Arizona's Car Seat Law. Confused? I Can Help.

Keep Your Kids Safe in Your Vehicle

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A car seat/booster seat law went into effect in 2012 in Arizona. I have read many interpretations and misleading statements about it. Is it for children under seven? Under nine? eight and younger? Is the requirement by age or weight, or both age and weight?

Here it is, as simply as I can explain it.

The old law required that any child in a passenger vehicle under five years old must be secured in a child restraint system.

The new law in Arizona requires:

  1. Any child under five years old must be secured in a child restraint system.
  2. Any child at least five years old but under eight years old who is also 4'9" tall or shorter must be secured in a child restraint system.

It is and not or, meaning that the law applies to children who meet both the age and height requirements.

Examples:

  • Your daughter is six years old and 4'1" tall. She must be in a child restraint system when riding in a vehicle. She is more than five years old but not yet eight years old, and not taller than 4'9".
  • Your daughter is nine years old and 4'5" tall. She is not required by law to be in a child restraint system. Although she is not taller than 4'9", she is not under eight years old.
  • Your son is seven years old and 5'2" tall. He is not required by law to be in a child restraint system. Although he is more than five years old but not yet 8 years old, he is taller than 4'9".
  • Your son is seven years old, 4'8" tall and weighs 70 pounds. He must be in a child restraint system. He is more than five years old but not yet eight years old, and not taller than 4'9". Weight is not a factor in Arizona.

The intent of this law is to improve the safety of children riding in our vehicles who are too big for a car seat, but still not big enough for a regular, factory-installed seat belt to provide adequate protection in the event of an accident.

Note: there are exceptions to the law for certain types of older vehicles, RVs, and transport for emergencies.

What if you have a child that is older but still rather small? Can you have them use a booster seat in the car? Of course, you can, but that's up to you.

Read the actual Arizona child restraint system statute, ARS 28-907.

Arizona Car Seat and Booster Seat Laws - FAQ

Here are some of the most common questions I have received about Arizona's car seat and booster seat laws. My answers are based solely on my understanding of the law, and I checked with both AAA Arizona and the Arizona Department of Transportation; both organizations agreed with my interpretation of the statute. Still, I am not a lawyer nor was I involved in the drafting of the statute. If you disagree with my analysis, I recommend that you investigate further with an attorney or a state official.

Q:
I have an 8-year-old that is 4’5" tall. If you take the statute literally, the ages between 5 and 8 are only 6 and 7-year-olds. Does 8 mean the day they turn 8 or the day before they turn 9?

A:
The statute reads, “Any child at least 5 years old but under 8 years old who is also 4’9" tall or shorter must be secured in a child restraint system.” If your child is already 8, you are not required by law to have him in a child restraint system.

Q:
Is the booster seat required to be in the back seat, or can it be in the front? I find myself constantly looking in the rearview mirror checking on her and would feel more comfortable with her in the front seat.

A:
Booster seats should always be in the back seat. You wouldn’t want an airbag to deploy in your child’s face. If you can place the booster seat in the middle of the back seat, where it is safest anyway, it is easier to talk to the child and glance back when appropriate and safe to do so. Arizona law does specify that you are expected to follow the instructions on the restraint system you are using.

Q:
Does Arizona have a law stating a child car seat can not be secured in the front passenger seat? 

A: The Arizona law does not specifically address front or rear seats at all. Federal regulations do, however.

Q:
Does Arizona law state what kind of car seat must be used for children under 5 years of age or children between the ages of 5-8? 

A:
The Arizona law uses the phrase “Child Restraint System.” The law, itself, does not prescribe which restraint system is required for which child, except to the extent that the federal regulations must be met. Here is a general overview of car seat and booster seat types. As long as you are using that booster seat per the manufacturers instructions you should be in compliance. 

Q:
I have a three-year-old child that weighs almost 50 lbs. He is too big for a regular 5 point car seat. Is it ok by law to have him in a booster seat?

A:
Your child must be in the appropriate child restraint system if he is shorter than 4’9". Arizona law doesn’t address weights at all and doesn’t specify what kind of child restraint system you must use. There are 5-point car seats for larger kids.

Q:
Are taxis included?

A:
Taxis are not exempt from the car seat law. I called one taxi company and they told me that they have a certain number of cars with car seats/booster seats, but not all so a person might have to wait longer for a cab if they need one.

Q:
My child is 3 under 4’9 and weighs 40 lbs. Should he be in a booster seat or front facing car seat?

A:
Arizona’s law does not take weight into account. Three-year-olds were always required to be in a car restraint system, and that has not changed. You need to use one that is appropriate for the child’s size so that it fits and is properly secured and doesn’t hurt the child (belts cutting into the neck, for example). Check the manufacturers instructions for the child restraint system, which must be appropriate for the child's size, age and weight.

Q: 
What about childcare centers providing transportation to and from school in a passenger van or in a bus. Do the same laws apply?

A:
The Federal Standards required for transportation of preschoolers probably depends on the size of the vehicle and its general use. You can read the Federal Regulations, or contact Arizona Department of Public Safety for clarification of your particular situation. My comments here were not intended to apply to buses, vans or other special or older vehicles, just regular passenger vehicles.