Buckle Up! Wisconsin's Strict Car-Seat Safety Laws

The State's Laws Seek to Adequately Protect Kids in Vehicles

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Child-restraint laws vary by state, and Wisconsin's laws governing child restraints, booster seats, and safety belts are a little more stringent than those you might have experienced in other states. Whether you're a first-time parent, doting aunt or caretaker, or traveling to Wisconsin from outside the state, here's what you need to know. The best way to ruin a car ride or vacation? A fine or--worse--an accident.

Legislators in Wisconsin are serious about making sure that parents adequately protect children while they are riding in vehicles, whether it's to a nearby neighborhood for the afternoon or a road trip across the state. Follow the law and you achieve two things: keep children safe and avoid paying a fine. On the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's website is more information; use this as a guideline. Further questions can be addressed to the Division of Motor Vehicles' office in Madison--the capital city--at 608-264-7447 (general driving questions) or 608-266-1249 (safety).

Wisconsin state law specifies the following four-step progression of child-safety restraints. Generally, babies younger than 1 year old must be restrained in a rear-facing child safety seat, children older than 1 but younger than 4 must be restrained in a child safety seat, and kids ages 4 to 8 must be restrained in a child booster seat while riding in a vehicle.

These are the specific rules you must follow.

  1. A child who is less than 1 year old or who weighs less than 20 pounds must be properly restrained in a rear-facing child safety seat in the back seat of the vehicle if the vehicle is equipped with a back seat.
  2. A child who is at least 1 year old and weighs at least 20 pounds but is less than 4 years old or weighs less than 40 pounds must be properly restrained in a forward-facing child safety seat in the back seat of the vehicle if the vehicle is equipped with a back seat.
  1. A child who is at least 4 years old but less than 8 years old, weighs at least 40 pounds but not more than 80 pounds, and is no more than 57 inches tall must be properly restrained in a child booster seat.
  2. A child who is age 8 or older or weighs more than 80 pounds or is taller than 57 inches must be properly restrained by a safety belt.
  3. It is recommended that all children ride in the back seat of a vehicle until they reach age 12.
     

The fine for a safety-restraint violation involving a child under the age of 4 is steep--and so it's worth reading up on, and following the rules. The fine is $175.30, and the fine for a violation involving a child from age 4 to 8 is $150.10. These costs increase for subsequent offenses within a three-year period.