Here's Everything You Should Know About Michigan Car Seat Laws

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Here’s Everything You Should Know About Michigan Car Seat Laws

michigan car seat laws

Car accidents are a leading cause of death for children under the age of 14. In 2020, over 1,000 children in the United States died in traffic accidents. Of the children that were killed, 42% of them were not properly restrained or buckled up. Michigan car seat laws are good to know if you are in an accident but also to keep your child as safe as possible when riding in a car.

It should go without saying that children need to be properly secured in a vehicle to prevent severe injury or even death. Research shows that fatal injuries can be reduced by 71% for infants and 54% for children ages 1 to 4 when they are properly secured in a car seat.

Unfortunately, as seen with the number of child fatalities above, not everyone does or knows how to properly secure their child. As such, our Michigan car accident attorneys thought it wise to share a bit of knowledge on this subject to help you keep your child safe.

Dealing with the injury or death of a child can be devastating. So let’s take a look at everything you need to know about Michigan car seat laws.

What Are the Michigan Car Seat Laws?

The car seat laws in Michigan are fairly straightforward:

“Children must be properly buckled in a car seat or booster seat until they are 8 years old or 4-feet-9-inches tall. Children must ride in a seat until they reach the age requirement or the height requirement, whichever comes first.”

New Car Seat Guidelines Could Slow Car Accident Injury Rates

Car crashes remain a leading cause of death for children with an average of 4 children under 14 dying each day in a tragic wreck. After significant changes and review of the protection car seats give children upon a crash, new guidelines on car seat use from the American Academy of Pediatrics pushes rear-facing car seats until a child reaches the height or weight limit for the seat, or as long as possible to keep children safest while riding in a motor vehicle. The new guidelines suggest:

  • Children should remain in rear-facing seats until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the seat manufacturer.
  • Once children reach the height or weight limit and shift to a forward-facing seat, they should use safety seats with harnesses for as long as possible, often up to 65 pounds.
  • When children exceed height or weight limits for those seats, they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the lap and shoulder belts fit properly, often when the child has reached 4 feet 9 inches in height.

Infants and toddler age children may not be able to recognize or communicate pain or discomfort after being involved in a motor vehicle accident, so it is best for parents to always be using a child safety seat appropriate for their height and weight and following the new AAP guidelines to prevent harm in the event of a crash. Using the correct car safety seat or booster seat lowers the risk of child death or serious injury by more than 70 percent. Seat limits and directions for use should be reviewed in the car seat instruction manual before installing a seat and traveling with a child on any roadway.

What To Do If Your Young Child Is Involved in a Car Crash

If you, and your child, are in a car accident, or you believe a child seat failed in safety measures, you should seek medical attention for your young passenger immediately. These children are naturally prone to head injuries, back and neck injuries, and rib injuries because their muscles, bones and their body, are still growing and developing.

However, some children, especially infants, won’t be able to present symptoms of injury easily or other young children may be in shock and not be able to recognize or express their exact pain. These are some of the most common signs symptoms parents and caregivers can look out for in infants who are suffering from an injury after a car accident.

  • Excessive vomiting or diarrhea
  • More than usual irritability
  • Listless or limp limbs
  • Bruising or swelling
  • Unable to speak or make sounds
  • Seizure or convulsions
  • Changes in appearance
  • Changes in eating habits (including refusing to breastfeed or take a bottle normally)
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Crying excessively and frequently
  • Bulging of the soft spot on their head (less than 1 year)
  • Screaming during diaper changes or while removing clothing
  • Fever
  • Fast or labored breathing

If parents notice any kind of mood or behavioral changes that aren’t in line with your child’s normal demeanor even after an initial post-accident medical exam, call for help and have the child seen by a doctor or physician immediately. Injuries may present days to weeks beyond an accident event.

Can a child younger than 4 ride in the front seat?

Children under the age of four must ride in a car seat in a rear seat (if a rear seat is available). If a rear seat is not available, a child under the age of four may ride in a car seat in the front seat. If the car seat is rear-facing, the airbags must be turned off.

What if my child between the ages of 4 and 7 doesn’t fit in a car seat?

Michigan car seat laws require ALL children under the age of eight to be properly secured in a “child restraint system in accordance with instructions from the manufacturers of the child restraint system and the vehicle as well as with federal safety requirements.” This includes car seats and booster seats.

So, IF your child is between the ages of 4 and 7 and they no longer fit in a car seat, AND are less than 4 ft. 9 in. in height, they must sit in a booster seat.

IF your child is under eight years of age BUT is taller than 4 ft. 9 in., they may ride without a booster seat. However, they must still wear a properly adjusted and fastened seat belt. 

When can my child ride in the front seat?

It is recommended that ALL children between the ages of eight and thirteen still ride in the back seat and properly buckle up if a rear seat is available. 

IF a rear seat is not available, children under 16 may ride in the front seat, but they must use a seat belt.

Can my 16-year-old child ride without a seat belt?

The law does not explicitly state that a child can ride without a seat belt once they reach the age of sixteen. It simply says that ALL passengers under 16 must use a seat belt in any seating position.

The law also states that ALL front seat occupants must use a seat belt regardless of age. So if your child is 16 and either driving or riding as a passenger in the front seat, they must wear a seat belt.

If your 16-year-old is riding in the back seat, they may or may not be required to wear a seat belt, as the law doesn’t clarify this.

If a seatbelt is available, however, it is recommended that anyone in the vehicle wear a seat belt — even in the backseat.

Are There Car Seat Laws in Michigan Regarding The Type of Car Seat Being Used?

Michigan car seat laws do not explicitly state the specifics of the type of car seat to use for your child. In many cases, the car seat you should use can vary depending on the child’s size and weight. So you would typically want to choose a seat based on the manufacturer’s recommendations.

However, the website does offer recommendations for different types of car seats/restraints and how to use them:

  1. Rear-facing car seats: “All babies and toddlers should ride in rear-facing car seats until they are 2 years old or until they reach the highest weight or height limit allowed by the car seat.”
  2. Forward-facing car seats: All children 2 years or older, or those who have outgrown the weight or height limit of their rear-facing seat, should ride in a forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible up to the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat.”
  3. Booster seats: All children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle lap/shoulder belt fits properly, typically when the child reaches 4’9” tall at 8–12 years old.”
  4. Seat belts: “When children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, always use lap and shoulder belts for optimal protection.”

Michigan Car Seat Law Violations and Car Accident Claims

If you were involved in an accident and failed to properly secure your child, it is possible for you to still recover compensation for your child’s injuries. As failing to properly secure the child will be viewed as your fault, you cannot pursue compensation for your child’s injuries from another party, but you can bring a claim on your child’s behalf for no-fault PIP benefits through your own insurance provider.

If someone else was driving your child when the accident occurred, you may be able to file a claim against them for not properly securing your child. However, no matter the case, dealing with car seat violations and car accident claims for personal injury can be complex. As such, it’s crucial that you seek the help of a Michigan car accident attorney.

An experienced Detroit car accident lawyer can help you protect the rights of your child and pursue maximum compensation to cover their medical bills, pain & suffering, and even wrongful death if the injuries your child suffers are fatal.

The Lee Steinberg Law Firm: Detroit Car Accident Attorneys

Car accidents involving children are never easy, especially if the child’s injuries are fatal. Let our team of compassionate attorneys help you navigate this trying time and ensure you get the compensation you need to help cover your losses.

At The Lee Steinberg Law Firm, we have years of experience handling Michigan car accident claims, including those involving violations of Michigan car seat laws. Call our Michigan car accident lawyers at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733). You’ll pay nothing until we settle your case.