California Car Seat Laws 2019

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Keeping children safe in vehicles is one of the most important driver duties. In California, it is the parent or guardian’s legal responsibility to ensure the proper restraint of children while the vehicle is in motion. Using the wrong car seat or none at all could lead to disastrous child injuries.

Traffic accidents are a leading cause of childhood death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thirty-five percent (35%) of children who died in car accidents in 2016 were not wearing seatbelts. Avoid traffic citations and keep your kids safe by obeying California’s car seat laws in 2019.

Child Passengers in the Back Seat

Safety organizations have long held that the safest place for child passengers is in the back seat. In the front seat, the force of the passenger airbag could be too great for children – causing more injuries than they prevent. Buckling children into the backseat can prevent airbag-related injuries and deaths.

Put children in the back middle seat, if possible, as this is the safest spot in a vehicle. In the back middle seat, your child will also be safe from deadly seatback failures in an accident. If you have to put a child in the front seat, disable the passenger side airbag. You may have to visit your vehicle manufacturer to disable the airbag.

Children 8 and Under Use Car Seats

All child passengers eight years old and younger must use appropriate car seats unless a younger child reaches at least 4’9” before age eight. Putting children in car seats can help prevent fatal injuries in car accidents. Ordinary seatbelts do not fit correctly around a child’s body. Car seats can keep child occupants securely in their seats during collisions – significantly reducing the risk of fatal injuries. Car seat requirements depend on the height and weight of the child.

  • Rear-facing car seat: Newborns and infants must use rear-facing car seats properly secured in the vehicle until age two, or until the child weighs at least 40 pounds. If the child is 40 inches tall, he or she can also graduate to the next type of car seat.
  • Forward-facing car seat: The car seat should face forward if the child is older than two and has reached the height and weight limits of a rear-facing seat.
  • Booster seat: A booster seat is appropriate once the child outgrows the limits of the forward-facing car seat, usually around age five. A booster seat should allow a seatbelt to properly cross the child’s lap and shoulder.
  • A child should remain in a booster seat until he or she can properly use a seatbelt – usually around 4’9”. The lap belt should lay on the upper thighs and the shoulder belt across the chest, not the stomach or neck.

Parents and guardians should always look at the height and weight specifications listed on a particular car seat. The manufacturer will print these requirements on the seat to tell parents when it is time to move to the next stage. Moving a child up to the next size prematurely could lead to tragedy. Only go to the next type of safety restraint device if your child has met the height or weight requirements, regardless of age.

How To Comply With California’s Car Seat Laws

If you are not sure how to choose the correct car seat, properly install it in your vehicle or buckle your child in the seat, go to professionals for assistance. Many free car seat checks and stations are available throughout the state under organizations such as the California Highway Patrol. If you break California’s car seat laws, you could face a traffic ticket and a fine of $20 to $445 depending on the age of the child. Should an unrestrained child suffer an injury in a car accident, you could also face criminal charges and/or civil liability for the child’s injuries.

Contact Liljegren Law Group if you believe our child’s injuries were caused by a faulty car seat. Our San Diego injury attorneys will fight for a fair compensation.