As of January 1, 2017, you likely heard about some new changes to the California law about car seats. This California car seat law (CA car seat law), is a big move for the state and allows the entire state to join some other states in terms of requirements. This change was decided in 2016 but officially went into effect in January.
What Are the New Car Seat Regulations?
The new law requires that all children must remain rear facing in their car seats until they are at least 2 years old. This means that the car seat should be in the back seat but the child must also be facing the rear of the vehicle. There are some exceptions but they are not often seen. If a child is less than 2 years old but is taller than 40 inches or weighs more than 40 pounds, they are not required to be rear facing in the vehicle.
This is a huge change to the law that will make a major impact. A child who is rear facing in a vehicle is five times more safe during the ages of 1 and 2 if you were to be in an accident. This is because when they are rear facing, if you were to be in an accident, their back, neck, and head would be supported instead of flying forward. This helps to reduce the amount of pressure placed on their spine, which is still undeveloped.
What Does the Law Say About Booster Seats?
The booster seat laws remain the same in California but they are still important to understand. If you have children who are 8 years old or older, then can use the vehicle seat belt if it fits properly. According to car seat laws in CA, that means that the vehicle’s lap belt must touch the child’s upper thighs and sit low on the child’s hips while the vehicle’s shoulder belt must cross the center of their chest.
This all must happen when they are seated properly which means they are all the way back on the seat with their knees bending at the edge. If any child does not fit these requirements, then they must use a booster seat or a harnessed car seat to ensure that the seat belt fits properly according to CA seatbelt law. Children can typically fit properly into the vehicle seat with the seat belt fitting properly when they are 4’9″ tall, which is taught in CA traffic school.
Can My Child Sit in the Front Seat Now?
According to CA car seat law, your child can sit in the front seat when they are 8 years old or older and a few specific conditions are met. If there is no rear seat, the rear seats are side facing, or all the rear seats are taken by younger children, they can sit in the front seat. Another reason they would be able to sit in the front seat is if there is no viable way to install a child passenger restraint system properly in the rear seat. The other exception detailed in CA front seat law is if there is a medical reason that requires the child to sit in the front seat of the vehicle. It is best to keep them in the rear seats until they are at least 13, if possible.
You want your children to be as safe as possible in a vehicle and these car seat rules in California support that. The latest changes only further the safety precautions for children in vehicles.