Ohio Car Seat Laws Explained (2022)

If you find Ohio car seat laws confusing, remember that you need to think about three categories. Ohio’s car seat laws try to account for a child’s height, and weight, age, and they apply to minors who are 15 years old and younger.

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UPDATED: Apr 15, 2022

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Things to Know

  • Children under four years old need to ride in car seats to comply with Ohio car seat laws
  • Many children eight years old and up may only need to use regular seatbelts, but exceptions exist for children under 57 inches in height
  • Car seats in Ohio can be as cheap as $15, but a state fund exists to assist families who otherwise cannot afford child safety restraints

Are you having difficulty navigating Ohio car seat laws? The laws can be confusing because of different stipulations based on a child’s age, plus exceptions. Also, it might be hard for you to decide which type of child restraint system you need for your little passengers.

We created this short guide to help you understand Ohio’s car seat laws. We will explain when your child needs a car seat, when they need a booster seat, and when a lap-and-shoulder seatbelt is best.

As you read, further, find out about the penalties for not complying with Ohio car seat laws. Also, there are tips for promoting your child’s safety whenever you go for a drive with them in tow.

What are the basics of Ohio’s car seat laws?

Specific changes to Ohio’s seat laws took effect on October 7, 2009, to account for children’s age, height, and weight. Based on sections (A)-(D) from the Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.01, these are the general guidelines:

  • Any child under four years of age or 40 pounds must be in a car seat that meets federal motor vehicle safety standards when riding in a personal vehicle.
  • Children younger than four years old or weighing under 40 pounds must be in a car seat that meets federal motor vehicle safety standards when riding in a vehicle in the control of a nursery school or daycare center.
  • Children under eight years of age and standing at 4 feet and 9 inches (57 inches) in height or under must ride in a booster seat and use a seatbelt.
  • Minors between eight and 15 years of age need to sit in a child safety seat or wear a seat belt while in a moving car.

Additionally, Ohio has rear-facing and front-facing car seat laws. Infants and most toddlers under two years old need to sit in rear-facing seats while in a moving car. Toddlers under two years of age who outgrow their rear-facing car seat may sit in front-facing car seats.

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Are there any exceptions to Ohio’s car seat laws?

Of course, there are some exceptions to the rules. For one thing, children do not need to use a child restraint system, sit on a booster seat, or wear a seatbelt when riding in a taxicab. Also, operators of emergency vehicles do not need to restrain children in car seats, booster seats, or seatbelts.

Additionally, the rules do not apply in some other emergencies. For example, a driver transporting a minor in an emergency must have a signed affidavit from an Ohio-licensed physician or chiropractor. The driver must also prove that restraining the child is impossible or impractical.

What types of car seats and booster seats should you purchase for your child in Ohio?

Beyond the booster and car seat requirements in Ohio listed above, there are no stipulations for the types of car seats and booster seats you need for child passengers. That said, there are multiple options for rear-facing car seats, front-facing car seats, and booster seats.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration outlines car seats and booster seats, and the three types of rear-facing car seats:

  • Infant car seats. These are for smaller babies, like newborns. The seats are portable, and they will only face the rear.
  • Convertible seats. A convertible seat can change from rear-facing to forward-facing and include a harness and tether. While smaller babies can sit in this type of child restraint system, it is also appropriate for babies who have outgrown their infant car seats.
  • All-in-one seats. These have the properties of convertible seats, but they can also transform into boosters when children are big enough.

When choosing front-facing car seats, you also have three options. Besides the convertible and all-in-one seats, you can consider a combination seat. This child restraint system can transform from a front-facing seat with a harness and tether to a booster.

You will have four options when choosing a booster seat. Besides the combination and all-in-one options, boosters can come with a high back or are backless. The booster seat with a high back is best for cars without headrests and high seat backs.

What are the penalties for violating Ohio car seat laws?

Like there are numerous risks of driving without car insurance, you are taking a significant risk by violating Ohio car seat laws. Not only are you putting a child’s life in danger, but you can be penalized.

Besides the exceptions, any driver who violates Ohio’s child seat car laws faces a fine. The first offense is a minor misdemeanor, and the second is a fourth-degree misdemeanor.

  • After being convicted the first time, you must pay at least $25 but no more than $75 in fines.
  • A second offense can lead to a $250 fine and 30 days of jail.
  • A third offense levies a $500 fine and a 60-day jail sentence.

All fines must go to the state treasurer, who sets aside the monies for a child highway safety fund. The fund serves the following purposes:

  • Lessening the cost of designating hospitals as trauma centers
  • Educating the public about child car seats and booster seats, including how their proper usage
  • Providing child car seats and booster seats to people who meet specific eligibility requirements
  • Running a hotline that people can call to know more about child safety seats

Ohio’s director of health may make rules in executing the law regarding child safety seats. For one thing, the director of health may adjust the rules regarding eligibility for receiving child restraints from the state.

According to the car and booster seat law page on Ohio’s official government website, child booster seats can cost as little as $15. But if it is difficult for you to afford a child restraint system, the state program exists to help you.

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Ohio Car Seat Laws: Tips for Child Passenger Safety

To ensure your child’s safety before you start the car, here are things you can do:

  • Read the instructions before installing a car seat or booster.
  • Make sure the car seat or booster fits tightly in its position. It should not move more than an inch left or right.
  • Monitor your child’s height and weight to make sure they can graduate from one seat type to another.
  • Dispose of your car seat or booster if severely damaged or past its expiration date.
  • When your child is wearing a seatbelt, make sure the seatbelt is not resting on your child’s neck or face. The NHTSA points out that the restraint should fit snugly across the thigh area and on your child’s shoulder.

Despite the seat belt law in Ohio, consider an age limit for putting your child in the front passenger seat. Ohio does not say when children should ride in the front, but experts say that 13 years is the best age to start.

In the meantime, do not get caught without a proper child safety restraint system in Ohio. Also, if you would like to know more about driving in the state, read our post about Ohio car insurance. We can also help you find cheap Ohio City, Ohio, car insurance quotes.

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