Child Car Seats

NEW LAW PROTECTS CALIFORNIA KIDS

Effective January 1, 2012 

  • Children under age 8 must be properly buckled into a car seat or booster in the back seat.
  • Children age 8 or older may use the vehicle seat belt if it fits properly with the lap belt low on the hips, touching the upper thighs, and the shoulder belt crossing the center of the chest. If children are not tall enough for proper belt fit, they must ride in a booster or car seat.
  • Everyone in the car must be properly buckled up. For each child under 16 who is not properly secured, parents (if in the car) or the driver of the vehicle can be fined more than $475 and receive a point on their driving record.                    

Most children should ride in a booster seat until age 10 to 12.

If your child isn’t using a booster, try the simple test below the next time you ride together in the car.  You may find that your child is not yet ready to use a safety belt without a booster.

The 5-Step Test

  1. Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
  2. Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
  3. Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
  4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
  5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?

If you answered "no" to any of these questions, your child needs a booster seat to make both the shoulder belt and the lap belt fit right for the best crash protection.  Your child will be more comfortable, too.

For best protection, all children should ride in the back seat. It's twice as safe as the front!

#630CA Pg. 1, 12-12-11

California Buckle-Up Laws for Parents

Car crashes are the #1 preventable cause of death of children and young adults, as well as a major cause of permanent brain damage, epilepsy, and spinal cord injuries. A sudden stop at 30 miles per hour could cause the same crushing force on your child's brain and body as a fall from a three-story building. Fortunately, by buckling up children, we can prevent most of these deaths and serious injuries.

(V.C. 27360) All children under age 8 must be properly buckled into a safety seat or booster in the back seat.

Exceptions: A child who weighs more than 40 pounds and is riding in a car without lap and shoulder belts in the back seat may wear just a lap belt. A child under age 8 who is at least 4'9" may wear a safety belt if it fits properly. Children under age 8 may ride in the front if there is no forward-facing rear seat in the vehicle, the child restraint cannot be properly installed in rear seat, all rear seats are occupied by other children age 7 or under, or for medical reasons. A child in a rear-facing safety seat may not ride in front if there is an active passenger air bag.

(V.C. 27360.5) Children age 8 or over may use the vehicle safety belt if it fits properly with the lap belt low on the hips, touching the upper thighs, and the shoulder belt crossing the center of the chest. If children are not tall enough for proper belt fit, they must ride in a booster or safety seat.

Consequences for failing to properly buckle up any child under 16

  • The parent gets the ticket if a child under 16 is not properly buckled up.
  • The driver gets the ticket if the parent is not in the car.
  • The cost of a ticket could be more than $475* per child; the fine for a second offense could be more than $1000* per child. One point is added to the driving record, which could raise insurance rates. Part of the fine money goes to a special fund to help pay for local safety seat education and distribution programs.  

Related Information

  • Older babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing convertible seat until they are at least two years old. Check manufacturer’s instructions for the maximum weight (30-45 lbs.).
  • Children should ride in a safety seat with a harness as long as possible (40-90 lbs., depending on the model).
  • Children who have outgrown their safety seats need a booster for proper belt fit (usually until age 10-12). To find out if a child is tall enough to wear just a safety belt, try the 5-Step Test, available from SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A.
  • Auto insurers are required to replace safety seats that were in use or damaged during a crash.  

 

(V.C. 27315) Drivers and passengers 16 or older must be properly buckled up in vehicle safety belts.
The driver may be ticketed for not wearing a belt and for each unbuckled passenger. Fine is more than $140* per person.

Passengers also may be ticketed for not being properly buckled up.

(V.C. 23116) Pickup truck passengers also must be properly buckled up.

The driver may be ticketed for letting passengers ride in the back of a pickup truck.

Passengers also may be ticketed for not being properly buckled up.

The cost of a ticket could be more than $200* for each unbuckled adult. No exemption for camper shells.
 

Other Laws to Protect Children

  • Children left in vehicle (V.C. 15620): A child 6 years old or less may not be left alone in a vehicle if the health or safety of the child is at risk, the engine is running, or the keys are in the ignition. The child must be supervised by someone at least age 12. The cost of a ticket could be more than $475.*
  • Smoking in a vehicle [Health and Safety Code 118948(a)] is prohibited if a child under 18 is present. The cost of a ticket could be more than $475.*
  • Helmets (V.C. 21212, 21204, 27803): Children under age 18 who are skating or riding on a bicycle, scooter, or skateboard must wear a properly fitted and fastened helmet. All drivers and passengers on a motorcycle must wear a helmet that meets federal standards, fits correctly, and has the proper label.

 

* Fine amounts shown include penalty assessments

 

SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A.   P.O. Box 553, Altadena, CA 91003    http://www.carseat.org/ (800) 745-SAFE