Child Vehicle Restraint

Child Vehicle Restraint Safety Information

The Law

The State of North Carolina requires that all vehicle occupants under the age of 16 years old be restrained regardless of there seating position within the vehicle. Furthermore, a child in a safety seat cannot be placed in a front passenger seat if there is an active airbag for that seating position. Responsibility to ensure that an occupant under the age of 16 is PROPERLY restrained in a weight-appropriate restraint falls on the driver of the vehicle. Failing to ensure proper occupant restraint can result in a $25.00 fine plus cost of court per violation. In addition the driver will receive two points against their driver’s license.


The Wilson Police Department actively enforces occupant protection laws at all times. Our agency also participates with other law enforcement agencies in enforcement and awareness programs such as “Click It or Ticket”.


When can stop putting my child in a child safety seat?
Legally, a child is not required to be in a child safety seat if they are at least five years old or weigh more than forty pounds.

Although many parents look forward to the day their child turns five years old so they can sit in a “big people seat,” there have been several studies to show that a majority of children are not yet ready to sit in a car using only the manufacture installed seatbelt at the age of five. Therefore most child safety seat manufactures are now making seats that are appropriate for children up to eighty-five (85) pounds.

My child weighs more than forty pounds; I can let them sit in a “big people” seat now right?
A basic rule of thumb for moving out of a child safety seat is if the child can sit in the backseat of the vehicle with their backs completely against the back of the seat and their legs are long enough so that their knees bend over the edge of the seat and allow their feet to hang directly towards the floor of the car. Remember, that a seatbelt is designed for safety and not using ALL of the seatbelt (i.e. putting the shoulder restraint behind the child’s back) properly is considered a violation of law.

My child doesn’t like sitting in his/her seat, what can I do?
Basic discipline is the key to a child using a child seat.

  1. Make it a habit.
  2. No exceptions. Whenever a child is in any moving vehicle they must be restrained.
  3. Parent’s need to set an example. Research shows that a parent’s seatbelt habits are often passed on.*

I was in a wreck, how can I tell if my child seat is okay to still use?
If a child restraint is in a vehicle that is involved in collision, regardless of how minor or extreme, the child seat must be replaced.

How long should a child remain rear facing?
Rear-facing IS safest. It is best to remain rear-facing to the weight and height limits of the car seat. Some convertible car seats have 30 or 35 pound rear-facing limits. In all cases, infants should be rear-facing until they are BOTH one year AND twenty pounds at the very minimum. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be kept in rear-facing seats for as long as possible. See these links for more details:
Why Rear-facing is Safest.
Rear-Facing car seats: What you need to know, by Kathleen Weber

When can my child be in a regular seatbelt without a booster?
Children are not ready to be in a regular lap/shoulder seatbelt until:

  • They are tall enough so that their legs bend at the knees at the edge of the seat; and
  • They are mature enough to remain seated with their backs flat against the back of the seat and not slouch; and
  • The lap belt sits high on the thighs or low on the hips (NOT on their tummy!); and
  • The shoulder belt crosses the shoulder and chest (NOT on their arms or neck!)

How can I find out if my child’s seat has been recalled?
Follow this link, Child Safety Seat Recall List, or call of the agencies listed below.

Local Resources

There are many local resources available for information concerning Child Safety Seats including:

Wilson County Safe Kids
c/o Wilson County Emergency Medical Services
1817 Glendale Drive
Wilson, NC 27893
(252) 237-0789 

Wilson Police Department
120 N. Goldsboro Street
Wilson, NC 27893
(252) 399-2323

Wilson Fire/Rescue Services
307 W. Hines Street
Wilson, NC 27893
(252) 399-2883

Wilson County Sheriff’s Office
100 E. Green Street
Wilson, NC 27893
(252) 237-2118

North Carolina State Highway Patrol
1822 S. Goldsboro Street
Wilson, NC 27893
(255) 237-5294 

Wilson County Partnership for Children - Smart Start
109 Park Avenue
Wilson, NC 27893
(252) 206-4235

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration


*Just as with nearly everything else in child development, a parent’s actions with seatbelts play a significant role in a child’s use of seatbelts and child restraints. Crash data from 1996, provided by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, indicated that when adults buckle up, 95% of children are also buckled; on the other hand when adults go unbuckled, only 44% of children are buckled.