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California Car Seat Law Changes - Effective January 1, 2017

Starting January 1, 2017, children under 2 years old must be properly restrained in a rear-facing car seat (unless they weigh 40 pounds or more or are 40 inches tall or more).  Children must be secured in a manner that complies with the height and weight limits specified by the manufacturer of the car seat.  Experts now recommend you keep your child in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible because it is five times safer than when a child rides forward-facing.

Children under age 8 must be properly restrained in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat of a vehicle.  Children age 8 or older, or who are 4’9” or taller may use the vehicle seat belt if it fits properly with the lap belt low on the hips, touching the upper thighs, and the shoulder belt crossing the center of the chest.  If children are not tall enough for a proper belt fit, they must ride in a booster or car seat.  

Car Seat Types

Select a car seat that is compatible with your vehicle and appropriate to the age, weight, and height of your child.  Make sure it is simple to use and you can easily install it each time you need it.  Always read the manufacturer’s instructions regarding proper use and installation of your child’s car seat.

Rear Facing Car Seats – For Infants and Toddlers

Infants and toddlers under 2 years of age must ride in a rear-facing car seat unless the child weighs 40 pounds or is 40 or more inches tall. There are two types of rear-facing car seats:

  • Rear-facing only (infant) car seats. Most children will outgrow this seat before their first birthday. 
  • Convertible car seats can be used both rear-facing and forward-facing. They have higher height & weight limits for the rear-facing position, so your child can ride rear-facing until 2 years of age or longer.

Forward Facing Car Seats - For Toddlers and Preschoolers

Children are ready to ride in a forward-facing car seat when they are at least 2 years old or have outgrown the rear-facing height and weight limit of their convertible car seat.  Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the top weight or height limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer.

Booster Seats - For School-aged Children

All children who have outgrown the weight and height limits of their forward-facing car seat must use a belt positioning booster seat until they are at least 8 years of age or 4'9" tall.  The belt positioning booster seat will raise your child up so that the lap and shoulder belt can fit properly.

Keep children in a booster seat until:

  • They are tall enough to sit in the seat without slouching, usually when they are at least 4'9" tall.
  • They can sit all the way back in the vehicle seat with knees bent at the edge of the seat.
  • The shoulder belt crosses the center of the chest and rests on the shoulder (not the neck).
  • The lap belt fits low and snug on the hips/upper thighs (not the stomach).
  • They can stay seated like this for the whole trip.
Car Seat Fitting and Inspection Stations

For assistance locating a car seat fitting or inspection station near you, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website

Additional Information

For more information on car seat safety, including educational videos in English and Spanish, visit the California Highway Patrol website.