Wisconsin, like most states, has laws that require children of certain ages to be in specific kinds of car seats while riding in motor vehicles. Whether you are a Wisconsin resident or a visitor, you need to know the laws and comply with them.
There are different types of car seats available to keep children safe, including:
Knowing the different types of car seats will help you make the right decision when purchasing one for your child.
There are no exemptions to Wisconsin car seat laws, and there are penalties for non-compliance with the law. If the child is younger than four years old, then the fine for non-compliance with Wisconsin’s car seat law is $175.30. If the child is between the ages of four and eight, then the fine for non-compliance is $150.10 for the first offense, $200.50 for the second offense, and $263.50 for the third and subsequent offenses.
It is your legal obligation to comply with Wisconsin law. While it is not your legal obligation to comply with the American Academy of Pediatrics car seat recommendations, it is important to know what this large organization of doctors recommends for your child’s safety. As of 2018:
In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its guidelines to remove some specific age guidelines and focus on height and weight guidelines.
Once you identify the right type of car seat, you need to install it correctly. This can be trickier than it seems. Statistics indicate that approximately three out of four car seats are either incorrectly installed or not used safely.
Your first step may be to consult the car seat manufacturer’s instructions. Instructions may vary from brand to brand. Therefore, it’s essential to comply with the manufacturer’s directions even if you’ve previously installed a car seat successfully.
Additionally, you may have an expert double-check your car seat installation by going to a local medical center, fire station, police department, community center, or health department.
Safe Kids Wisconsin maintains a list of places where you can make an appointment to have your car seat installed and a list of events where you can have your car seat installed without an appointment.
Wisconsin car seat laws do not just apply to parent vehicles. As a parent, you want to keep your child safe in your vehicle and every time your child is a passenger. For example, you may need to install a car seat in a grandparent’s or babysitter’s car if your child travels with another caregiver.
However, Wisconsin law does not require car seats on public transportation. Most buses and trains, for example, do not have seat belts or other ways to secure car seats. Taxis are also exempt from car seat requirements. However, many taxi cabs have seat belts, and you may consider using a car seat in a taxi even though it is not required by Wisconsin law.
You may be a safe driver, but the other drivers on Wisconsin roads could put your child at risk of serious injury or death.
When used correctly, car seats significantly reduce the chances of a child being hurt or killed in a car accident, but they do not eliminate the risk.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), car seat use reduces a child’s risk of injury by 71 to 82 percent, and booster seat use reduces a child’s risk of injury by 45 percent when compared with seat belt use alone.
If you have any questions about what kind of car seat your child should be in, please ask your child’s doctor or your local police department. Using a proper car seat or booster is not just a good idea—it’s the law in Wisconsin.