California Car Seat Laws

A Summary of Child Car Seat Laws in California

What are the Height and Weight Requiredments for Car Seats in California?

Children should be secured with the appropriate booster seat or child safety seat if they have a height of less than 4’9’’ or are under 8 years old.

Children under the age of 2 are required to use rear-facing seats unless they have a height of 40 inches or more and weigh at least 40 pounds.

Forward-facing seats can only be used by children once they have surpassed the rear-facing seat legal limits.

65 pounds is the legal weight required for children to start using a booster seat.

Children can only graduate to a safety belt when they attain a height of 4’9’’ or an age of 8.

What are the Rear Facing Car Seat Laws in California?

Rules on infants rely on age and weight when it comes to the car seat regulations, although height and weight indicators are more reliable since the growth rate of children varies widely. The law requires that children under the age of 2 years should be fastened to a rear-facing child safety seat, and this should be the case until the baby’s height and weight reaches 40 inches AND 40 pounds respectively. This means that your child must be both over 40 inches, and over 40 pounds in order to not use a rear-facing car seat anymore. Of importance also, is that parents should fasten their children in a way that adheres to the manufacturer’s guidelines. As your child grows over the years, the cost of replacing seats to suit the regulations may be quite costly and that’s why car seat manufacturers are now selling convertible car seats. These allow you to convert the seat from rear-facing to front-facing as your child progresses through the growth stages at no extra cost.

What are the Forward Facing Car Seat Laws in California?

By law, children can switch to a forward-facing car seat once they have met the qualifications required (outgrown the rear-facing car seat legal requirements). These types of seats should face the front of the vehicle and should be on the back seat. It’s important to read the manufacturer’s guidelines in order to determine how to use the harnesses and whether your child has qualified for or outgrown the forward-facing car seats.

What are the Booster Seat Laws in California?

According to California law, children who have reached 65 pounds are considered to have outgrown forward facing car seats and can now graduate to booster seats. The need for booster seats cannot be stressed enough as regular seat belts were designed with adults of average height in mind. This means regular seatbelts can barely fit and this may result in serious injuries or even death in case of an accident. To ensure proper fitting, booster seats allow the seatbelts to be securely fastened on the child. The recommended age range for booster seats is 4-8 years.

When can a Child Sit in the Front Seat in California?

California law states that children can stop using child safety seats when they attain the age of 8 years or a height of 4’9’’. However, the height holds more weight since a child with a height of less than 4’9’’ may be too short to fit in a regular seatbelt, and therefore using a booster seat is ideal until such a time when this height is met. When a child has qualified to use a regular seatbelt, they are legally allowed to sit in the front seat but adults should also ensure that any child in the car is wearing a seatbelt. California has a series of exemptions which allow for a child to ride in the front seat prior to meeting the age and height requirements. A child may ride in the front seat if there is no active airbag and any of the following conditions are met:

  • There is no rear seat
  • The rear seats are not forward facing (either rear or side facing)
  • The child restraint system cannot be installed properly in the rear seat
  • All of the rear seats are occupied by other children that do not meet the height or weight requirements

*Note – If medical reasons require a child to ride in the front seat then they are also allowed. A court may require proof of condition.

Are Cars Seats Required in Taxis in California?

California requires all children under 6 years old who weigh less than 60 pounds to utilize the appropriate child safety seat. They do not have an exemption for taxis. If you are travelling in a taxi, Uber, Lyft, or other ride share vehicle in California you will need to ensure that you have the appropriate child safety restraint.

Is it Illegal to Leave a Child Inside a Car in California?

The temperatures in California can sometimes get hot and unbearable and it is against the law to leave children in cars. As long as a child is under the age of 6 they cannot be left alone in a car. Exceptions apply when they are accompanied by someone of at least 12 years of age. We strongly advise to never leave your child alone in the vehicle.

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