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California Front Seat Laws & Penalties

Posted in Criminal Defense on August 13, 2019

States across the country take child safety in a vehicle seriously and pass laws to ensure children are properly restrained. Most states have laws on the books that require you to use a child restraint system. California law is very specific about these laws, and we want to make sure you have the information you need to keep your child safe while also following the law.

Front Seat Laws in California

  • California requires all children under the age of eight and under 4 feet 9 inches to be properly secured in a child restraint system that meets federally approved guidelines.
  • All other children age eight to 16 or over 4 feet 9 inches tall must wear a seatbelt in the vehicle.
  • Children under eight years of age must be in a child safety seat in the back seat of the vehicle.

California law is detailed about the proper restraint of children. The lap belt must be low on the hips and touching the child’s upper thighs. The shoulder belt must cross the center of the chest.

  • Children in rear-facing restraint seats cannot ride in the front of there is an active front passenger seat airbag. Many vehicles allow users to turn this airbag off.

As of January 1, 2017, drivers with children under the age of 2 in the vehicle must secure the child in a rear-facing child safety restraint system (unless the child weighs more than 40 pounds or is over 40 inches tall).

Penalty for violating seat belt or child restraint laws

The state takes these laws seriously and enforces various penalties. These include:

  • $100 fine for a first offense
  • $250 fin for each subsequent offense

When can a child ride in the front seat?

Under California law, a child may ride in the front seat of a vehicle in an appropriate child passenger restraint system under the following circumstances:

  • There is no rear seat
  • The rear seats are side-facing
  • The rear seats are rear-facing
  • The child restraint system cannot be installed properly in the rear seat
  • All rear seats are already occupied by children seven years or younger
  • Medical reasons necessitate the child not ride in the rear seat

Car accident statistics for California            

Seatbelt and child restraint laws exist to protect our children. Vehicle accidents area reality in California. During the latest reporting year in the state, the Office of Traffic Safety says that there were hundreds of thousands of vehicle crashes. Out of those, there were:

  • 3,602 traffic crash fatalities
  • 273,069 traffic crash injuries
  • 13,975 serious injuries

With those statistics in mind, we can see why it is so important to ensure our children are properly restrained. While nobody expects to be involved in a traffic crash, it is always better to be prepared.

Ensure you have the right seat

You want to ensure that you have the right seat for your child’s age and weight. Make sure your child safety seat meets or exceeds federal safety standards. The instructions of the safety seat will let you know when it is safe to let your child “graduate” to the next level (booster seat, no safety seat).

It is important that you properly install the safety seat in your vehicle. You can be sure you have done this correctly by taking your vehicle to your local fire or police department. There will likely be an employee certified to inspect your child’s safety seat installation or do it for you.