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What exactly is Michigan’s child car seat law?

January 13, 2015 by Steven M. Gursten

Proposed changes in SB 1135 regarding use of rear- and forward-facing child seats didn’t pass; our seat belt law still remains the same as before

MI car seat law

Michigan’s current child car seat law requires that:

  • Children under 4 be properly secured in a child restraint system and positioned in a motor vehicle’s rear seat; and
  • Children between age 4 and 8, and under 4 feet 9 inches tall, be properly secured in a child restraint system.

Note that while the law explicitly states that children between 4 and 8 must be “properly secured in a child restraint system in accordance with the child restraint manufacturer’s and vehicle manufacturer’s instructions …,” it does not address the issue of their positioning, i.e. whether they must be seated in the rear seat or whether they may be seated in either the rear or the front seats.

The law goes on to address the terms for children over the age of 8 and over 4′ 9″ in height, though once they’ve outgrown car seats, those terms are rather obvious:

  • Children 8 years of age or older, but less than 16 years of age, must wear a seat belt – regardless of where they are seated in the vehicle, i.e., the front seat or the back seat.
  • Children 16 years of age or older – if seated in the front seat as either a passenger or an operator – must wear a seat belt. (See MCL 257.710d(1) and (2) and 257.710e(3)(a) and (b), (5).)

This all became a little less certain last November, when Senate Bill 1135 was introduced, which would have introduced substantial changes to Michigan’s child car seat law.

The bill passed quickly out of the Michigan Senate and was sent to the Michigan House of Representatives for consideration. However, because no action was taken in the House, the bill “died” at the end of the year (which was also the end of the legislative session) and, thus, the proposed changes in SB 1135 did not become law.

Michigan’s child car seat law remains the same as it was. I felt it important to clarify this, because our lawyers received a lot of questions about SB 1135, especially when it looked in early November of 2014 that SB 1135 would become law and it’s effect would significantly change Michigan’s car seat requirements. You can read many of the comments following my own blog blog post on the topic, “Attention parents: Senate votes to change Michigan’s car seat law.”

To answer many of these good questions and to further clarify the current status of Michigan’s child car seat law, I will discuss the following below in tomorrow’s blog:

  • The existing child car seat requirements under Michigan’s Child Car Seat Law;
  • The Michigan State Police’s interpretation of the law;
  • Suggestions from the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning; and,
  • Senate Bill 1135’s proposed changes to the child car seat law.

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