If you travel this holiday season with children in your vehicle, you will be transporting the world’s most precious cargo. The California Highway Patrol would like to ensure they are well protected in the event of a traffic collision.
Unfortunately, children are injured or killed every year because their safety seats are not installed properly or not used at all. The laws regarding safety seats have changed in the last few years. So before you drive during the busy holiday travel period, the CHP would like to remind everyone to buckle up and understand the current laws regarding safety seats.
Rear-facing seats (newborns and toddlers)
Children under age 2 must ride in a rear-facing car seat unless the child meets the 40-by-40 requirement – either the child weighs 40 or more pounds, or is 40 or more inches tall. Placing newborns and toddlers in a rear-facing car seat is five times safer than forward-facing seats. Rear-facing car seats should always be used in the back of a vehicle. If the vehicle does not have a back seat – such as a single cab pickup truck – never place the rear-facing car seat in front of an active airbag.
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Forward-facing car seats (young children)
A rear-facing car seat can be turned around to forward-facing to accommodate a child’s growth. Always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for exact weight and height requirements for your particular car seat before transitioning your child into a forward-facing seat. A forward-facing one will have a five-point harness buckle for children who are 40 to 90 pounds (depending on the model). Most combination car seats can be used as a forward-facing seat and adapted into a booster seat as the child grows. As a rule of thumb, harness straps should always be at or above the child’s shoulders.
Belt-positioning booster seats (older children)
A child is ready for a booster when he or she has outgrown the weight, and or height limit of their forward-facing harness seat per manufacturer requirements. Once a child outgrows their forward-facing harness, they must be properly secured in an appropriate belt-positioning booster seat. A child can typically use a booster seat for up to 120 pounds. The state of California does not require a child to be buckled in a booster seat after age 8 or when the child reaches 4 feet 9 inches in height. In the interest of safety, do not rush to move a child into a booster seat before they are ready. Each time a child graduates to the next seat, there is a reduction in the level of protection for the child.
Moving to the front seat
California law permits a child to use an adult seat belt either in the front or rear seats when they have passed their eighth birthday. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that children ride in the back seat of a vehicle until age 13. The child should be able to sit all the way back in the seat, with knees bending comfortably over the edge of the seat, the shoulder portion of the belt laying on the collarbone and chest, and the lap belt low on the hips across the tops of the thighs. The child must stay appropriately seated for the entire trip.
Understanding these laws is the first step to ensure a child’s safety while traveling in a vehicle. If you have any questions please contact me or your local CHP office to schedule a free car seat appointment.