When you’re planning a family trip to Pennsylvania, it’s important that you make sure to follow local (or exceed) the child passenger safety laws. I confess: the wording of Pennsylvania’s laws makes my head spin a little, so I’ll try to distill it as best I can here!
Official Pennsylvania Car Seat Laws
You can find the official Pennsylvania car seat law in Vehicle Code 75, Section 4581 with additional (more useful) clarification added in Pennsylvania Code Title 67 Section 102.102.
Pennsylvania Rear-Facing Car Seat Law
Pennsylvania rear facing car seat law requires children to remain rear facing (either in an infant car seat or a convertible car seat) until at least 2 years old unless they outgrow the manufacturer’s limits of their seat sooner. Very few children will outgrow a convertible car seat before 2.
Rear-facing is significantly safer for children as it dramatically decreases the risk of head and neck injuries. This resource is full of great information.
The current guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics is that children should remain rear-facing to the limits of their convertible car seat. Nearly all convertible car seats today will accommodate kids up to 40 pounds (they have variable height limits so read your manual) – the size of an average 4 year old – rear facing.
Though it’s not specified by the law, research indicates that kids should continue riding in a harnessed car seat (whether rear-facing or forward-facing) until at least age 5, 40 pounds and mature enough to sit properly for the whole drive.
PA car seat law requires that children ride in a harness car seat until at least 4 years old, with no exemption given for height or weight.
Pennsylvania Booster Seat Law
Pennsylvania’s law for booster seats requires children who are at least 4 years old and 40lbs to ride in a booster seat until they reach 8 years old or 57″ or 80lbs. Be sure to follow manufacturer minimum and maximum size requirements for your booster seat – most manufacturers now require a minimum of 4 years old, 40″ tall and 40 pounds. Kids under 40lbs should still ride in a harnessed car seat according to PA car seat law.
Most children do not fit properly in an adults seatbelt until 10-12 years old, when they pass the 5-step test.
PA booster seat law specifies that in cars with a lap-only seatbelt, kids 4-8 may ride with just the lap belt (which is extremely dangerous) or they may continue using a harnessed car seat within manufacturer height and weight limits (a much safer option). This car seat is the longest-lasting and will safely hold average sized kids until at least 8.
When Can Kids Ride In the Front Seat In Pennsylvania?
There’s no law in Pennsylvania on when kids can ride in the front seat, but many car manufacturers specify that kids should not ride in the front until age 13. Here’s an excellent explanation of why.
Upcoming Changes To Pennsylvania Car Seat Law
In 2016, Pennsylvania began requiring children to ride in a rear-facing car seat until age 2. As of this writing, there are no further updates to PA car seat laws on the horizon.
Get the latest from PA Traffic Injury Prevention Project
If you’ll be flying to Pennsylvania, be sure to bring one of these travel car seats. If you’re planning a family road trip, consider one of these comfortable convertible car seats or comfortable booster seats. Check more car seat laws by state as you plan your route.