Although the leading cause of death for young children is still car injuries, the proper use of child restraint devices, like booster seats, significantly increases a child's chances of living through a car accident, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC. There are no federal height, age or weight requirements for booster seat use; however, every state has its own child car restraint laws, some of which include such requirements.
Booster seats reduce the risk that a child will be injured in a car accident by 59 percent, according to research done at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The use of age- and size-appropriate child restraint devices is key to the successful prevention of such injuries. Although it is not a legal requirement, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that any child under the age of 8 or who is 4 feet 9 inches or shorter should use a booster seat.
States have differing requirements for booster seats and car seats. Some states, like Maryland, require that any child under the age of 7 or less than 57 inches tall sit in an appropriate car restraint device. Others, like Mississippi, have more specific requirements. Mississippi requires that children between ages 4 and 6, and who are less than 57 inches or 65 lbs. must sit in a booster seat while traveling in a car.
All states allow certain exceptions for car restraint device laws, most notably for private car service drivers like taxi-cab and limousine operators. For example, in the state of Massachusetts, children are still required to sit in car or booster seats, but it is up to the adult with whom the child is traveling to provide the seat, not the cab operator.
Along with the different requirements, states also impose various penalties for drivers who violate booster seat laws. For example, the state of Alaska imposes a $25 fine for anyone who violates a child restraint law, while the state of Kentucky fines drivers $30 for a booster seat violation but $50 for a car seat violation.
Child restraint laws differ widely between states and are subject to change at any time. If you need specific advice about your state's booster seat requirements, contact your local driver's license bureau, state attorney general's office or other state organization for up-to-date information.