Make sure your child is properly buckled up in a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt, whichever is appropriate for their age, height and weight.
Car seat, booster seat, or seat belt?
- Birth up to Age 2 or 3 – Rear-facing car seat. For the best possible protection, infants and children should be buckled in a rear-facing car seat, in the back seat, until age 2 or 3 or when they reach the upper weight or height limits of their particular seat. Check the seat’s owner’s manual and/or labels on the seat for weight and height limits.
- Age 2 up to at least Age 5 – Forward-facing car seat. When children outgrow their rear-facing seats they should be buckled in a forward-facing car seat, in the back seat, until at least age 5 or when they reach the upper weight or height limit of their particular seat. Check the seat’s owner’s manual and/or labels on the seat for weight and height limits.
- Age 5 up until at least 8 years old or 4’9″ – Booster seat. Once children outgrow their forward-facing seat, (by reaching the upper height or weight limit of their seat), they should be buckled in a belt positioning booster seat until seat belts fit properly and they are either 8 years old or 4’9″. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs (not the stomach) and the shoulder belt lays across the chest (not the neck). Remember to keep children properly buckled in the back seat for the best possible protection.
- Once Seat Belts Fit Properly without a Booster Seat – Children no longer need to use a booster seat once seat belts fit them properly when they are either 8 years old or 4’9″. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs (not the stomach) and the shoulder belt lays across the chest (not the neck). For the best possible protection keep children properly buckled in the back seat.
- Don’t let your child ride in the front seat until at least 13 years old: the front passenger seat is the most dangerous place for anyone to sit with or without an airbag. Accidents (with or without an airbag) are particularly hard on children under 13 who’s bodies have not matured enough.
Car seat safety recommendations
- Install and use car seats and booster seats according to the seat’s owner’s manual or get help installing them from a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician.
- Have your installation checked at the CHP. Call for an appointment 818-888-0980.
- Buckle all children aged 12 and under in the back seat. Airbags can kill young children riding in the front seat. Never place a rear-facing car seat in front of an air bag.
- Buckle children in the middle of the back seat when possible, because it is the safest spot in the vehicle.
- Buckle children in car seats, booster seats, or seat belts on every trip, no matter how short.
- Set a good example by always using a seatbelt themselves.
California Car Seat Law Changes 1/1/17
Children under 2-years old: must be rear facing unless they weigh 40 pounds or more, or are 40 inches tall or more. Most children will outgrow an infant seat before age 1 ■ The next step is a convertible car seat. ■ Rear-facing is 5 times safer than forward-facing. ■ The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ride rear-facing to the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer. Flyer/Poster
Children under age 8: must be buckled into a car seat or booster in the back seat.
Children age 8 or older, or who are 4’9” or taller: 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 drivers can be fined more than $500 and get a point on their driving records.
For answers to your child safety seat questions, visit cdph.ca.gov/vosp.
It’s against California law to leave a child under the age of seven alone in the car without the supervision of a person at least 12 years old if: 1. The keys are in the ignition or the car is running, or 2. There is a significant risk to the child.