Michigan has child safety seat and seat belt requirements that generally apply to all children younger than 16 years old. The type of restraint required varies depending on the age and height of the child and the guidelines of the child seat and vehicle manufacturers.
Child safety seat requirements. Under Michigan law, children who are younger than four years old generally must be secured in a child safety seat that meets federal standards. (Federal law sets the safety requirements for all types of child safety seats.) The law also requires safety seats for children between the ages of four and eight who are less than four feet nine inches tall. Generally, children in safety seats must be seated in the rear-seat area of the vehicle.
Type of car seat. Generally, there are three types of child safety seats: rear-facing, forward-facing, and boosters. Michigan law doesn't specify which type of car seats must be used for child vehicle passengers. Instead, the law requires parents to use safety seats in a manner consistent with the instructions of the vehicle and safety seat manufacturers. So, in deciding which type of restraint system to use, parents should use manufacturer instructions as the guide.
Michigan law requires all vehicle operators and front-seat passengers, regardless of age, to wear seat belts. Additionally, the law specifies that all children ages four to 16 who are at least four feet nine inches tall must wear a seat belt (shorter children must be in a child safety seat) whether they're in the front or rear seats of the vehicle.
Generally, kids who are required to be in a safety seat aren't allowed to ride in the front seat of a vehicle. And kids who are old enough to use a seat belt can sit in the front seat only if buckled up. However, there are some nuances and exceptions that are explained below.
Car seats in front. Children in safety seats generally must be secured in the back seats of a vehicle. However, in vehicles that don't have a back seat or in situations where all the backseats are occupied by children younger than four years old, parents can secure a safety seat in the front-seat area of the vehicle. But for rear-facing car seats in the front-seat area, the parent must also ensure that the passenger-side airbags are deactivated.
Seat belts in front. Children between the ages of four and 16 years old generally can sit in the front-seat area of the vehicle only if secured with a seat belt. However, there's an exception to this seat belt requirement for kids in the front seat if there are no available seat belts and the vehicle is a pickup truck with no extended-cab or jump seats.
Vehicle exceptions. Michigan's child seat and safety seat rules don't apply if the vehicle is a bus, school bus, taxicab, moped, motorcycle, or other motor vehicles not required to be equipped with safety belts under federal law or regulations.
Medical exemptions. In certain circumstances, parents may be able to get exemptions from the normal child restraint rules based on a child's physical unfitness, medical problem, or body size.
Seat belt and child seat violations are civil infractions in Michigan. A ticket for this type of violation carries fines but no traffic violation demerit points. Fine amounts vary by area but generally are about $65 for a seat belt ticket and $120 for child safety seat violations.
For more information about child safety seats, you can go to the Michigan State Police website. Also, recalls are occasionally issued for child safety seats. To find out about recalls, you can register with the NHTSA to receive recall information about the seat you have or search for recalls that have already been issued.