturer’s recommendations, you can switch over to a front-facing car seat. However, the height and weight recommendations should be followed exactly to make sure that your child is as safe as possible at all times.
In addition to these recommendations, it is recommended that all rear-facing car seats be in the back seat. However, if the airbag is turned off in the front seat and/or the other seats are occupied, it is permissible to put this type of car seat in the front. It is not the best-case scenario, of course, but it is permissible in certain circumstances.
Laws for Front-Facing Car Seats
Children two years old and older should be in front-facing car seats. If a child is under two years old but has reached the maximum height or weight limit set by the rear-facing car seat’s manufacturer, you can still use a front-facing car seat. The important thing is to make sure that you adhere to the guidelines set forth by the manufacturer. However, as a general rule, front-facing car seats are designed for kids two years old and older until they get too big for the car seat.
All children under the age of four must be in the back seat of the vehicle whenever possible.
Laws for Booster Seats
Booster seats are made for small children who have not yet reached a height of 4’9” and a weight of 80 pounds. Normally, booster seats are used by children until roughly the age of eight, although many of them are in booster seats until the age of 12.
There are two types of booster seats and both of them are made to be used with a lap and shoulder belt, which means that they shouldn’t be used if you only have lap belts in your vehicle. The first type is a backless booster seat, which should only be used if your vehicle already has an appropriate headrest. With this type of seat, the shoulder belt should fit securely across the child’s chest and the lap section of the belt should fit across the thigh area. If the child’s ears are above the seat in your vehicle, the head and neck must be protected by either a headrest or a high-back booster seat, which is the second type of booster seat.
High-back booster seats still use the lap and shoulder belt but don’t require that your vehicle have a headrest because the high back can protect your child’s head and neck area. Once again, your child can remain in a booster seat until the age and height recommended by the seat’s manufacturer; however, if the child isn’t properly secured in a booster seat, it may be best if you go back to a regular front-facing car seat.
Height and Weight Requirements
The only specific height and weight requirement for the state of Michigan is that once children reach the height of 4’9” and the age of eight, they can stop using car or booster seats and use standard adult seatbelts. No child under the age of 13 should ever be placed in the front seat of a vehicle, especially if it has an airbag, and all persons driving or riding in a moving vehicle are required to wear seatbelts or be in car seats the entire time.
Here are some other general recommendations if you live in Michigan:
- Birth to three: rear-facing car seat
- One to seven years of age: rear- or front-facing car seat
- Four to twelve years of age: booster seat of some type
- Eight to thirteen years of age: a proper seatbelt
- Thirteen and older: must wear a seatbelt at all times
Laws for Seatbelts
Michigan car seat laws requires everyone over the age of eight to be in a proper seatbelt. In addition, the police are allowed to stop you solely for not wearing your seatbelt, making it a primary seatbelt law state. Seatbelts became mandatory in Michigan in the year 1985. However, certain vehicles are exempt from this requirement, including:
- Any vehicle manufactured before 1965
- School buses
- Any vehicle used in the course of business that makes frequent stops
There are also other exemptions that are specialized and require special approvals or certificates from authorities; they can be reviewed here. In fact, if you are caught not wearing a seatbelt, you can be fined $65, although points are not assessed on your driver’s license.
In the state of Michigan, roughly 94% of all residents regularly wear seatbelts, which is higher than the national average of 86%. More than half of all people ages 13 to 44 who died in crashes were not wearing proper seatbelts or riding in car seats, which shows the importance of always being properly restrained while you’re in a moving car whether you’re a toddler or an adult.