What are the child car seat laws in California? California

Car Seat Laws in California

Child restraint laws in CA are enforced by the California Highway Patrol, not the DMV.

  • Each child must be in a child safety seat in the back seat, unless the child weighs 60 pounds or more, or is six years old or older.
  • Children who weight more than 40 pounds may use lap belts in the back seat instead of car seats.

Front Seat Riding

The main concern against having a car seat in the front is that the air bags are positioned too short for most children, thus injuring or even killing them in the event of a fender-bender.

Thus, children younger than six may ride in the front if:

  • There is no back seat, or the back seats are rear or side facing.
  • A baby car seat cannot be properly installed in the back seat.
  • All the back seats are being occupied by children younger than 12.
  • The child has a medical condition preventing him from riding in the back.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that all kids age 12 and younger should ride in the back for safety purposes. Keep in mind that this is not a law in California and just a guideline. In general, children should sit in a booster seat until they have reached a height where the over-the-shoulder seatbelt can be appropriately positioned, even if they are older than six and weigh more than 60 pounds.

Safety Laws for Infants

Special laws apply to infants. Infants must:

  • Be placed in rear-facing baby car seats until they reach one year of age and are at least 20 pounds.
  • Not ride facing forward.
If any of the following applies, the child may never ride in the front seat if there is an airbag that can't be turned off, even in child car seats.

  • The child is younger than one year of age.
  • The child weighs fewer than 20 pounds.
  • The child is in a rear-facing baby car seat.
Not following these safety laws will earn the parent or driver (if a parent is not present) a traffic ticket.

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