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Keep your kids safer by following Oregon child seat laws and using the proper safety restraints for your vehicle.

Oregon Car Seat Laws

Oregon’s laws on car seats vary depending on the age and size of the child. Younger, smaller children and infants must ride in a car seat facing backward in the vehicle. As the babies become toddlers, they can gradually start facing forward in their car seats as long as they are big enough. After growing out of the car seat, older children will need to ride in a booster seat until they are large enough to fit a standard seatbelt.

The most recent change to Oregon’s safety seat laws was in 2017. This guide will outline the specific guidelines for each type of child restraint.

Oregon Rear-Facing Car Seat Law

Oregon law requires any child under two years of age riding in a motor vehicle to be restrained in a rear-facing car seat. Children over two years old who weigh less than 40 pounds must also ride in rear-facing car seats. The rear-facing car seat must be in the back seat of the car.

Some car seats are made to face the back of the vehicle. Other car seats are adjustable and can meet state requirements for facing forward or backward. Either type of car seat will fill this legal requirement as long as the adjustable car seat is in the rear-facing position.

Newborns Require Rear-Facing Car Seats.

New parents can easily forget the need for a car seat, especially the first time. Make acquiring a car seat a priority long before the due date.

Rear-Facing Car Seats Help Reduce Serious Injuries During Auto Accidents.

Oregon requires rear-facing car seats for infants and small children. Rear-facing car seats have been shown through clinical trials to reduce severe injuries in babies on board vehicles that crash.

Babies and toddlers have different biological proportions than adults. Their heads can be up to 25 percent of their entire body weight. They also haven’t developed the strength in their neck muscles and tendons to control that weight. Those two factors put improperly restrained infants at high risk for whiplash during a collision. Whiplash can cause permanent spinal damage to infants, including paralyzation and death.

Rear-facing car seats help prevent whiplash by supporting the baby’s head, neck, and back and keeping them all aligned.

How Long Should Children Be In Rear-Facing Seats?

Oregon’s minimum age requirement for transitioning from a rear-facing car seat to a forward-facing car seat is two years old. The child must also weigh over 40 pounds.

Some states waive the age requirement for the rare two-year-olds who weigh more than 40 pounds. Oregon is not one of those states. 

Oregon Forward-Facing Car Seat Law

Oregon requires children to ride in a harnessed car seat or booster seat until the age of eight or until they reach four feet, nine inches tall. That’s the height at which a standard seat belt can begin to fit correctly.

Oregon’s forward-facing car seat law picks up where the rear-facing law leaves off. Forward-facing car seats are required for passengers between the ages of two and eight. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a car seat until a child weighs 40 pounds or more. The Oregon Department of Transportation and the United States Department of Transportation recommend car seats or booster seats for children up to 12.

For safety’s sake, keep your kids in a car seat until they stand four feet, nine inches tall, weigh forty pounds, and are more than eight years old.


Oregon Booster Seat Law

In Oregon, the law regarding booster seats and forward-facing car seats is the same. Children must ride in a car seat or booster seat until they stand four feet, nine inches tall, and turn eight years old.

The age requirement ensures the child’s muscular structure has matured enough to handle the stress of an impact without the aid of a car seat. The height requirement keeps a child in a car seat until they will fit properly into a standard seatbelt. With the idea of fit in mind, ODOT recommends not rushing your kids out of booster seats.

What Kind Of Car Or Booster Seat Does Your Child Need?

A booster seat is essentially a car seat without a back or over-the-shoulder harness. Booster seats help children fit the safety belts designed for adults.

The Oregon booster seat law outlines how your child should fit into the booster seat and safety belt. The “lap belt of the safety belt or safety harness is positioned low across the thighs, and the shoulder belt is positioned over the collarbone and away from the neck.”

I Need Help Installing My Car or Booster Seat!

The stress of protecting your child can be overwhelming, and everybody can use a little help sometimes. Use these simple tips to install your car seat or booster seat properly.

  • Check that your child’s safety seat’s height and weight limits match your child’s measurements.
  • Place your child’s safety seat in the back seat of your car, in the center if possible.
  • Fasten the safety seat in place with the seat belt or LATCH them to the car’s lower anchors.

When installed correctly, the seat should remain mostly stable with just under an inch of wiggle room.

For further help with car seat and booster seat installation, search your local area for parental help organizations like Safe Kids Oregon.

Ideally, your child should continue riding in a booster seat until the safety ballet in your car fits them properly. Each car’s seat belts will fit differently, so Oregon recommends five points of criteria for deciding when a child has outgrown a booster seat.

  1. The child can sit all the way back against the back of the vehicle seat.
  2. The child can easily band at the edge of the seat.
  3. The shoulder strap of the vehicle’s safety belt crosses between the child’s neck and arm when fastened.
  4. The lap belt touches the child’s thighs, not just their knees.
  5. The child can remain comfortable in this position during the entire trip.

If your child is at least eight years old and can sit in your car while meeting the above criterium, they can legally ride without a booster seat.

Oregon Seat Belt Laws

Seat belt law in Oregon requires the driver and all passengers to wear a seat belt or safety harness.

The law applies to all vehicles carrying fewer than 16 people. This means buses are almost the sole exception to Oregon’s seat belt laws. It also means that people riding in cars, pickup trucks, vans, and recreational vehicles require seatbelts in Oregon.

Both personal and commercial vehicles must adhere to the seatbelt law.

Front Seat vs. Back Seat

Oregon does not have a law prohibiting children who are no longer legally required to ride in a car seat from riding the front seat of a car. However, any children riding in a rear-facing car seat must be fastened into the vehicle’s back seat.

While Oregon doesn’t have a front seat age requirement, some national best practices recommend that children ride in rear-facing car seats until they turn 12.

What if the child is not properly restrained?

Children who are not adequately restrained are at risk of significant injury in the event of an auto accident. Car crashes are dangerous for everyone, but the underdeveloped bodies of children remain particularly vulnerable. 

In addition to having less developed muscles, tendons, bones, and ligaments, children are also too small to fit standard seat belts properly. Most states, including Oregon, require special restraints and seats to keep young children safe.

The proportions of an infant’s body leave it especially susceptible to whiplash and the devastating injuries it can cause to underdeveloped bodies. Infants have larger heads than adults in terms of the overall proportion. During a sudden momentum change, like in auto accidents, the extra weight creates additional inertia and strain on a child’s neck.

With the risks involved, it is imperative to use the proper safety restraints when operating a motor vehicle with a child passenger in Oregon. Check out Oregon’s Child Passenger Safety Training for more child passenger safety tips.

Other Oregon Youth Driving Safety Laws

Along with the safety restraint laws, Oregon also has laws designed to protect the roadways from inexperienced teen drivers. They also have laws against driving distractions that often temp those inexperienced drivers.

Oregon’s Teen Driving Laws

In Oregon, teens must be at least 15 years old to acquire a learner’s permit. The individual applying for a learner’s permit must pass a vision test and a driver’s knowledge test and pay a $25 fee. The test will also cost $5.

The driver must apply at the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles to be eligible. The driver must be an Oregon resident and must provide proof of school enrollment or completion, citizenship, social security number, address, and identity. The driver’s legal parent or guardian must sign the application.

There are also additional behavior requirements regarding mental health, drug and alcohol use, and visual processing proficiency.

Drivers who meet all the requirements can earn a learner’s permit that’s eligible for six months. After that, if the driver is 16 years old, they can get a provisional license. Drivers on provisional licenses must be accompanied by a passenger who’s 21 years old or older while operating a vehicle. There are also heavy restrictions on the passengers, hours, and destinations provisional drivers can legally drive.

  • No passengers under 20 (unless family members)
  • No more than three passengers (unless family members)
  • No driving between midnight and 5:00 AM except to work, school, or home, or accompanied by a 25-year-old with a valid driver’s license.

After the driver turns 18 years old, if the driver meets all the provisions of the provisional license, they can apply for a full license.

Oregon’s Cell Phone and Text Messaging While Driving Laws

Oregon law prohibits teens driving on provisional licenses from using cell phones, even hands-free while operating a vehicle.

If You’re In An Accident, Get Help

Even with proper seating, your child could suffer life-altering injuries if you get into a car accident. You have to know what legal options you have to seek compensation, which may cover things like medical costs and lost earning potential.

Contact Swanson Lathen Prestwich, PC, to get an evaluation of your case.