New California Law: Children must remain rear facing in car seat until two years of age unless 40 lbs or 40" height.

Car seat safety

Does your child really need a car seat?

According to California law, all children under 8 years of age must be properly restrained in the back seat of the vehicle in a correctly installed child passenger safety restraint that meets Federal standards. All children who are 8 years of age or older but less than 16 must be properly restrained in either an appropriate child passenger restraint or a properly fitted safety (seat) belt. All occupants of a vehicle 16 years of age and over must also be restrained in a properly fitted safety (seat) belt.

Fittings & car seat check ups

All children 12 years and under should be properly restrained in the back seat of the vehicle. An infant should remain in the back seat of the vehicle, in a rear-facing car seat, as long as possible up to the height or weight limit of the seat. If an infant has outgrown the infant car seat, they may be fitted into a convertible car seat. All infants and toddlers should remain rear-facing in the convertible car seat in the back seat of the vehicle until at least 2 years of age or until he or she reaches the highest weight or height allowed by the car seat manufacturer.

All children 2 years or older who have outgrown the rear facing weight or height limit for their convertible car seat should be turned to ride forward facing in the convertible car seat using the internal 5-point harness system for as long as possible to the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer.

Once a child outgrows their forward-facing seat, he or she should ride in a booster seat in the back seat of the vehicle, until the vehicle safety (seat) belt fits properly. A child typically outgrows his or her booster seat by 4 feet 9 inches tall, which may be 10-12 years of age and can then use the adult safety (seat) belt in the back seat of the vehicle. Safety (seat) belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest in front of the child.

5-step seat belt test

Conduct the 5 step seat belt test to determine if your child is ready for the adult shoulder/lap belt system in your vehicle.

  1. Does the child sit upright with hips all the way back against the vehicle seatback?
  2. Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the vehicle seat?
  3. Is the lap belt below the abdomen on the top part of the thighs, snug across the hips?
  4. Is the shoulder belt centered over the shoulder and across the chest?
  5. Can the child stay seated in this position for the whole trip?

If you answered "no" to any of these questions, your child needs a booster seat to ride safely in the car.

Which car seat is right for your child?

With so many options, choosing the right one can be a challenge. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's car seat page and Safe Kids Worldwide ultimate car seat guide provide up-to-date, easy-to-read information.

Is your child's seat properly installed?

National statistics reveal that up to 95% of car seats are improperly installed! Learn about free car seat check up locations in your area at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration car seat inspection locator.

Children should never play in or around cars

Did you know that as many as 50 children are backed over by cars in the U.S. every week? These are referred to as backovers. Here are some simple rules to help protect your family from backovers:

  • Do not allow your child to play in or around parked or moving cars.
  • Teach your child to never run up to a moving car.
  • Teach your child to never walk behind a car. 

For more information on backover injuries, go to Kids and Cars.

Never leave a child unattended in the car

A car is not a safe place to leave a child, even for a minute while you run back into the house or do a quick errand. Here are some things you should always keep in mind. Even on cool days, temperatures inside a car can rise to a fatal 117 degrees in minutes.

  • Keep your doors locked when the car is parked so children can’t get inside.
  • Store your purse or wallet on the floor in the back seat so you never forget your child.
  • It’s illegal to leave a child aged 6 or less in a car without an attendant aged 12 or more.