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Use of Child Safety Seats: Laws Mandating Use

Child safety seat laws require children riding in motor vehicles to be restrained in federally approved infant or child safety seats. Requirements vary by state based on a child’s age, weight, height, or a combination of these factors. Enforcement guidelines and penalties also vary, but all such laws allow drivers to be stopped for failing to place children in safety seats as required under the law.

Summary of Task Force Recommendations and Findings

The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends child safety seat laws based on strong evidence of their effectiveness in increasing child safety seat use.

Task Force Finding

Results from the Systematic Review

Nine studies qualified for the review.

  • Fatal injuries: median decrease of 35% (range: 25% to 57% decrease; 3 studies)
  • Fatal and non fatal injuries combined: median decrease of 17% (range: 11% to 36% decrease; 5 studies)
  • Observed child safety seat use: median increase of 13% (range: 5 to 35 percentage points; 3 studies)
  • Among the studies that evaluated the laws’ effects on injury rates, researchers found no differences in the effect size based on the age of children who were required to be in safety seats.

These results are based on a systematic review of all available studies led by scientists from the Community Guide and CDC's Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention with input from a team of specialists in systematic review methods and experts in research, practice and policy related to increasing child safety seat use.

Supporting Materials


Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Motor-vehicle occupant injury: strategies for increasing use of child safety seats, increasing use of safety belts, and reducing alcohol-impaired driving. MMWR. Recommendations and Reports 2001;50(RR07):1-13. External Web Site Icon

Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Recommendations to reduce injuries to motor vehicle occupants: increasing child safety seat use, increasing safety belt use, and reducing alcohol-impaired driving. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 78 kB] Am J Prev Med 2001;21(4S):16–22.

Zaza S, Sleet DA, Thompson RS, et al. Reviews of evidence regarding interventions to increase use of child safety seats. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 2.44 MB] Am J Prev Med 2001;21(4S): 31-47.

Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Motor vehicle occupant injuries. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 355 kB] In : Zaza S, Briss PA, Harris KW, eds. The Guide to Community Preventive Services: What Works to Promote Health? Atlanta (GA): Oxford University Press;2005:329-84.

Read other Community Guide publications about Motor Vehicle-Related Injury Prevention in our library.


The findings and conclusions on this page are those of the Community Preventive Services Task Force and do not necessarily represent those of CDC. Task Force evidence-based recommendations are not mandates for compliance or spending. Instead, they provide information and options for decision makers and stakeholders to consider when determining which programs, services, and policies best meet the needs, preferences, available resources, and constraints of their constituents.

Sample Citation

The content of publications of the Guide to Community Preventive Services is in the public domain. Citation as to source, however, is appreciated. Sample citation: Guide to Community Preventive Services. Use of child safety seats: laws mandating use. Last updated: MM/DD/YYYY.

Review completed: June 1998