Child Booster Seat Laws in Virginia

Stephen M. Smith
Last Updated:
November 26, 2019

It’s the law in Virginia to use specialist child seats for infants and children. Older children may be placed in booster seats before they are large enough to use adult seat belts. Often parents use adult seat belts on children who are too young. This can cause injuries. It’s important to follow child booster seat laws in Virginia.

At the Smith Law Center, we fight vigorously against drivers who have harmed children in car, truck, motorcycle or school bus accidents. Few things are more traumatic than when your child suffers a serious injury. Using the correct infant or booster seat can help protect your child.

The Four Phases of Child Car Seats in Virginia

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles sets out the four phases of child car seats in the Commonwealth.  They are:

1. The Rear-Facing Car Seat

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises all children ride in rear-facing in the back seat until they are 2-years-old or as long as the safety seat manufacturer permits.

2. Forward-Facing Car Seat

Parents should not use forward-facing car seats until the child is at least one and weighs at least 20 pounds. The child should have reached the maximum allowed weight to fit in a rear-facing safety seat. Use forward-facing child restraints until the child reaches the top weight or height specified in manufacturer's instructions or detailed on the seat’s labels.

3. Booster Seat

Use a booster seat when the child reaches the highest weight and height limits specified for a forward-facing car seat. The booster seat is a small seat placed on the rear seat of a car. It pushes up the child allowing the car’s safety belt system to be used safely.  A child should remain in the booster seat until he or she reaches 8 years of age and is at least 4 feet 9 inches tall.

4. Adult Seat Belt

A child should be at least 4 feet 9 inches tall and at least 8 years of age before an adult seat belt is used. The child should be:

  • Tall enough to sit comfortably without slouching;
  • Able to keep his or her back against the back of the vehicle;
  • Able to keep his or her knees bent completely over the seat’s edge;
  • Able to put his or her feet comfortably and flat on the car’s floor.

What Are the Child Booster Seat Laws in Virginia?

Under Virginia code, drivers of any vehicle manufactured after January 1, 1968, on the highways of Virginia must ensure any child up to the age of eight is given and properly secured in a child restraint device. It must conform to the standards of the United States Department of Transportation.

Rear-facing child restraint devices must be placed in the back seat of a vehicle. When a car does not have a back seat a child restraint device may only be placed on a front seat if a vehicle lacks a passenger side airbag or the airbag has been deactivated. An airbag can kill a child in a car crash.

Under a new law effective July 1, 2019, drivers of vehicles manufactured after January 1, 1968, in Virginia, must ensure that any child up to eight-years-old who is transported is properly secured in a child restraint device that meets the standards adopted by the United States Department of Transportation. This includes booster seats.

A violation of Virginia’s child restraint laws can result in a parent receiving a traffic summons.

More seriously, the failure to conform with Virginia’s child seat or booster seat laws can cause serious injuries to children.

How Many Parents Are Flouting the Booster Seat Laws?

A study in the United Kingdom in 2016 by revealed found many parents are failing to understand the importance of using booster seats and are using incorrect seats.

A third of parents who took part in the research said they had not used a booster seat at all for their child at some point, while almost a fifth (17 percent) said they either rarely or never used a booster seat for their child.

In the United States, a study in Pediatrics found about 25 percent of parents of 4-to 8-year-olds were not using boosters in the family car. When carpooling, as many as half of parents were allowing their kids to ride without booster seats.

Contact an Experience Virginia Children’s Injury Lawyer

At the Smith Law Center, we have handled many cases in which children were injured in car crashes. Infants and children often suffer very severe injuries in wrecks. Please contact us today for further information and help.

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