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Child Safety in Vehicles in Michigan

January 21, 2022

A 2020 report showed Michigan child restraint use rates at 98.2% for children age 0-3, but just 54.5% for children age 4-7 in 2018.

There were a total of 28 children (0-14 years old) killed in motor vehicle crashes. Plus, 3,180 children were injured in car accidents. And according to 2019 data provided by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the number one cause of unintentional fatal injuries in Michigan for children ages 0-14 is suffocation, but the second is motor vehicle crashes.

What are the Risk Factors for Child and Teen Passengers?

The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) found that of the children who died in a crash, the following were the primary risk factors:

  • Restraint use (such as a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt use) varies by age. In 2019, 43% of 8–12-year-olds were not buckled up, compared to 41% of 4–7-year-olds and 27% of children less than 4 years old (for whom restraint use was known);
  • Black and Hispanic children have higher proportions of unrestrained child deaths compared with white children, as research indicated that 45% of Black children and 46% of Hispanic children were not buckled up; that’s compared with 26% of white children (among children 12 and younger);
  • Alcohol-impaired driving is a major threat to the safety of child passengers. In 2019, 23% of child passenger deaths among children age 14 years and younger in the U.S. involved alcohol-impaired driving, and 64% of the time, it was the child’s own driver who had been drinking;
  • Of those kids who died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, a higher proportion of those riding with impaired drivers were unrestrained (58%) compared with those riding with sober drivers (37%);
  • Restraint use among young children often depends on the driver’s seat belt use. In 2019, 67% of fatally injured children riding with unbelted drivers were also unrestrained (based on known restraint use); and
  • Child restraint systems are often used incorrectly. The CDC said that an estimated 46% of car seats and booster seats are misused in a way that could reduce their effectiveness.

What About Michigan’s Child Passenger Safety Laws?

The law in Michigan states that children younger than 4 must ride in a car seat in the rear seat if the vehicle has a rear seat. And if all available rear seats are occupied by children under 4, then a child under 4 may ride in a car seat in the front seat. However, a child in a rear-facing car seat may only ride in the front seat if the airbag is turned off. In addition, Michigan State Police advises that all children must be properly buckled in a car seat or booster seat until they’re 8 years old or 4-feet-9-inches tall. Children must ride in a seat until they reach the age requirement or the height requirement, whichever comes first.

The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning and the U.S. Department of Transportation recommend that children 8 and older be placed in an age- and weight-appropriate child safety seat if the vehicle’s seat belt does not fit properly. And all children ages 12 and under should ride in a rear seat.

And in Michigan, drivers, front-seat passengers regardless of age, and all passengers ages 8 through 15 are required to wear properly adjusted seat belts.

What are the Most Common Car Seat Mistakes and How Can I Avoid Them?

Did you know that more than 70% of car seats aren’t installed properly? However, the most common errors are easy to fix with just a few adjustments.

The Harness Straps aren’t Tight Enough. The car seat’s harness straps should fit snugly and securely to the child’s body. The straps should also pass the “pinch test,”—you shouldn’t be able to pinch any excess strap material.

The Car Seat isn’t Installed Tightly Enough. No matter if the car seats is installed with the seat belt or LATCH system, it shouldn’t be able to move more than an inch from side to side when it’s tested at the point where the car seat attaches to the vehicle.

Parents are Too Eager to Move Their Kids to the Next Step in Car Seating. Your children should continue to use their car seats until they outgrow the height or weight limit of the seat before moving to the next step, like transferring from a rear-facing to a forward-facing car seat.

The Chest Clip is Too Low. The cars seat’s chest clip should be secured at the child’s armpits to be sure the harness straps stay in the correct position.

Parents Putting Their Kids in the Front Seat Too Early. Your kids should continue to ride in the back seat of the vehicle until they reach the age of 13. That’s because the force of an airbag may be dangerous for younger kids. Buckling up in the back seat decreases the risk of death by a third.


Properly restrained children have a more than 50% greater chance of surviving a crash. When driving with children, always use the appropriate car seat or seat belt. Children should never ride on a lap, in a portable crib, or in any other device that’s not approved for use in an automobile.

Contact Us

If a young loved one has been injured or killed in an auto accident, speak to an experienced car accident attorney in Grand Rapids or across Michigan. The Buchanan Firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Detroit, Lansing, Holland, St. Joe, and Ann Arbor, and rural towns such as Lowell, Ada, Fremont, Newaygo, Grand Haven, Rockford, and Cedar Springs.

We will meet you after-hours, at home or in the hospital, to accommodate you.

Contact The Buchanan Firm today!