Virginia Car Seat Laws + Seat Belt Law

Virginia Car Seat Laws + Seat Belt Law

You never know when a car crash will happen. 

This is why it’s always wise to use the proper safety restraint system to avoid serious injuries or getting thrown out.

And it’s not just that. 

The State of Virginia implements laws regarding this. 

To help you, we’re going to detail the Virginia car seat laws and the seat belt law. 

We’ll talk about the law details, the exceptions, the penalties, and much more. 

So let’s dive right into it!

Car Seat Laws in Virginia

Virginia Car Seat Laws + Seat Belt Law

In Virginia, car seats are required for children below 8 years old and riding in a vehicle manufactured after January 1, 1968.

The details go further than that. 

You must use the appropriate car seat depending on your child’s age, weight, and height. 

Let’s look at the specifications: 

  • Rear-facing car seat – from birth to 2 years old or as long as the child is within the height and weight limits of the car seat.
  • Front-facing car seat – from 2 to 4 years old or as long as they are within the height and weight limits of the car seat.
  • Booster seat – from 4 to 8 years old and does not stand taller than 4’9. This should continue to be used as long as the child cannot snugly fit into a seat belt. 
  • Seat belt – from 8 and above and stand taller than 4’9. The child should also fit all the criteria listed below:
    • The lap belt lies snugly across the upper thighs
    • The shoulder belt lies snugly across the shoulder and chest
    • Tall enough to sit without slouching
    • Knees are naturally bent over the edge of the vehicle seat
    • Able to sit all the way back against the seat
    • Feet can stay flat on the floor
    • The child can sit this way for the rest of the trip

If your child can’t do any of the criteria above, then they may have to stay in a booster seat for longer. However, keep in mind that they do not exceed the height and weight limits of it. 

Car Seat Exceptions in Virginia

If your child is unable to be in a car seat due to medical reasons, you have to acquire a signed written waiver from a licensed physician. 

The letter should mention the health condition and the grounds for the waiver. 

Moreover, the person responsible for the child during the car ride should have the waiver at all times. 

Car Seat Penalties in Virginia

The driver is the main person responsible for making sure that children are properly strapped in the right car restraint. 

So whether that’s the parent or not, it doesn’t matter. 

If there’s a violation of the car seat law, the driver will be penalized $50 on the first offense. A second or subsequent offense could reach up to $500 in fines. 

Moreover, the Virginia car seat laws are primary enforcement. 

This means that you can get pulled over by a law enforcer if they spot an unrestrained child in your moving vehicle. 

What to Know When Traveling with Children

Other than car seats, there are more things to think about when you’re transporting children. These are:

  • If a child needs to be in a car seat or booster seat, the safest place to put them is in the back seat. This is because the front seat can experience more impact during a crash. Also because airbags can cause more harm than good to a child. 
  • Never put your child on your lap. Aside from violating the car seat law, you’re putting them in grave danger of hitting the dashboard or back of the seat when there is a sudden stop or crash. 
  • All car doors should be securely closed and locked. If your car is equipped with a child safety lock, turn it on. 
  • Never let your children ride in the luggage area of any vehicle. 
  • It’s illegal for children under 16 years old to ride in the bed of a pickup truck, even if there’s a camper shell installed. 

Virginia Seat Belt Law

Now, let’s move on to the adults’ safety. 

In Virginia, only the driver and front-seat passenger are required to wear seat belts. 

However, if the passenger in the back seat is below 18 years old, the driver must secure them in a seat belt, booster seat, or car seat. 

Sure, the back seat passengers above 18 are not required to wear seat belts — but it is still highly recommended to use them for protection. 

And of course, it’s a must that you wear your seat belts correctly. 

The right way to wear a seat belt is to have the lap belt on your thighs and the shoulder belt across your chest. Do not put the shoulder belt over the headrest of your seat or under both your armpits. 

Seat Belt Exceptions in Virginia

Just like the car seats, you don’t have to wear a seat belt if your health or condition prevents you from using it. 

However, you have to have a waiver written by a licensed physician that clearly states that wearing a seat belt is not reasonable because of your health. 

You must have this waiver whenever you’re driving a vehicle, riding in the front seat, or are below 18 years old. 

Seat Belt Penalties in Virginia

If anyone breaks the Virginia seat belt law, the driver has to pay a fine of $25 to $50. 

Now, here’s where it gets a bit tricky. 

In Virginia, the seat belt law is primary enforcement for those 18 and below. And this applies to drivers and front-seat passengers, too. 

So if you’re below 18, you can be pulled over and fined. 

But for those above 18 years old, the seat belt law is secondary enforcement. 

This means that you have to be pulled over for another violation to receive a penalty for breaking the seat belt law. 


Let’s make this clear: airbags shouldn’t replace seat belts. 

Remember, airbags only work best if you’re properly restrained. Besides, airbags only provide a cushion so that you don’t hit the dashboard or the sides of the vehicle when the force of impact is strong. 

They don’t keep you in your seat.

So to take full advantage of airbag protection, you must: 

  • Buckle up all the time
  • Move your seat at least 10 inches from the steering wheel
  • If you can tilt your steering wheel downwards, the better. This directs the airbag toward your chest. 

Another thing. 

Children 12 and below should be seated in the back seat to avoid airbags. Don’t worry – the car seat/booster seat will give them enough cushion. 


It might not seem like it, but car seats and seat belts can save lives. 


So it’s always best to obey the Virginia car seat laws and seat belt laws for the safety of everyone. 

It’s better to be safe than sorry. 

And this is something that a lot of people wished they had known and done. 

Be a responsible driver!

Wear your seat belts!

Install the proper car seats!

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