Massachusetts car seat laws explained

Updated May 3, 2024  |   Published April 15, 2024

Car seats are an important part of children’s safety when they are riding in a car. Consequences for not complying with child car seat safety laws include fines for first time offenders. To make sure you’re properly complying with the Massachusetts car seat safety laws, as well as purchasing a compliant car seat or booster seat, we’ve gathered all the relevant information for your convenience.


When should my child be in a rear-facing car seat?

All newborns should start out in rear-facing car seats. The Massachusetts Government states that you should keep your child in a rear-facing car seat until they outgrow the height or weight limits set by the car seat manufacturer. This typically happens between 1 and 3 years of age, but that could vary. Keeping your child in a rear-faced car seat is the best way to ensure your child’s safety and protection in their first few years.

Something to note: Convertible and all-in-one car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat for longer than normal.

Using baby inserts

You can use baby inserts to help better position your child, if that will help them be more comfortable in their car seat. Many car seats come with inserts nowadays. We recommend that you use the inserts that came with the car seat you purchased because those were made to fit that specific car seat.


When should my child be in a forward-facing car seat?

Once your child has reached the height and weight limits of their rear-facing seat, they can transition to a front-facing car seat. This front-facing seat must be secured with a harness and tether, to ensure your child’s protection. Once again, your child should remain in a front-facing car seat until they reach the height or weight limit set by the car seat manufacturer.


When should my child be in a booster seat?

Massachusetts law states that children under 8 years old, or under 57 inches in height, should be secured in a federally approved, belt-positioning booster seat. This booster seat should always remain in the back of the car. Your child should be kept in a booster seat until they reach these measurements, whichever comes first, age or height. Once your child has outgrown this, they are ready to sit comfortably in a car seat.


When should my child be in an adult seatbelt?

Here are some guidelines to how a seat belt should properly fit on your child:

  • The lap belt should lie snug across the upper thighs, and not the stomach.
  • The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest, and not across the neck or face.

When your child graduates to wearing an adult seatbelt, they should still remain in the back seat until they are at least 13 years of age, according to the Massachusetts Government. When you’re evaluating whether your child is ready for an adult seatbelt, make sure to be honest with yourself about how the car seatbelt really fits your child. If they’re not ready yet, it’s best for your child to remain in a car seat, for their safety, and for your peace of mind.


Can I use a car seat in the winter?

Children should never wear their winter coats while in their car seat. For the seat to function properly, the straps need to remain tight against the child’s chest. Winter coats make it very difficult for this to happen. Here are some other options to ensure that your child is still warm in the car:

  • Preheat the car. Either start the car and then come back in or use a remote starter. Many cars nowadays are beginning to adopt a remote starter on their higher trim models.
  • Put the coat on backwards after your child is secured in the car seat.
  • Covering your child with a blanket and turning the heat up is always a good idea.

Here’s a good way to test if their winter jacket is too bulky for their car seat:

  • Put your child in their car seat with their winter jacket on. Fasten the seat belt and tighten the straps to what is comfortable with the jacket on.
  • Take your child out of the harness and remove their winter coat.
  • Take off the coat, and put them back in their car seat, buckling them in with the straps tightened to their previous setting.
  • Do a “pinch test”: if there is excess webbing, then the coat is too bulky.


How do I buy the right car seat?

We recommend that you look for a brand-new car seat that is federally approved, but if you need to purchase a used car seat, here are some recommendations that the Massachusetts Government makes:

  • Ensure that the seat has never been in a car accident.
  • Ensure that the seat has labels stating the date that it was manufactured, and the model number. You’ll need this to find out if there has ever been a recall on the car seat, or if it has expired.
    •  Car seats do in fact have an expiration. Check your manufacturer’s information to see when it expires.
  • Ensure the seat has all its parts, and that all the parts are in working order.
  • Make sure the seat has its instruction book. This is one that you can work around a bit, as you can often download the instruction manual online from the manufacturer.


How do I install a car seat properly?

To ensure that your car seat is installed correctly, you should make sure that you first familiarize yourself with the instruction manual. Your car seat should not move more than 1 inch from where you installed it. If it does start to move a lot, this could be because of where you’ve positioned the seat belt. Most cars are equipped with a couple of “belt paths” to secure the seatbelt; try running the seatbelt through the other belt path and see if that does the trick. Also, make sure that you pull the shoulder portion slowly on your way out, to activate its locking mechanism.
If your car seat does not have LATCH (which stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), it is okay to use a seat belt, if the seat belt is in good working condition. All car seats made after September 1, 2002, are required to have LATCH.


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We want to make sure that your child is safe in their car seats. We understand how nerve racking it can be to not know whether your child is safe and secure in their car seat because it is moving too much. We also care about your overall safety and wellbeing and making sure that you’re covered in the event of an accident. We work with a variety of carriers to ensure that your coverage can be customized to your exact needs, so you’re covered in any type of situation. Click below to get a quote with WebFirst Insurance today.

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