California Car Seat Laws Explained

California Car Seat Law

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According to the California Car Seat Law, children who are 8 years of age or older but are not tall enough to fit in a seat belt properly must use a booster seat or car seat. This law is in place to ensure the safety of child passengers in vehicles.

It is generally true that car accidents are a significant problem in California and that reckless driving behaviors contribute to these accidents. Children are particularly vulnerable in car accidents, so following the state’s car seat rules is important to keep them safe.

Overall, it is important to be aware of the California Car Seat Law and other regulations related to child passenger safety. This can help prevent accidents and keep everyone safe on the road.

California Car Seat Laws For The Four Types of Car seats 

Let’s familiarize ourselves with the four types of car seats before delving into the rules and regulations of California’s car seat laws.

California Rear-facing Car seat Laws

Infant car seats are specifically designed to cradle and protect children, such as newborns and toddlers. They are much more fragile compared to children 2 years of age and above. Typically, weight limitations fall within the range of 30 to 65 pounds for this type of car seat, and it should be positioned facing the rear of the car. Additionally, it is essential to ensure that your baby’s head has at least one inch of clearance below the top edge of the seat.

California Forward-facing Car seat Laws 

Before you can move your child to a forward-facing car seat, they should reach the maximum height or weight restriction of their rear-facing car seat. Convertible car seats often have weight ratings ranging from 22 to 65 pounds when used in the forward-facing position. These seats often have 5-point harnesses and movable headrests so that they can grow with your child.

California Booster Car Seat Requirements and Laws

Switching to a belt-positioning booster seat may be necessary as your child outgrows an internal harness seat. Using booster seats is crucial since, on average, children do not fit into adult seat belts until they are about 4’9″ tall; regular seat belts alone will not cut it.

Booster seats work by elevating your child so that the car seat properly crosses their body in the middle of their shoulder and chest. According to recommendations, only use a booster seat if your child has outgrown a forward-facing seat with a harness.

Lap-shoulder belt

Once your child has outgrown the booster seat, they can finally move on to a lap-shoulder vehicle seat belt. This usually happens when your child is at least 8 years old, weighs more than 40 pounds, and is taller than 4 feet 9 inches.

Recent California Car Seat Law Changes

California’s car seat laws have undergone numerous changes over the years, but their main goal is to ensure safety for every passenger during car rides. As of 2023, parents or guardians must secure their children under 8 years of age who are under 4’9″ in height or weigh less than 40 pounds in a car seat or booster seat and have them ride in the back seat.

This was a recent change. Because they used to only require children to ride in rear-facing car seats until age 2, in addition, children who are 8 years old or older and are not tall enough for the seat belt to fit properly need to ride in a booster or car seat.

These changes are important and will impact over 1 million children in California. Keeping them in booster seats longer increases the odds that they will survive a crash by 45%.  

California Car Seat Laws for Public Transportation


California Car Seat Laws have no specific rules about using car seats on trains. However, Amtrak trains have rear-facing seats so that the parent or guardian, along with their children, can occupy those seats to reduce the risk of injury.

California Car Seat Laws


Uber requires children who need a car seat to be secured in one. The parent or guardian can bring their car seat if they choose to do so. Uber has car seat services available in some cities; however, they are yet to be available in California. If a parent or guardian frequently travels with Uber with their children, they may consider purchasing an affordable portable car seat.


Under California car seat laws, children are required to ride in car seats even when using taxis. However, taxis are not required to provide car seats. According to the law, parents or guardians must provide car seats for their children. So just like with Uber, if the parent or guardian frequently travels by taxi, consider buying an affordable portable car seat.

Rental Cars

Many rental car agencies offer car seats; however, there is no guarantee that they’ll provide an appropriate car seat for the child, so it’s best for the parent or guardian to bring their own.

California Car Seat Laws for Children with Special Needs 

While regular car seats may work for most children, they may not be suitable for children with special needs who require additional support. Fortunately, specialized car seats are available, such as those with harness systems or attachments like the E-Z-Up Headrest, which provides additional head support for the child.

Not every car seat works, especially if the child has specific needs that have to be met. It is important to recognize the child’s behavior early on and see if they need a specific car seat in order to travel in a vehicle. Doing so is exercising caution to avoid potential risks and ensure the child’s safety.

California Car Seat Laws

The purpose of the car seat regulations in California is to keep your kid safe while driving. It is crucial to abide by them to prevent any injuries, penalties, and fees.

According to Alea’s safety advice, the best level of protection in the case of a collision is to have everyone in the car belted up, including children, who should be in a child restraint system. Keeping a safe distance from other vehicles on the road and abstaining from actions like drinking and driving are also key considerations for the driver.

Always check the vehicle seats and whether it complies with all safety regulations when driving. Be careful to abide by car seat regulations if you drive in California or live here.

Frequently Asked Questions About California Car Seat Laws

Who is covered by the law?  

The law covers children 16 years of age or younger.

What is the Age and Weight Limit for a Child Restraint in California?

Children must wear a child restraint until they’re 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall. And they can move on to riding in the front seat once they pass the age of 8 and 13 years old or are up to 4 feet and 9 inches. Read more about this guide for more information as to when a child can sit in the front seat in California.

When can a Child Ride in a Back Seat in California? 

Children need to ride in the back seat until they’re at least 8 years old.

The only time they do not have to ride in the back seat is if the vehicle has no forward-facing rear seat. The reasons are: 

  • If a child restraint cannot be installed in the rear seat.
  • If children 7 years of age or younger occupy all the rear seats.
  • If the child cannot ride in the back seat for medical reasons
  • Or if it might be dangerous for the child to ride in the back seat for reasons like it’s broken or loose or if it has a broken seat belt. And in this case, it is imperative to replace the car seat ASAP.

Which vehicles are exempt from the law in California?

California Car Seat Laws do not require adults to wear safety belts in antique or vintage cars; manufacturers made them before the law required seat belts. Despite this, children traveling with an antique or vintage car still need to ride in a proper car seat.

What are the penalties for violating the new California Car Seat Laws?

For each child under 16 years old who falls under the height and weight limits and isn’t secured correctly, the parents, or the person driving the car, can receive a ticket for more than $475 and receive a violation point on their driving record. However, the acting law enforcer can waive the penalty for the first offense if the defendant can prove an economic disadvantage.  

When does a child fit in an adult seat? 

A child fits in an adult seat when: 

*They can sit against the vehicle seat back, bend their knees without slouching, and stay in this position for the entire trip.  

*The lap belt fits low on the hips and touches the upper thighs 

*The shoulder harness crosses the chest but not the face or neck. 

Do not let the child put the shoulder harness behind their arm or back, for the reason that, in the event of a crash, they could end up with major injuries, including injuries to their head or spinal cord which could result in a fatality. They still need a booster seat if they put the shoulder belt behind them.  

How do I transport a child in a pickup truck with no back seat and a front passenger’s seat with an airbag in California? 

California Car Seat Laws require your child to always be restrained in a rear-facing car seat. 

By doing so, you will not only comply with the law but also ensure your child’s safety. But what if you need to transport your child in a pickup truck that lacks a back seat and has an airbag in the front passenger seat?

First off, start by turning off the switch for the airbag. This is because the force an airbag deploys can endanger a young child more than it can protect them. And then move the vehicle seat as far back as possible. If you cannot turn off the airbag, it may be best to transport your child in a different vehicle with a rear-facing car seat to comply with the state’s laws.

Do car seats expire?

Yes, car seats expire. The expiration date can be found on the label on the side or bottom of the car seat. Car seats expire 6 years after their manufactured date. If the child outgrows the car seat before then, replacing it as soon as possible is imperative.

Avatar of Keren Simanova

Keren Simanova

Welcome to my car seat blog! As a mom of 3, I put together with other hard-working moms a highly informative one-stop car seat resource, full with many reviews and buyer guides. I hope you find it invaluable. Thank you for trusting me & my team! - Keren

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Keren Simanova

Welcome to my car seat blog! As a mom of 3, I put together with other hard-working moms a highly informative one-stop car seat resource, full with many reviews and buyer guides. I hope you find it invaluable. Thank you for trusting me & my team! - Keren