Young Child Properly Restrained in a Car Seat in Wisconsin

Wisconsin, like most states, has laws that require children of certain ages to be in specific kinds of car seats while riding in motor vehicles on Wisconsin roads. Whether you are a Wisconsin resident or a visitor, you need to know the laws and comply with them.

The Wisconsin Car Seat Requirements by Age

As of February 2019:

  • Children under the age of one. In Wisconsin, children under one-year-old or weighing less than 20 pounds must be in a rear-facing child seat in the back seat of the car.
  • Children aged one to three. Children who are at least one-year-old and weigh at least 20 pounds, but who are under four years old or weigh less than 40 pounds must be in either a forward-facing or rear-facing child seat in the back seat of the car.
  • Children aged four to eight. Children who weigh less than 40 pounds should remain in a forward-facing car seat. Children who weigh between 40 and 80 pounds and are not more than 4 feet, 9 inches tall may be in a car seat or a booster seat.

There are no exemptions to Wisconsin car seat laws, and there are penalties for non-compliance with the law. If the child is less than four years old, then the fine for non-compliance with Wisconsin’s car seat law is $175.30. If the child is between the ages of four and eight, then the fine for noncompliance is $150.10 for the first offense, $200.50 for the second offense, and $263.50 for the third and subsequent offenses.

American Academy of Pediatrics Car Seat Recommendations by Height and Weight

It is your legal obligation to comply with Wisconsin law. While it is not your legal obligation to comply with the American Academy of Pediatrics car seat recommendations, it is important to know what this large organization of doctors recommends for your child’s safety. As of August 2018:

  • Infants and toddler should ride in rear-facing car seats until they reach the maximum weight and height for their seats. For many babies, this will be at least two years.
  • Toddlers and preschoolers should ride in front-facing car seats after they have exceeded the weight and height requirements for rear-facing car seats. They should remain in front-facing car seats with harnesses until they reach the weight and height requirements for these seats. Many seats accommodate children up to 65 pounds.
  • School-age children who exceed the weight and height requirements for forward-facing car seats should ride in booster seats until they reach four feet, 9 inches and they are eight to twelve years old.
  • Children under the age of 13 should ride with a seat belt in the backseat of the car.

In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its guidelines to remove some specific age guidelines and, instead, focus on height and weight guidelines.

Car Seats Prevent Many Car Accident Injuries

You may be a safe driver, but the other drivers on Wisconsin roads could put your child at risk of serious injury or death. When used correctly, car seats significantly reduce the chances of a child being hurt or killed in a car accident, but they do not eliminate the risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), car seat use reduces a child’s risk of injury by 71 to 82 percent, and booster seat use reduces a child’s risk of injury by 45 percent when compared with seat belt use alone.

If you have any questions about what kind of car seat your child should be in, please ask your child’s doctor or your local police department. Once you identify the type of car seat that should be used, you need to install it correctly. This can be trickier than it seems. Safe Kids Wisconsin maintains a list of places where you can make an appointment to have your car seat installed and a list of events where you can have your car seat installed without an appointment.

Using a proper car seat or booster is not just a good idea—it’s the law in Wisconsin.

Jason F. Abraham
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Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham