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Consumer Tips – California Child Safety Seat Requirements

At the beginning of this year, California law related to child safety seats changed. Children must now ride in the back seat with an appropriate passenger restraint until turning 8 years old or reaching 4’9″ in height. The California Highway Patrol reports that these simple changes will reduce the risk of serious injury to children involved in a car accident by 33 percent.

The new seating rules for children also require the use of either a car seat or booster seat for kids under age 8. If your child is taller than 4’9″ but under age 8, he or she must still sit in the back seat, but can use the car’s safety belt system.

Proper installation of a child safety seat or booster seat is key to its effectiveness at preventing injuries to your children in case of an accident. CHP reports that up to 75 percent of car seats are not properly installed, limiting their usefulness. Your local CHP office can direct you to a fitting station that can inspect your child’s car seat and make sure it is secured appropriately. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also maintains a searchable Child Car Seat Inspection Station Locator database.

There are some exceptions to the child safety restrictions. Your child may ride in the front seat if you do not have rear seating or if the back seats are side-facing jump seats. If the back seats are already filled with children under 12, then the front seat may be used for child passengers as well. There are also exceptions for medical reasons with a written note from the child’s doctor.

Source: California Highway Patrol, “California’s New Child Passenger Safety Law effective January 1, 2012

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