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Michigan Car Seat Laws

Joanne Stene
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by Joanne Stene

Car crashes are a leading cause of death for children under thirteen, making motor safety a top concern for most parents and guardians. The best way to protect children while out on the road is by using a properly fitted car or booster seat.

It’s not only a good idea to buckle your child into a car seat, but it’s also the law in most places. In Michigan, parents are required to secure young children into an appropriate car seat or booster seat, depending on size and age of the child.

Here, we’re going to cover the different types of car seats and when to use them according to Michigan seat belt law.

Welcome to Michigan

Car Seat Laws in Michigan

Understanding car seat laws in Michigan will help to keep your child safe. It’s important that you brush up on local laws before heading out on the road with your family.

Michigan Seat Laws For Infants and Toddlers

According to Michigan law, children under four years old must be properly secured at all times in a restraint system that meets federal safety standards. Whenever possible, the safest location for kids is in the rear seat of the car.

Michigan Seat Laws For Young Children

Children under eight years old and shorter than 4’9” have to ride in a car seat or booster seat. For smaller, lighter children, parents should use a car seat with a safety harness. Older and larger children can use a booster seat alongside a car’s seat belt.

Once a child reaches eight, they no longer need a car seat as long as they reach Michigan’s height requirement. Children older than eight and taller than 4’9” may legally ride in the seat of a car unassisted, though it’s recommended parents and guardians keep them in the back seat. 

Why Do Children Need a Booster Seat?

Cars are designed for adult bodies, and they can be unsafe for small children who ride unsupported. Booster seats raise children to adult height so that their seatbelt is as effective as possible in the event of an accident.

How Long Do Children Need Car Seats?

Children need to ride in car seats until they’re large enough to ride without extra support safely. Once a child has reached near adult size, they’re usually large enough for a car’s seat belts to work properly.

In Michigan, the law states that this means children should reach at least 4’9″. For most children, this is around eight years old, though it may take longer for late bloomers.

Can Children Sit in the Front Seat?

Sitting in the front seat can be dangerous for children, especially in cars with airbags. While most adults will fare just fine when they deploy, an airbag can smother a smaller frame. It’s always best to ride with children in the back seat of the car.

According to Michigan law, the only time that you should place a child under four in the front seat of your car is if all other backseat positions are occupied by other children under four. If you have passenger-side airbags, make sure the seat is as far back as possible to minimize the risk of injury.

Penalties for Disobeying Michigan Child Seat Law

If you don’t strap your child into a federally approved car seat, you may be breaking Michigan law. Failure to comply with local car seat laws in Michigan is considered to be a traffic violation.

Under the Michigan Vehicle Code, you may get a ticket. You’ll have to pay a fine for civil infraction along with a justice system assessment fee, which can amount to a significant chunk of money. 


Not all vehicles are required to secure children with safety restraints. In most cases, public transportation such as trains or buses isn’t required to provide safety restraints for children under four. Similarly, you don’t need infant or toddler restraints for motorcycles and mopeds.

Taxi cabs and rideshares aren’t required to provide car seats by law, so it’s important that parents make sure to bring their own when necessary. Some services such as Lyft and Uber can connect passengers with drivers who already have an approved child restraint system in place.

Children older than four don’t need safety seats in buses, including school buses, as well as Class 1 vehicles. The law also exempts cars manufactured before 1965 from needing a proper child safety restraint system.

Final Thoughts

While seat belts help to keep adults safe, they’re not designed to protect kids and infants. You need to use a properly fitted car seat or booster seat when driving with a child to protect them against injury in the event of an accident.

Knowing Michigan’s car seat laws can help you to decide on the best type of car seat for your child. By complying with the law, you’ll be helping to keep your entire family safe out on the road.

About Joanne Stene
Joanne Stene
Joanne is a mother of 2 young girls and a technical writer with over 20 years of professional experience. She originally got interested in the topic of car seats as her two daughters were born and during the course of research into which seats to buy for her family. That interest has turned into a passion of sharing information on the Elite Car Seats website.
Joanne Stene
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