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New California Law – Child Safety Seat Requirements

Effective January 1, 2012, the following became law in California:

  • Children must be secured in an appropriate child passenger restraint (federally approved safety seat or booster seat) in the back seat of the vehicle until they are at least 8 years old or 4′ 9″ in height.
  • Therefore, if a child in your care met the previous state law of being 6 years old and 60 pounds and was no longer required to use a child restraint system, and that child is currently under the age of 8 or is not at least 4’ 9” tall, the new law requires that the child now use a federally approved booster seat, and ride only in the back seat of the vehicle. 

Remember:  A booster seat must be used with a lap and shoulder belt.

As of January 1, 2012, the following state laws and safety recommendations remain in effect:

  • Infants must be secured in a rear-facing car seat placed only in the back seat of the vehicle, until at least age 1 and 20 pounds.

Remember:  A rear-facing infant must never be placed in front of an airbag.

IMPORTANT NOTE: As of April 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants remain in rear-facing safety seats until the age of 2 (required until age 1 and 20 pounds) or until they reach the maximum height and weight for the seat.  Foster Parents are strongly encouraged to follow these guidelines and speak with the infant’s health care provider about these recommendations.

  • For children who have outgrown a rear-facing safety seat, a forward-facing child seat is required.   

Remember:  A forward-facing child seat with a harness is safest.

Four Types Of Safety Seats

The following information from provides an overview of the types of safety seats available in order to choose the correct seat for children in your care:

Rear-facing-only safety seat

Fits until baby reaches maximum weight (30-35 lbs. for most seats; check instructions). Head must be at least 1” below top edge. Must be installed rear facing.  Rear facing is strongly recommended until at least age 2, required until age one.

Convertible safety seat

Fits up to 35 lbs. or more rear facing, 40 lbs. or more forward facing.

Forward-facing safety seat or harness only

Check instructions for minimum age/weight. Most forward-facing seats have a removable harness so they can be used as boosters.

Safety booster seat

For children who outgrow safety seats with a harness. Required for any child until at least 8 years old or 4’ 9” tall.  Most children need a booster until age 10-12 for proper belt fit. Backless booster may be used if child’s head is supported by vehicle seat or headrest.

Confirming Correct Safety Seat Selection & Installation

To consult a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician regarding the proper safety seat for your child as well as proper installation, you may contact your local law enforcement or fire departments in your area.  You may also visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at .  The home page provides a Child Seat Inspection Station locator by simply entering your zip code.  Information includes inspection stations with Spanish-speaking technicians.

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