Tennessee Car Seat Laws 2022 (Rear, Forward & Booster)

Memphis, Tennessee, USA

Under Tennessee car seat laws, children under the age of 8 years and shorter than 4’9” have to be restrained in the prescribed child restraint system. It includes rear-facing, forward-facing, and belt-positioning booster seats. There is a penalty of $50 for violating the law. The motor vehicle operator will be held responsible. 

Disclaimer: This content does not constitute legal advice. It is solely for informational purposes. Always check the original source of the law for the latest version.

Tennessee Car Seat Laws

Tennessee Rear-Facing Car Seat Law

According to the rear-facing car seat law in Tennessee, a child under the age of 1 year or weighing less than 20 pounds must be secured in a federally-approved infant rear-facing seat. (1) 

The rear-facing car seat age in Tennessee is 1 year. But the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security recommends keeping the child in the rear-facing seat as long as they meet the manufacturer’s weight limits. (2)

A violation of Tennessee rear-facing child seat law is a Class C misdemeanor. The driver or parent/legal guardian of the child present in the car will be fined $50. In case of a first offense, they may be required to attend a court-approved safety class. A fee between $50 to $175 may be charged for the class. (3)

Age: Newborn to 1 year
Weight: Less than 20 pounds
Penalty: $50; In addition to the penalty, a driver education class for first offense. 

Tennessee Forward-Facing Car Seat Law

According to the forward-facing car seat law in Tennessee, children between the ages of 1 to 3 years and weighing more than 20 pounds should be restrained in a forward-facing car seat. (1) 

If the child is unable to use a conventional car seat, they can be secured in a modified, professionally manufactured seat suitable for their height and weight. The vehicle operator must possess a written statement from a physician allowing the use of such restraint. 

The forward-facing car seat age in Tennessee is 1 to 3 years. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends keeping your child in a forward-facing seat till they outgrow its maximum limits. 

Disobeying Tennessee forward-facing child seat law is a Class C misdemeanor. The driver or parent/legal guardian of the child present in the car will be fined $50.

Age: 1 to 3 years
Weight: 20+ pounds 
Penalty: $50; In addition to the penalty, a driver education class for first offense. 

Tennessee Booster Seat Law

According to the child booster seat law in Tennessee, children aged 4 through 8 years or standing shorter than 4 feet 9 inches (regardless of age) must be properly secured in a booster seat. (1) Depending on your requirements, the seat can be a high back or backless booster seat. 

If due to some reason, the child cannot use a conventional booster seat, they can be transported in a professionally manufactured seat modified for their height and weight. The driver must possess a written statement from a physician allowing the use of such restraint. 

The booster seat age in Tennessee is 4 to 8 years. However, children should stay in a booster seat till they are 4’9” tall and can safely wear the seatbelt. 

A violation of Tennessee booster seat requirements carries a fine of $50.

Age: 4 to 8 years
Height: Shorter than 4’9” 
Penalty: $50; In addition to the penalty, a driver education class for the first offense. 

Tennessee Child Front Seat Law

There is no express child front seat law in Tennessee. However, Tennessee car seat regulations require that all children who are restrained in a car seat should be secured in the rear seat of the vehicle, if available. (1) The car seat must be appropriate for their height and weight. 

A child aged 9 through 12 years who is taller than 4’9” should also adhere to these requirements and be safely buckled in the rear seat if available. 

The front seat age in Tennessee is not mentioned. But we can infer that children under 13 years of age should be seated in the backseat. This is also in line with the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and is echoed by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. (2)

Age: Less than 13 years

Tennessee Child Seat Belt Law

According to the child seat belt law in Tennessee, all children older than 4 years must be secured in a seat belt. (4)

Tennessee state law mandates that children 9 through 15 years of age and measuring more than 4’9” in height should be secured in an adult safety belt. (1) This holds true if they are riding in the front seat or the backseat. 

A violation of the requirements under Tennessee children’s seat belt law is a Class C misdemeanor.  Not wearing a seat belt carries a  penalty of $30 for the first offense and $55 for a second or subsequent offense. 

Seat belt rules in Tennessee do not apply to a person who is physically or medically unable to wear a seatbelt and the condition is certified by a physician.  

Age: Above 4 years
Height:4’9” or taller
Penalty: $30 for a first offense, $55 for a second or subsequent violation

Tennessee Taxi Child Seat Law

According to the taxi child seat law in Tennessee, taxis are not required to have a car seat for a child passenger.

Motor vehicles used for public conveyance of passengers are exempt from Tennessee child seat laws. Therefore, there is no requirement of a taxi child seat in Tennessee.

However, as a parent/caregiver, you are allowed to use a car seat for your child when traveling in a taxi. It must comply with child seat requirements in Tennessee and be appropriate for your child.

You should check the manufacturer’s prescribed maximum height and weight limits for the seat.

It is vital to carry a car seat with you in a taxi. Aside from complying with the law, it will ensure maximum protection of your child. 

Tennessee Ridesharing Child Seat Law

The ridesharing child seat law in Tennessee is not clear. Car seat laws in Tennessee require all children under 8 years of age and shorter than 4’9” to be properly restrained in a child seat. (1) However, they do not state if rideshare services fall under their scope. 

It is better for you to carry a car seat for your child when traveling in a Lyft or Uber otherwise, you may be held liable for violating the law. Infants under 1 year old and weighing less than 20 pounds must be secured in a rear-facing seat.

Kids between ages 1 to 3 years and weighing more than 20 pounds should ride in a forward-facing seat. Those aged 4 through 8 years or shorter than 4’9” should be in a booster seat. 

Tennessee Child Seat Replacement Law

There is no specific child seat replacement law in Tennessee. The NHTSA recommends replacing the seat if your vehicle is involved in a moderate or severe accident in Tennessee.

The seat may have suffered damage that is not visible to the naked eye. Therefore, child seat replacement after an accident is extremely important. 

There is no need to immediately replace the car seat after a low-impact accident. In this type of crash, the severity of damage is low. The passengers are not injured, the vehicle can be driven away from the accident site, the door nearest to the child safety seat and the seat itself is not damaged. 

Tennessee Highway Safety Office also recommends replacing the seat after it has passed the expiration date or is older than 6 years.  

Leaving Child in The Car in Tennessee

According to the law on leaving a child in a vehicle in Tennessee, it is illegal to intentionally leave a child less than 7 years old in a vehicle without the supervision of someone who is at least 13 years old. (5)

The person will be held liable if the conditions inside the car pose a risk to the child or if the engine is running or the keys are inside the vehicle. 

Leaving a child unattended in a vehicle is extremely dangerous as children are at a grave danger of suffering a heat stroke

The offender will be charged with a Class B misdemeanor for leaving a child in the car in Tennessee. The first offense carries a penalty of $200. A second or subsequent violation will be fined $500.

Choosing a Child Car Seat in Tennessee

When choosing a car seat in Tennessee, make sure that they are federally approved. If your child is less than 1 year old or weighs less than 20 pounds, a rear-facing seat is the best car seat to use in Tennessee. 

For children 1 through 3 years of age and weighing more than 20 pounds, a forward-facing seat with a harness is the correct seat. Children older than 4 years and shorter than 4’9” should ride in a booster seat.

A seat that allows the seat belt to fit firmly across your child’s shoulders and lap is the best booster seat to use in Tennessee. 

Car Seat Installation Help in Tennessee

Child passenger safety seats in Tennessee must be installed as per the manufacturer’s instructions. You need to read through the car seat and vehicle manuals. The procedure can be complex and most of the time, car seats are installed incorrectly. This poses a danger to your child.

To help you with safe installation, there are certified Child Passenger Safety (CPS) technicians at various fitting stations in Tennessee. They can also inspect your seats and provide you vital car seat safety resources. Some inspection sites are:

Tennessee Car Seat Safety Resources

  • Tennessee Highway Safety Office: It contains a repository of resources on child passenger safety. It has a simplified version of the law as well as recommendations for car seats. 
  • St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital: A leading children’s hospital in Tennessee, it has vital information on car seat laws, frequently asked questions and other safety information. 
  • Kid Central, Tennessee: As an organization working towards kids’ health, it provides information as well as resources for procuring car seats for families. 
  • East Tennessee Children’s Hospital: It answers the most common questions that parents have about car seats and also provides a list of inspection stations to get your car seat installed or checked. 

FAQ

How long should a child ride in a rear-facing car seat in Tennessee?

Under the law, a child should ride in a rear-facing seat till they are at least 1 year old or weigh less than 20 pounds. 

Can you put a rear-facing car seat in the front seat in Tennessee?

No, you cannot put a rear-facing seat in the front seat in Tennessee if your vehicle has a backseat. If you put it in front, you must deactivate the front seat airbag. 

Can you put a rear-facing car seat in the middle rear seat in Tennessee? 

You can put a rear-facing car seat in the middle rear seat if your vehicle has lower anchors for proper installation of the car seat. 

When can a baby face forward in a car seat in Tennessee?

A baby can ride in a forward-facing car seat in Tennessee when they are between 1 to 3 years old and weigh more than 20 pounds.

How old for a booster seat in Tennessee?

A child between 4 to 8 years old and shorter than 4’9” can ride in a booster seat. But they should continue riding in a forward-facing seat till they outgrow it.

When to use a backless booster seat in Tennessee?

You can use a backless booster seat only if your vehicle seat has a head rest and the child’s ears are not higher than the seat back. 

When can a child sit in the front seat in Tennessee?

Children under the age of 12 have to sit in the backseat whenever available. The backseat is the safest location for children as front seat airbags are dangerous for them.

When can a child sit in the front seat with a booster in Tennessee?

The child between the ages of 4 through 8 years and shorter than 4’9” can sit in the front seat with a booster. The seat should be pushed as far from the dashboard as possible. 

When can a child stop using a booster seat in Tennessee?

A child can stop using a booster seat once they are at least 4’9” tall and the seat belt fits properly across their lap and shoulders. 

When to switch from 5 point harness to a seat belt in Tennessee?

When the child outgrows the height and weight limits of the 5-point harness of a forward-facing seat, they can switch to wearing a seat belt in a booster seat. 

When can a child use a regular seat belt in Tennessee?

A child can use a regular seat belt in Tennessee when they are taller than 4’9” (regardless of age). Take the 5-step test to see if they are ready for a seat belt. 

Do you need a car seat in a taxi in Tennessee?

Taxis in Tennessee are not required by law to have a car seat. But you should carry an appropriate car seat that meets federal standards. 

Do you need a car seat in a Uber in Tennessee?

The law is unclear on this issue. But as the caregiver, you should carry your own car seat to ensure the complete safety of your child.

Do you need a car seat in a Lyft in Tennessee? 

The law is not clear. But either the caregiver or the driver can provide a federally approved car seat. We recommend you check with the driver before traveling.

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