Tennessee’s Child Safety Seat and Seatbelt Laws

Tennessee’s child safety seat laws and the penalties of a violation.

All vehicle occupants in Tennessee are required to use passenger safety devices. This rule generally requires seatbelts for adults and child restraint systems for children. The proper child restraint system varies depending on the child’s age, weight, and height. Below you’ll find more details on these requirements, as well as the penalties of a child seat or seatbelt violation.

Child Seat Requirements

In Tennessee, the driver or parent is responsible for ensuring all occupants under 16 years old are properly secured.

Children under one year old. A child who’s younger than a year old or weighs less than 20 pounds must be secured in a rear-facing harness in the rear seat (if equipped with a rear seat).

Children one to three years old. A child who’s at least 20 pounds and at least a year old can be secured in a forward-facing harness in the rear seat. The forward-facing harness must be used until the child is at least four years old.

Children at least four years old. Once a child is four years old, he or she must be secured in a rear-seat belt-positioning booster seat. A child must remain in the booster until he or she is eight years old or four-feet, nine inches tall.

Children at least eight years old. Even after a booster seat, children must still be properly secured with a seatbelt. Children under 12 years old should be secured in the rear seat.

Exceptions. Children with physician-certified conditions are exempt from the standard requirements. However, the child must still be secured in a specially modified safety restraint and the signed certification must be carried.

Violations. A violation of the child restraint requirements is a class C misdemeanor, which carries a $50 fine but no court costs. In addition to, or in lieu of the fine, the court can require the offender to attend a class on car seat safety.

Seatbelt Requirements

Passengers and drivers who are at least 16 years old must wear seatbelts but are individually responsible for compliance.

Violations. A seatbelt violation is a class C misdemeanor. A first offense carries a $30 fine and a subsequent offense carries a fine of $55. Court costs don’t apply to seatbelt violations.

Exceptions. Certain people and occupations are exempt from the standard seatbelt requirements. The exceptions include rural letter carriers, dealership test-drivers, meter readers, and newspaper deliverers. Exceptions also exist for hayrides and parades. A passenger may also be exempt from the requirements for medical reasons but must carry a physician’s certificate indicating that a medical condition that prevents standard seatbelt use.

Recommendations

The Tennessee Department of Safety is tasked with promoting car seat education. It also raises funds to distribute and loan out restraint systems. Many of the recommendations of the department exceed the actual requirements but are useful in selecting a proper car seat. All car seats should be used per manufacturer's directions.

Birth

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13+

Rear-facing

Forward-facing

Booster

Belt

More Information and Resources

For more information about child restraint systems, check the recommendations of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It’s also a good idea to register your car seat to be notified regarding recalls.

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