Drivers in the state of Michigan have had since 2009 to get used to Michigan car seat laws, but still some new drivers or parents with infants and young children may not be aware of what the law requires.
Changes became effective June 26, 2009 when Michigan’s car seat laws were modified to include a rear seating requirement and the elimination of the nursing mother exemption.
Current Michigan Car Seat Laws
Under the current law, children under the age of four must ride in a car seat in the rear seat of the vehicle, providing the vehicle has a back seat. If all the available seats in the back are occupied by children under four, then a child under the age of four may ride in the front seat if properly restrained in a car seat.
If the child is in a rear-facing car seat, they may only be placed in the front seat (in the abovementioned situation where all available back seats are occupied by children under four) if the front passenger airbag is turned off.
Another revision of Michigan car seat laws is that nursing mothers are no longer permitted to remove children from a car seat to nurse while the vehicle is in motion. The driver should pull the vehicle over to a safe place and stop so that the mother can safely nurse the child.
In addition, car seat legislation was expanded in 2008 to require children to ride in a car seat or booster seat until they reach eight years old, or 4 feet 9 inches, whichever comes first.
Maximum fine for the first offense is $10 for children under four and $25 for children aged 4 to 8 and under 4 feet 9 inches.
Rationale for the Change
Changes in Michigan car seat laws followed research that shows that the safest place for children is in the back seat. According to Partners for Child Passenger Safety, children are 40 percent more likely to be injured when in the front seat compared to children properly restrained in the rear of the vehicle.
Finally, the safest place for all children aged 12 and under is in the back seat. Michigan law requires that children up to age 16 must be restrained in all seating positions, and all drivers and front passengers are required to buckle up under the law.
The importance of using a properly fitted child car seat cannot be minimized. In late 2011, a new crash test video produced by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute featuring child-sized dummies representing 3-year old children emphasized the potential life-saving difference a properly used and fitted child car seat can make. Parents can find a list of locations where child passenger safety technicians can perform car seat checks by going to www.nhtsa.gov. A check of locations in Michigan showed there are currently 250 car child safety seat inspection stations. Find information on NHTSA’s car seat ratings, and register your car seat to receive notification of any defects and safety recalls.