California has specific car seat laws that aim to keep children safe while riding in vehicles. Proper use of car seats has been shown to reduce fatalities by as much as 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers in the event of an accident. 

Daniel Petrov, an experienced personal injury attorney in Escondido, shares a guide to the car seat requirements for children of different ages in California.

Baby sitting in the car in a carseat

Infants Under two years Should Use a Rear-Facing Car Seat.

Infants under two must be placed in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the highest height or weight allowed by the car seat manufacturer. Most rear-facing seats today accommodate babies up to 40 pounds.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping infants rear-facing for as long as possible, until at least age 2. This provides optimal support for the head, neck and spine.

California law states the car seat must be installed in the back seat and must not be placed in front of an active airbag.

Toddlers 2-4 years Should Now Use a Foward-Facing Car Seat.

Once a child outgrows their infant seat’s rear-facing weight or height limit, they can transition to a forward-facing seat with a harness system. Most forward-facing seats can accommodate children up to 65 pounds.

According to California law, toddlers must remain in a harnessed seat until they reach at least 40 pounds. Many experts recommend staying in a harnessed seat up to the highest weight limit for optimal safety.

Forward-facing seats should be used in the back seat until the child reaches the maximum height or weight limit.

Children Should Use a Booster Car Seat until Eight Years Old

California law requires children to use a booster seat until they are eight years old unless they have reached 4’9″ in height. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using a booster seat until a traditional seat belt fits properly, typically when a child reaches 4’9” and is between 8-12 years old.

Booster seats must be used in the back seat to be effective. Statistics show they reduce the risk of injury by 45% compared to seat belts alone.

Car Seat Belt Use For Older Children

Once a child outgrows their booster seat, usually around age 10-12, they are ready for seat belt use alone.

California law requires children under 16 to be properly secured in the back seat. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data shows that children 12 and under are safest in the back seat compared to the front.

The seat belt must correctly fit across the upper thighs and lower hips, not the stomach. The shoulder strap should cross the center of the chest and shoulder.

If your child suffers an injury in a vehicle collision, it’s advisable to consult with a personal injury lawyer who specializes in motor vehicle accidents. A personal injury attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options regarding compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.

They can assist in collecting evidence, negotiating with insurance companies, and filing a lawsuit if necessary. An experienced personal injury attorney increases the chances of getting fair compensation for your child’s injuries.

Following California’s car seat requirements helps ensure the safety of children from infancy through the teen years. Proper installation and fit are key, so caregivers should carefully read car seat manuals and guidelines.