Tennessee Car Seat Laws - Updated & Simplified

Tennessee Car Seat Laws

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Tennessee Car Seat Laws

Car Seat Laws in Tennessee (TN Statutes 55-9-602 and 55-9-603)
Free online version of Tennessee Code Annotated: T.C.A. 55-9-602 and 55-9-603

What do the child passenger restraint laws in Tennessee say?

T.C.A. 55-9-602 – Child passenger restraint system

  • Infants under 12 months of age or weighing less than 20 lbs. must be secured in a child restraint system in a rear-facing position in the rear seat if available, and that meets federal standards.
  • Toddlers aged 1-3 years and weighing more than 20 lbs. must be secured in a child safety restraint system in a forward-facing position in the back seat, if available.
  • Preschoolers and school-aged children aged 4-8 years and measuring less than 4 ft 9 in. in height must be secured in a belt-positioning booster seat in the back seat, if available.
  • School-age children aged 9-12 years and measuring 4 ft 9 in. or more in height must be secured in a seat belt and in the back seat, if available.
  • Adolescents aged 13-15 years must be secured by a passenger restraint system, including seat belts, that meet federal standards.

TN Statute 55-9-603 – Safety belt

  • All passengers in a vehicle aged 4 years and more are to be restrained by a safety seat belt.
Flag of Tennessee
Flag of Tennessee

More on the Law

  • Irrespective of the stage of the car seat a child is to be restrained in, the instructions as set by the car seat manufacturer for age, weight, and height requirements or limits and installation process must be followed.
  • When a child cannot be safely transported in any of the child restraint systems due to a physical or medical condition, a modified, professionally manufactured restraint system that meets the intent of safely securing a child shall be used. A copy of a signed physical prescription for the modified restraint system must be provided when requested.
  • Taxis are not exempted from the car seat laws.
  • A violation of the Tennessee state car seat laws shall attract a fine of $50.
  • A violation of the car seat safety belt law shall attract a fine of $30 for a first violation and $55 for a second and subsequent violations.

Tennessee Car Seat Laws Rear Facing

The state of Tennessee explicitly defines the different types of car seats, that is, rear-facing, forward-facing, belt-positioning booster seat and vehicle safety belt, and that they must be installed in the back seat, if available.

By Tennessee state car seat laws, infants under 12 months and weighing less than 20 lbs. must ride in a rear-facing car seat installed in the back seat. The law further mentions that a child can ride rear-facing according to the weight and height limits as set by the car seat manufacturer.

This law goes in hand with the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that infants under 2 years should ride in a rear-facing car seat and for as long as possible (to an upper limit of 4 years).

The center rear is the safest location in a vehicle to install a car seat. As such, you should consider installing your infant seat in this spot.

Tennessee Car Seat Laws Forward Facing

Tennessee State car seat laws require that toddlers aged 1-3 years and weighing more than 20 lbs. ride in a forward-facing car seat.

However, under the clause for the rear-facing car seat, the law permits that if the restraint system used in rear-facing can accommodate more weight limit, an infant/toddler may still ride in such seat according to the manufacturer’s instruction.

A convertible car seat will be a good option of a car seat to use for your infant up to the toddler stage.

As the name implies, it can be used in a rear-facing position and later converted to forward-facing. Saves you more money in the long term.

Here’s how to choose a convertible car seat.

Tennessee Booster Seat Laws

Preschoolers and school-aged children aged 4-8 years and less than 57 cm (4ft 9in) are to ride in a belt-positioning booster seat.

This is very straightforward.

A belt-positioning booster seat must be secured with a combination of the lap and shoulder belt.

Tennessee Child Seat Belt Laws

The State of Tennessee requires that children who are 9-12 years and measure 57 cm (4ft 9in) or more in height are to ride with a seat belt properly fastened.

Most car seat manufacturers will recommend that a child outgrows the weight and height of a booster seat before transitioning to using the seat belt.

You should also follow the car seat manufacturer’s instructions on the weight and height limits.

Other Car Seat Laws You Need to Know About in Tennessee

Car Laws for Other Passengers in a Car

All other occupants of the car must make use of a seat belt.

Tennessee Car Seat Laws Front Seat – Can A Child Sit in The Front Seat?

Tennessee car seat laws explicitly mention the ‘rear seat’ position for every seat type for different ages.

This implies that a child under 13 years should ride in the back seat….’

The only exemption is if the vehicle does not have a ‘rear seat.’ This will apply to having a car seat in a single cab truck.

This follows the general standard that children under 13 years are to ride in the back seat, which is the legal age.

Also, note that a rear-facing infant car seat should never be installed in a seat position (front passenger seat) with an activated airbag.

Tennessee Car Seat Laws for Ubers, Taxis, or Cabs

The State of Tennessee does not mention taxis in the car seat laws.

However, it mentions that “the driver is responsible for making sure children under 16 years are properly restrained.”

The same section of the law goes further to say, “if the child’s parent or legal guardian is present in the car but not driving, they are responsible for making sure that the child is properly transported….”

This may imply that irrespective of the type of vehicle a child is been transported in, such a child must be secured in an appropriate child restraint system.

On the other hand, your child’s safety is a priority for you as a parent; therefore, it is best to follow recommended practice of securing your child.

When you are boarding a taxi or cab, you may need to install your infant car seat. You can do that without the base. This resource will help you install a car seat without base.

Can You Leave A Child in Your Car Alone in Tennessee?

Tennessee practices a law that prohibits leaving a child unsupervised in a car.

Children 0-7 years should not be left unattended in a car as long as the car engine is running or the keys are left behind and without a person of at least 13 years old to supervise such a child.

A violation of the law attracts a fine of $200 for a first-time offense. Subsequent violation attracts a penalty of $500. – source.

Smoking Around Children in Cars – is it illegal?

Smoking in enclosed places in Tennessee is prohibited; however, some areas are exempted from the smoking ban, including private motor vehicles (unless used for child care or daycare).

A bill was once proposed in January 2019 to prohibit smoking and vaping in a vehicle when a child is present, but the bill failed in Senate in February 2019.

On the other hand, you need to know the dangers of secondhand smoke to a child’s health.

Secondhand smoke exposes a child to many health risks, including severe asthma attacks, bronchitis, pneumonia, respiratory infections, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

As a parent, you are responsible for your child’s health and you can try not to smoke when they are around in the car.

Getting Help in Tennessee

Here are go-to resources for more help on any aspect of car seat installation, car seat inspection, etc. in the State of Tennessee.

  • NHTSA Car Seat Inspection Stations directory – here
  • City of Franklin, TN – Car Seat Checks – here.
  • City of MT. Juliet, TN – Car Seat Installation/Inspection – here.
  • City of Morristown, TN – Car Seat Inspections – here.
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