California Law Raises Age for Mandatory Car Seats

John Egan

Under a state law that takes effect Jan. 1, 2012, children under age 8 in California must be properly buckled into a car seat that's placed in the vehicle's back seat. Previously, state law required that kids use car seats until age 6 or until reaching a weight of 60 pounds.

Children under age 8 are exempt from the new law if they're at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall.

For each child under 16 who isn't properly secured in a car, either in a car seat or with a seat belt, the parents -- if they're in the car -- or the driver can be fined more than $475 and receive one violation point on their California driving records. A ticket like that could bump up a motorist's car insurance premium.

“This is an important new law that will impact more than 1.1 million children in California,” Christopher Murphy, director of the California Office of Traffic Safety, says in a news release. “Keeping them in booster seats increases their chance of surviving a crash by 45 percent.”

Car crashes are the leading cause of death in children between ages 4 and 8.

Until passage of the new law, California's requirement of keeping children in car seats till age 6 was below the standards of 38 other states, the District of Columbia and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

Along with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recommend keeping kids in car seats until they reach age 8 or they grow to 4-foot-9.

State Sen. Noreen Evans, a Santa Rosa Democrat who sponsored the new law, says parents don't have to buy new car seats to meet the new age requirement. They simply can use the car seats already being used by their kids.

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