Tennessee's Child Restraint Law

The Tennessee state legislature enacted new laws about proper restraints of children. The new laws, which took effect July 1, 2004, are as follows:

  • Birth- 12 months & under 20 pounds: Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing seats: Infant only seats can only be used rear facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time. A rear-facing car seat is best for your child to use. It has a harness and in a crash, cradles and moves with your child to reduce the stress to child’s fragile neck and spinal cord.

  • 1-3 years & 20-40 pounds: Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward- facing car seat with a harness. A forward-facing car seat has a harness and tether that limits your child’s forward movement during a crash.

  • 4-8 years, over 40 pounds, & under 4 feet 9 inches: Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it’s time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat. A booster seat positions the seat belt so that it fits properly over the stronger parts of your child’s body.

  • 9-12 years: Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lab belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.

Safety Tips for Infants

  • Never leave an infant unattended in the child safety seat.

  • Infants should not be in the child safety seat for an extended period of time.

  • Periodically, reassess the infant’s head, neck position and color to be certain that their airway is open and that they are breathing comfortably.

  • Do not place or hang plastic toys from the carrying handle.

  • The infant’s head should be in a mid-line position.

  • Blanket rolls can be placed on either side of the infant for support.

  • Generally, the carrying handle should be in the down position when traveling.

 Special Needs for Infants

  • Infants under 37 weeks need to be monitored and observed in their child safety seat prior to discharge.

  • If an infant exhibits a decreased oxygen level, slowing heart rate, or difficulty breathing, they may require an infant car bed (nursing staff will assist with this determination).

Positioning & Securing Child Safety Seats

  • Dress the infant in clothing that allows access between the legs.

  • A blanket can be placed over the infant after securing them in the seat.

  • The infant’s bottom should be flat against the back/bottom of the child safety seat.

  • An infant safety seat should be at a semi-reclined 45-degree angle.

  • Read the manual for specific harness strap position.

  • No more than one adult-sized finger should fit between the harness straps and the infant’s collarbone.

  • The harness clip should be level with the armpits.

  • Make sure there is a tight fit; the seat should not move more than 1” from side to side; kneeling on the seat while strapping it in will help to make it tighter.

  • Never use a child safety seat with a front airbag that has not been turned off.

  • Never disable the airbag yourself.

Car Seat Recommendations for Children

  • Select a car seat based on your child’s age and size, and choose a seat that fits in your vehicle and use it every time.

  • To maximize safety, keep your child in the car seat as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements.