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Child Safety Restraint Laws

California Vehicle Code requires that children are to be secured in an appropriate child passenger restraint (safety seat or booster seat) in the back seat of a vehicle, until they are at least 6 years old or weigh at least 60 pounds.


4-Steps of Child Safety Restraints for Growth

Step 1 -  Rear Facing Infant/Newborn SeatsStep1Infant

  • Newborns and infants up to 20-35 pounds.
  • Babies must ride rear-facing in the back seat until one year of age AND at least 20 pounds.
  • Seat can never be forward facing.

Step 2  - Forward Facing Toddler SeatsStep2Toddler

  • Children over one year of age AND at least 20 pounds.
  • Face forward only.
  • Most can be converted to a belt positioning booster after child reaches 40 pounds.

Step 3 - Booster SStep3Boostereats

  • For children over 40 pounds.
  • Must be used with lap and shoulder belts.
  • Lap belt fits low and tight across hips.
  • Shoulder belt crosses the collar bone and center of chest.

Step 4 - Seat BeltStep4Belts

  • Age 6 years or older, OR over 60 pounds.
  • Must be in the back seat unless exempt.
  • NHTSA recommends all children 12 years and under should be in the back seat.

The current California Law requires Law Enforcement to cite the parent/guardian for EACH child who is not properly and legally restrained by appropriate safety equipment.


Facts About Child Restraint Use from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

  • In 2002, the use of child restraints saved an estimated 376 lives.
  • Of the 459 occupant fatalities among children from birth through age 4 in 2002, nearly 40 percent were completely unrestrained.

During 2002, a total of 1,785 children from birth through age 15 were killed in passenger vehicle crashes. Approximately 54 percent of passenger vehicle occupants in this age group were unrestrained. The breakdown by age group was as follows:

  • 40.4 percent of children from birth through age 4 were unrestrained
  • 48.6 percent of children ages 5 through 9 were unrestrained
  • 62.3 percent of children ages 10 through 15 were unrestrained

If 100 percent of motor vehicle occupants younger than age 5 had been protected by child safety seats, an estimated 485 lives (an additional 109 lives) could have been saved in 2002.

From 1975 through 2002, an estimated 6,567 lives were saved by the use of child restraints (child safety seats or adult belts).

For additional information regarding child restraint laws, visit the web sites listed in External Links below.



External Links

California Law

National Safe Kids Campaign
California Legislative Information
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety


California Child Passenger Safety Contacts

SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A
California Office of Traffic Safety
California Department of Health Services


California Child Passenger Safety Contacts

AAA Traffic Safety Department
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration


This City of Stockton webpage last reviewed on --- 3/29/2011