When it comes to selecting the right car seat for your child, one size does not fit all. There are three types of car seats: rear-facing, forward-facing, and the booster, with each best suited to protect a child based on their age and size. Keep your child in rear and forward-facing seats as long as possible. Do not rush to move a child into a booster seat before they are ready. Booster seats are recommended until a child reaches a height of 4’9”. All children 13 and under should ride in the back seat.
What the Law Says
California’s Occupant Protection Law
California law requires all children under two years old to ride in a rear-facing car seat, unless the child weighs 40 or more pounds OR is 40 or more inches tall.
Children under the age of 8 are required to be secured in a car or booster seat. Children who are 8 years old OR at least 4’9” may be secured by a booster seat, but at minimum wear a seat belt.
Choosing a Car Seat
- Children under two are required by law to be in a rear-facing car seat.
- There are different types of rear-facing seats: infant-only, convertible and all-in-one. Infant-only is strictly for rear-facing.
- Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing seat with a harness and tether, which limits forward movement during a crash.
- When your child reaches the top height or weight limit in a forward-facing seat, it is time to move up to a booster seat.
- Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly.
- A properly fitted seat belt must lie across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie across the shoulder and chest.
- Children 13 and under should always ride in the back seat.
NHTSA – Find The Right Seat (https://www.nhtsa.gov/campaign/right-seat)
Safe Kids Worldwide Ultimate Car Seat Guide (https://www.safekids.org/ultimate-car-seat-guide/)
Child Safety Seats – California Highway Patrol (https://www.chp.ca.gov/Programs-Services/Programs/Child-Safety-Seats)
Who’s Got Car Seats – Statewide Car Seat Programs (https://www.ots.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/67/2020/01/2020-Whos-Got-Carseats-Final.pdf)
CHP Car Seat Check Location Finder (https://www.chp.ca.gov/find-an-office)