Are You Following California's Car Seat Laws?


As a parent, your greatest responsibility is the welfare of your children. Because there is so much out of your control, it is your job to do what is in your power to keep your kids safe. One of the most important places to follow safety rules is on the road, especially when it comes to using car seats. Do not let inconvenience tempt you to be lax, because properly securing your children can save their lives or prevent injury in an accident. Know the laws and follow them.

California Car Seat Laws for Infants and Toddlers

Although all children under 8 years old must use a child safety seat, the type depends on the age and size of the child. Rear-facing car seats are mandatory for children under 2 years old because this position is safest. You can turn the car seat around once your child is at least 40 inches tall or 40 pounds. Even if your child is 2 years old, rear-facing is still best if your child is small.

California Car Seat Laws for Older Children

Children who are 2 to 8 years old can use a forward-facing car seat or a booster seat. They must be in the back seat. Once your children are 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall, they may use a regular seat belt. However, the California Highway Patrol recommends that your children pass a five-step test before switching to a seat belt. The five steps require:

  • your child to sit completely against the back of the seat.
  • the shoulder belt to rest on your child's collarbone.
  • the lap belt to rest low enough to touch your child's thighs.
  • your child's legs to bend with ease at the edge of the seat.
  • your child to be able to sit in this position for the entire ride.

Furthermore, children should still ride in the back seat until they are 13 years old.

Exceptions to Some of the Laws

There are specific scenarios in which it may be impossible to follow all these guidelines. Examples include the type of seats or seat belts in your vehicle and the number of children in the car. If possible, it is better in these situations to leave your children at home or consider using alternate transportation than to risk their physical well-being.

No matter the car seat your child uses, have a nationally certified child passenger safety technician inspect it for proper installation. You can find one through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In the case of an accident, contact an attorney to discuss your options.

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