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Mom kisses baby in car seat

Driving Through Michigan? Know The Car Seat Laws (2024)

The state of Michigan legally requires children under the age of 4 years old to be secured in a child restraint system in the backseat of a vehicle.

Children ages 4-7 and under 4’9” tall are required to be secured in a car seat OR booster seat.

Car Seat Requirements Michigan

Mom kisses baby in car seat

Rear-Facing Car Seat Law Michigan

There is no legal specification for how long a child must remain in a rear-facing car seat in Michigan.

Michigan law only dictates children under 4 years old be secured in a car seat (with a separate harness system) of some kind.

(The Michigan State Police Child Passenger Safety page isn’t entirely clear about the “separate harness” part, but it is spelled out more plainly in the Michigan Vehicle Code.)

The state does, however, provide safety guidelines for when you should use a rear-facing car seat.

Rear-Facing Car Seat Guidelines Michigan

  • Rear-Facing Car Seat Age: 3 years
  • Rear-Facing Car Seat Weight: unspecified
  • Rear-Facing Car Seat Height: unspecified

There are no car seat rules in Michigan regarding height and weight limit for rear-facing car seats.

Instead, the state expects you to follow the maximum height and weight limits on your particular car seat, or keep children rear-facing until age 3.

Forward-Facing Car Seat Law Michigan

Children must ride in a front-facing (or rear-facing) car seat in Michigan until they reach ONE of the following requirements:

  • Forward-Facing Car Seat Age: 4 years
  • Forward-Facing Car Seat Weight: unspecified
  • Forward-Facing Car Seat Height: 4’9”

Car seats must be installed in the backseat, unless:

  • You are in a vehicle with single-row seating, like a sports car or pick-up truck.
  • The seatbelts in the backseat are broken or there is another issue with the vehicle that makes restraint in the back dangerous.
  • You are transporting multiple children of car seat/booster seat age, and all backseat seatbelts are in use with other car seats or booster seats.

Where can I get my car seat checked or installed in Michigan?

Car seat installations and inspections in Michigan are done on a local basis.

Many local health departments, police departments, and hospitals have certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians on staff who can help you with car seat installation or inspection by appointment.

General Car Seat Laws FAQ

father buckles baby in car seat

Are car seats effective?

Yes. Very.

According to the CDC, “car seat use reduces the risk for injury in a crash by 71-82% for children, when compared with seat belt use alone.”

What’s the best car seat?

Different types of car seats (infant, convertible, etc.) have different uses.

But, no matter what type of car seat you’re using, the best car seat is the one that will do the most effective job of keeping your child safe in the event of an accident.

See Which Car Seat To Buy: Making Sure Your Little Ones Stay Safe On The Road for our recommendations.

How do you install a car seat?

Car seat installation varies depending on whether the seat is being installed rear- or forward-facing and the manufacturer of the seat.

For help installing a rear-facing car seat, see Passenger Safety For Babies at Safe Kids Worldwide.

And for help installing a forward-facing car seat, see Passenger Safety For Little Kids at Safe Kids Worldwide.

Does AAA do car seat inspections?

Yes, the American Automobile Association (AAA) has certified child passenger safety technicians on staff.

If you are a member of AAA, you can have your car seat installation inspected for free (when available in your area).

Go to AAA.com/carseats to make an appointment for inspection.

When were car seats invented?

Two precursors to car seats as we know them today were both invented in 1962. (Though, they weren’t available until the late-60s.)

The first of these seats, and the one most similar to the car seats we use today, had a Y-shaped harness and was rear-facing.

The seat was invented by British inventor (and mother) Jean Ames.

The second of these seats was metal-framed seat designed to face forward, and was invented by American inventor Leonard Rivkin.

Before that, the only type of child seat for cars were booster-style car seats, which simply lifted children higher in the seat, but had no safety features and had been manufactured since the 1930s.

When did car seats become mandatory?


Though car seats were available in the late 1960s, and the data showing their effectiveness was available in the early 1970s, they remained optional safety devices, and most parents didn’t opt to use them.

So, it became a matter of enacting laws.

In the U.S., car seats became mandatory as most things do – on a state-by-state basis.

In 1978, Tennessee became the first state to enact a child restraint law of any kind (the law passed in 1977), a successful campaign that prompted other states to follow suit.

Over the next few years, all U.S. states passed and implemented child restraint laws, with all states enacting laws by 1986.

Who is responsible for child restraint laws in the U.S.?

While there were experts and activists all over the country working to pass child restraint laws, Dr. Robert Sanders and his wife Pat are largely credited with getting the first Tennessee law passed.

Dr. Sanders was a pediatrician and he and his wife lobbied for the legislation for years.

Dr. Sanders even got a moniker out of his activism.

He became affectionately known as “Dr. Seat Belt.”

Car Seats Save Lives

Car seats are designed to protect the smallest, most vulnerable of children, and since car seat rules first went into effect nationwide in the mid-1980s, they have done a stellar job at saving kids’ lives.

That’s why car seats are required in every state in the U.S. up to a certain age (with some states also having booster and front seat laws), and why the American Academy of Pediatrics and CDC recommend using some form of child restraint system in vehicles until children are big enough to be protected by a car’s built-in safety features (4’9”).

So, definitely follow Michigan car seat laws to protect the smallest children.

And continue to follow the state booster and front seat guidelines to ensure your child is well-protected on the road.

For more on Michigan’s booster seat laws, see Michigan Booster Seat Laws.

For more on Michigan’s front seat laws, see Michigan Front Seat Law.

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