Tennessee Car Seat Laws + Seat Belt Law

Tennessee Car Seat Laws + Seat Belt Law

Have kids?

Want to keep them safe in the car?

Then you must obey the Tennessee car seat laws. 

More than that, you have to obey the seat belt law, too, to make sure the adults are also safe.

And we’re going to talk about both laws here. 

We’ll first give you the law, then its penalties, then other things you should know about it. 

So let’s jump right in!

Car Seat Laws in Tennessee

Tennessee was actually the first state to pass the Child Passenger Protection Law or Car Seat Law. 

Under the law, you need to use various safety restraints as your child grows up. 

Let’s look at the details:

  • Infant rear-facing car seat – for infants under one-year-old and weighing fewer than 20 pounds. 
  • Toddler forward-facing car seat – for children 1 to 3 years old and weighing more than 20 pounds. 
  • Booster seat with a seatbelt – for children 4 to 8 years old whose height is less than 4ft and 9in.
  • Seat belt – for children 8 and above that are taller than 4ft and 9in. NOTE: if your child can’t properly fit a seat belt yet, it’s best to stick to a booster seat for as long as possible. 

Car Seat Penalties in Tennessee

The car seat law is primary enforcement in Tennessee. 

This means you can get pulled over by a law officer if your child is spotted without the proper car seat

And when you get pulled over, you’ll receive a Class C misdemeanor, a $50 fine, and may be asked to attend a class on safely transporting children.  

The penalties go to the child’s parent (whether or not they are driving). 

But if the parent is not present, then the penalty will go to the driver. 

Other Child Passenger Protection Laws in Tennessee

To further keep children safe, the State of Tennessee includes these details in the Child Passenger Protection Law:

  • Car seats and booster seats must always be installed at the back.
  • Children 12 and under are recommended to sit at the back. 
  • Children 6 to 12 are NOT allowed to ride in the bed of a pickup truck.
  • You cannot leave a child 7 and younger unattended in a car. 

For the last point, parents and/or guardians may face felony charges depending on the circumstances.

Tennessee Seat Belt Law

Of course, it’s not only children that need protection in a car. 

Adults need protection, too. 

And this is why the Tennessee seat belt law is SO important. 

The law states…

“The driver and any front passenger must always wear a seat belt when the vehicle is in motion.”

It also states that…

“Anyone below 17 years old must wear a seat belt, whether seated at the front or back.”

So say you’re older than 17 and seated at the back…

Do you have to wear a seat belt?

It’s not required by law — but it is highly recommended to still wear one to keep you safe. 

Seat Belt Penalties in Tennessee

Like the car seat laws, the Tennessee seat belt law is also primary enforcement. 

Now, seat belt penalties can vary based on the age and seating position of the occupant.

However, fines usually range from $30 to $55, with repeat offenders getting hit with a higher fine.

How to Properly Use a Seat Belt – for Children and Adults 

Here is how to properly use a seat belt:

  • Make sure the seat belt fits properly. The seat belt should be snug, not too tight, but not too loose either. The lap belt should fit low on your hips and the shoulder belt should cross your chest and collarbone.
  • Check for twisted straps. Ensure that the seat belt straps are not twisted. Twisted straps will not work as intended in an accident, and can even lead to greater harm.
  • Do not place the seat belt behind your back/under your arm. This can lead to serious injuries if you find yourself in an accident.
  • Adjust the seat. Make sure that you’re sitting upright in your seat, without slouching too much.
  • Do not wear seat belts over bulky clothing. In the winter, you might be tempted to wear your seatbelt over your jacket or sweater. However, bulky and layered clothing can prevent the seat belt from fitting snugly, which may not offer adequate protection in an accident.

For children, there are some extra precautions to follow.

  • Never share seat belts between children. It won’t work effectively.
  • Ensure proper fit before switching out a booster seat to a seat belt. The lap belt should fit snugly across the child’s hips, not on their stomach. And, the shoulder belt should cross the center of the child’s chest and shoulder, not on their neck or face.
  • Use the backseat. As we saw, children 12 and under are better suited for the backseat, where they’ll be safer from harm. 

Air Bag Safety

Yes, airbags protect you in a car crash. 

However, it should never replace seat belts. 

Remember, airbags and seat belts work together. 

What good is an airbag if you are thrown out of the vehicle, right?

Okay, okay. 

Airbags might be able to cushion adults — make sure to stay at least 10 to 12 inches away. 

But did you know it is very dangerous for children?

This is because the impact can cause several injuries. 

And this is why children should be seated in the back, where there are no airbags.

Don’t worry – the proper car seat will be able to cushion a child enough in a crash. 

Let’s say your child is already 12 years old and has nowhere else to sit but the front…

To protect them from the airbag, place the seat as far back as possible. 

Safety Restraint Stats

The use of car seats and seatbelts has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of injury or death in a car accident.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), car seats can reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers.

Buckling up is also essential, with research showing a 45% reduced risk of fatal injury to front-seat passengers. Plus, a 50% reduction in moderate-to-critical injury.

So you can see why obeying the Tennessee car seat laws and seat belt law is SO vital. 


So that was everything you needed to know about the Tennessee car seat laws and seat belt laws. 

You must follow these laws to ensure the safety of everyone…

As well as avoid those annoying penalties. 

So go and purchase the right child restraint for your children…

And make sure everyone wears a seat belt. 

Stay safe on the road!

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