I’m not usually judgmental when it comes to the different ways people parent, but safety issues set me off. I have noticed many times, driving around my town and even driving on the highway, little kids bouncing around the back seat, or hanging out the window. I have seen parents pull out of a parking lot with the kids not even in the act of buckling, just not buckled. This makes me CRAZY! I don’t care if you grew up not buckling and you survived, it is the law for a reason. I have had a rule in my car, even for adults, long before I lived in a state where it was the law. My rationale is this- even of you don’t care about yourself or your kid, I don’t want to deal with the trauma of seeing you fly out of the vehicle if we crash! I don’t want to have to explain to my kids that a child they knew is dead or severely injured because their parents made a stupid decision and did not make them buckle up. I don’t care how much of a fit your kid throws when you tell them to buckle. It is a safety issue and it is the law in most states, especially for children. The car should not move until all passengers are buckled. Period.
In MA, and most states, all children under 12 must be buckled and in the back seat. All children must ride in a child safety seat or a booster seat until they are 57 inches tall. That is 4’9″. Some kids hit that height mark by 8, others ride in a booster through 5th grade. Every child is different and it depends on the vehicle, so once your child reaches the height requirement, if the seatbelt is touching their neck, or sitting on their belly, they should continue to use the booster for a little while longer.
Here are some helpful links:
Colorful recap: http://www.mass.gov/eopss/crime-prev-personal-sfty/traffic-safety/cps/hand-cards/cps-handcard-english-040412.pdf
Laws by state: http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/bystate/index.html