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Virginia Car Seat Laws

A Summary of Child Car Seat Laws in VirginiaChild Car Seat Laws as they apply to the state of Virginia

  • Virginia’s car seat law requires all children to ride on rear-facing seats until they reach age 2.
  • Children should ride on forward-facing seats once they outgrow their rear-facing seats.
  • The law requires children less than 8 years to ride on child restraint devices.
  • Children who have outgrown forward-facing seats should ride on booster seats until age 8.
  • Children should remain in the back seat until age 13.

Rear-facing Car Seat Laws in Virginia

Virginia’s car seat law requires all children to ride on rear-facing seats until they reach age 2 or until they reach the minimum weight limit required to ride on a forward-facing seat. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends children should ride rear-facing for as long as possible as it offers the best protection. Rear-facing seats cradle the baby’s neck, head, and back during an accident, and this reduces the risk of getting injured. The back of the seat also absorbs most of the impact energy, thus reducing the amount of force exerted on the infant. Typically, newborns usually ride on infant-only seats right from the hospital. These seats are lighter and can be used as a portable carrier. However, as the child becomes bigger, he or she should use a convertible seat which has higher weight limits (up to 40 pounds), and it also allows the child to remain rear-facing for a longer period of time. Keep your child in this position until he or she exceeds the seat’s maximum requirements even if their legs are touching the back of the seat. Rear-facing seats should be tightly secured in the rear seat.

Forward-Facing Car Seat Laws in Virginia

Once children outgrow their rear-facing seats, they should ride on forward-facing seats equipped with a 5-point harness and installed in the back seat, until they exceed the seat’s weight and height limits. Convertible seats can double as a forward-facing seat and can be turned around to face forward once the child exceeds the rear-facing position limits. Parents can also opt for 3-in-1 seats, combination seats, and forward-facing only seats. Use the harness straps to fasten your child to the seat. The straps should be snug at the hips and shoulders so that they can spread crash forces evenly across the surface of the child’s body in the event of an accident. Forward-facing seats can be secured with a lap-only belt, lap-shoulder belt, or with a latch system. Most seats can support up to 65 pounds, so some children can safely ride on them until when they are closer to age 7. Forward-facing seats should be tightly installed in an upright position. They should not move by more than 1-inch on either side.

Booster Seat Regulations in Virginia

The law requires children less than 8 years to ride on child restraint devices. Therefore, children who have outgrown forward-facing seats should ride on booster seats until age 8. A minimum weight of 40 pounds is recommended before a child can use a booster seat, however it is best to wait until the child exceeds the topmost requirements of their forward-facing seats. Booster seats are used to raise a child so that safety belts can fit properly. The lap portion should lie snug and flat across the hips and upper thighs, and the shoulder belt should lie flat across the middle of the chest. Booster seats come in two sizes: high back and no-back. High backs are used to support the child’s head and neck when the car does not have headrests installed while no-back is used when headrests are available. Booster seats should only be secured with lap-shoulder belts. Never use a lap-only belt. For best protection, children should be at least 4’9” before graduating to seat belts. Typically, most children attain this height between the ages of 8-12 years. Also, before using seat belts, ensure your child can sit all the way back against the seat and with knees bent at the edge of the seat without slouching.

Requirements for children to use the front seat in Virginia

The law states children 7 years or younger should use a child safety seat. This means children can legally sit anywhere in the car as long as they are old enough (8 years or older) to wear seat belts. However, the AAP recommends children should remain in the back seat until age 13. Virginia law requires rear-facing seats to be placed in the back seat. If the car does not have rear-seats, you can install the seat in the front seat as long the airbag is deactivated.

Car Seat Law on Children younger than 18 years in Virginia

The law requires children in this age group who are older than 7 years to be buckled in vehicle safety belts.

Pickup Truck Car Seat Law in Virginia

Children under 16 years are not allowed to ride in the cargo area of pickup trucks. Exceptions apply during certain parades and farming operations.

Law on leaving a child in a car in Virginia

There are no laws regarding leaving children unsupervised in cars. We do not recommend that you leave your child unattended in a vehicle for any length of time.

Law on Smoking in a car with a child in Virginia

It is illegal to smoke in a car with child passengers.

Car Seat Law Exemptions in Virginia

Vehicles manufactured before January 1, 1968, and commercial vehicles such as taxis and buses are exempted from complying with the state’s car seat laws.

Law on Car Seat Replacement in Virginia

Virginia law requires car seats to be replaced after a major crash. Also, remember to check your car seat’s expiry date.

More Virginia Laws