Due to the fragile, underdeveloped bodies of children, they are at a higher risk of sustaining injuries from crashes and even minor collisions. Hence, the development of car seat laws in California to ensure the safety of children while riding in any vehicle type.
The California vehicle code covers all car-related laws. Section 27360 of the code entails the nuances of the car seat laws, the appropriate type of restraint system, and categories of children’s age. The recognized groups included under two years, two to four years, four to eight, and eight and above. California car seat laws cover rear-facing and forward-facing positions, booster seats, seat belts for children above eight, front seat eligibility, exemptions to the law, causes for replacement, and penalties for violating the laws.
As we go further in this article, we’ll understand the car seats appropriate for each age group and the necessary factors that should be met before a child can progress to a higher car seat or be allowed by law to seat in the front of a car.
But before then, note that California car seat law states that children below eight must be seated in the rear of the vehicle. Does this mean they can’t sit in the front of the car and are there exemptions to the law? Keep reading to find out.
What’s The Proper Way To Seat Your Child In A Car
California recognizes three primary car seat types for children. These seats are defined by their age groups: rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster seats. Each seat type is defined by special laws and regulations.
As a parent, you’ll have to familiarize yourself with all of these laws to avoid fines and penalties. According to the law, the adult or parent in question is responsible, therefore, will be fined if the law is broken.
Make sure you use the correct seat type for your child by comparing the age and requirements. However, age is not always an efficient way to seat your child. To that end, always consider the weight and height of your child.
While your child may reach the age, his/her weight might still not be compatible with the age-appropriate car seat type. Ignoring this advice may cause discomfort, and inadequate restrain during a collision. You’ll find out the height and weight requirements for each seat as you read further.
California Rear-Facing Car Seat Law
According to the California Vehicle Code, children below the age of two or less than 40 pounds and 40 inches shall keep riding in a rear-facing seat until they surpass the limits.
Every child must fulfill the requirements, that is reach 2 years, 40 pounds, and 40 inches before switching to another seat type. For your child’s safety, ensure you give as much importance to weight and height as age.
The child must be properly secured to the restraint system according to the manufacturer’s instructions in the manual which has been federal-approved after passing the necessary tests.
Installation of these car seats varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but you’ll quickly find out that they share a lot of similarities.
For example, you’ll either use an ISOF connector or your seat belt to secure the car seat. Nonetheless, the manufacturer will provide you with an installation guide to follow.
California Forward-Facing Car Seat Law
A child is qualified to advance to the forward-facing car seat after their 2nd birthday or have surpassed the 40 pounds and 40 inches weight and height requirements.
Ensure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to seat your child properly in the forward-facing seat and secure your child with the harness built into the car seat. This ensures safety and longevity for the product.
Most car seats include a 3-in-1 convertible which allows you to use three types of restraining systems, which means you do not have to buy new car seats when your child needs to advance to a new sitting position.
While the rear-facing restraint system is safer, it is imperative to move your age-appropriate child to the forward-facing seat. This provides more leg space and freedom for your growing child.
California Booster Car Seat Law
Your child will eventually outgrow the forward-facing car seat which is usually between the age of four and eight or 65 pounds. At this stage, your child is not qualified for the car seat yet cannot use either the rear-facing or forward-facing seat types anymore.
But that doesn’t stop your child from enjoying a car ride with you or anyone else. The law states that children between the age of four and eight should use a booster seat before the car seat belt fits properly.
The Booster Seat is a transitional phase between the rear-facing and car seat. The belt-positioning booster fits correctly so the child is not suffocated by inappropriately placed vehicle and shoulder seat belts.
Parents should familiarize themselves with all the types of car seat restraints in California before seating their children because various states have different car seat laws.
For example, a one-year-old child can ride using the forward-facing car seat in Texas. It is imperative to learn the car seat laws of each state to avoid avoidable fines and penalties.
Above eight years old
Once your child is above eight or taller than 4.9”, they are required by California car seat law to use seat belts.
What Age Can Seat In The Front Seat
Children below eight years old are mandated to sit at the back of the car until they meet the age requirements. Nevertheless, experts claim that the dangers of seating in the front of a car also apply to this age group, so as recommended, all children should ride in the back seat.
Parents should install all child restraint systems in the back seat to avoid driving with children in the front seat, no matter the distance because the pressure from the airbag can be harmful to their fragile bodies.
The rear of the vehicle is the safest place in a vehicle, so keep your child there and let them enjoy the ride from a safe distance.
Are There Exemptions To California Car Seat Laws
While the law is there for the safety of your child, there are several exemptions and it is imperative that you acquaint yourself with those exemptions to avoid putting your child in danger.
A popular reason for exemption is due to a child’s health or weight. Overweight children may be uncomfortable constrained to a seat type.
Also, children with certain health complications such as respiratory problems may suffer from a harness system that’s seated on their chest. Before using any of the seat restraints on your child, consult a medical professional.
If your child’s health will be negatively affected by a restrain, then get court permission to exempt your child from the seat type. This is a fairly simple process as long as you present the doctor’s reports.
Another reason, similar to the first is if the child is being transported due to an emergency or in an emergency vehicle. Cars without rear seats are also exempted from this rule. However, the law remains the law.
Don’t ride with the child in the front seat for the child’s safety and to avoid fines and penalties. Other valid reasons includes, if it will be dangerous to have a seat at the back, and if the back seats are fully occupied by children.
Also, the California car seat laws doesn’t apply to a taxi or uber driver if the parent or legal guardian of the child is present in the vehicle.
Do You Have To Replace Your Car Seats
According to the California vehicle code, car seats should be replaced after a crash regardless of the state of the seat. Insurance companies are mandated by law to offer you a replacement in such a situation, so be rest assured that you won’t be dipping into your savings or next income.
This is a safety precaution to reduce the risk of having your child in a malfunctioned or damaged car seat which could cause severe damage in an accident.
While most car seats are very durable and can be used for different children in a household, they are not totally protected from minor maintenance concerns.
Constantly check the car seat for any maintenance and repair needs, and if the damage is severe such as the breakdown of safety, consider replacing the car seat.
There are affordable yet functionally stacked car seats that you can find on the market to meet your modern needs.
What’s The Penalty For Violating California Car Seat Laws
There are consequences of violating any of the California car seat laws. The least fine is a $100 ticket with subsequent fines rising up to $250.
These tickets demand a mandatory court appearance and may include other penalties such as community service or prison time, depending on the consequences of your negligence.
For example, if a child is severely injured, then the law will take firm action against the offender. In addition, every ticket is accompanied by an accumulative point which may lead to the suspension of your drivers’ license.
The California Vehicle Code section 27360 is there to protect your child from the effects of crashes and collisions. Ensure you familiarize yourself with the age group, height and weight requirements for using a new seat restrain.