California’s New Car Seat Laws

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New Car Seat Laws in California

At some point in time, every parent has engaged in a physical battle to get their kids properly buckled into a car seat. It’s a rite of passage in parenthood! No matter how tedious or exhausting, parents should never give up this battle. Proper car seat use can reduce the risk of death by up to 71%. You may be a very cautious driver or maybe a trip to the store is a short one. Don’t take the risk of not buckling in your kids correctly. What many people don’t know is that most accidents take place less than a mile from home. Avoid complacency and always ensure your little ones are secured. Car seat safety is important to all Californians and knowing the laws is always helpful. In fact, parents are expected to know the law and they are liable if they don’t.

As of 2017, California has new car seat laws!

As of January 1, 2017, a new car seat law went into effect in California that made additions to previously existing law.

Before the addition, California’s car seat laws included the following requirements:

  • Children under the age of 8 years old must be secured in a car seat or booster in the back seat.
  • Children who are over the age of 8 OR at least 4’9″ in height must be secured by a safety belt.
  • All passengers aged 16 and older must abide by California’s Mandatory Seat Belt Law.

Once your child turns 8 or reaches 4’9” in height (whichever comes first), he or she is no longer required to use a car seat. In the interest of safety, it is a good idea to keep your child in a car or booster seat until he or she is both 4’9” in height and 8 years old.

The 2017 additions made to the existing law state the following:
Children under 2 years of age shall ride in a rear-facing car seat, unless the child weighs 40 pounds or more OR is 40 inches tall or more. The child shall be secured in a manner that complies with the height and weight limits specified by the manufacturer of the car seat.

In short, the 2017 California car seat law addition states that a child must ride in a rear-facing car seat until he or she weighs more than 40 pounds or he or she is 40 inches tall. Again, we advise that to be extra safe it is best to wait until your child meets both requirements.

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Buckle up properly!

It’s one thing to follow the laws imposed by the state, but it’s another to make sure that your car seat is properly installed and your child is buckled in correctly. Failing to use a car seat properly could be as dangerous as not using one at all. If a car seat manufacturer recommends your child does not wear a jacket while buckled in, then follow the safety instructions. Safety instructions are there for a reason!

Statistics show that 73% of car seats aren’t installed correctly. Take the time to read the manuals of your car seat and your vehicle to make sure every piece is snug. There are a couple different tests that you can use to determine if a car seat is properly in place:

  • Inch Test: After installing your car seat, shake it at the base. If you can move the car seat more than an inch from side-to-side or front-to-back, you need to tighten it.
  • Pinch Test: Once your car seat is securely installed in your vehicle, place your child in it and buckle the harness. Put the chest clip at armpit level and pinch the strap at your child’s shoulder. If you can’t pinch anything, that means the harness is at the proper tightness and your child is secure. If you can pinch something, tighten it up!

Still not sure? Check www.chp.ca.gov/find-an-office to locate your local CHP Area Office and ask to speak to a child passenger safety technician.

Don’t buy just any car seat

You should always be wary of buying a used car seat unless you are certain about the seat’s crash history. That being stated, it’s almost impossible to be absolutely certain of a car seat’s crash history. A car accident, even a minor one, can cause unseen damage to the car seat, therefore reducing its ability to keep your child safe in an accident. Avoid buying a used car seat from strangers or thrift stores. Although we all want to trust family and friends, it’s a good idea to avoid buying a hand-me-down car seat from them.

Teach your kids a life-long lesson

Set a good example for your kids and make sure YOU always buckle up every time you’re in the car. Once it’s automatic for you, your kids will learn the importance of being safe in the car. They’ll copy whatever they see you doing!

Disclaimer: Information on this page is designed for general information purposes only and should not be interpreted as being legal advice or a legal opinion on specific facts or circumstances. You should always consult with an attorney before making a decision about your case. Pages are updated periodically but information provided on this page may not be up to date as circumstances may change over time. Please see our [LEGAL DISCLAIMERS] page for additional legal disclaimers.

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