California Car Seat Laws Updated [2023]

Child passenger safety is of utmost importance to ensure the well-being and protection of young children while traveling in vehicles.

In California, strict laws have been established to regulate the use of car seats, booster seats, and seat belts for children of different ages and sizes. 

This essay will delve into California car seat laws on children passengers and other related questions on children’s car safety. 

California Car Seat Laws Updated 2023

According to the California Vehicle Law Section 27360, drivers must follow these California car seat laws and regulations concerning safety at all times: 

1. Children Under Two Years

The California Vehicle Law states that two-year-old kids and below must ride in a rear-facing car seat. 

This regulation aims to provide maximum protection for infants and toddlers whose necks and spines are still developing. 

However, there are exceptions to this rule. If a child weighs 40 pounds or more or is 40 inches tall, they may use a forward-facing car seat. 

It is essential to follow the height and weight recommendations specified by the car seat manufacturer to ensure the child’s safety.

2. Children Under 8 Years of Age

California law mandates that children Eight years and below must be secured in a car seat or booster seat to protect children beyond infancy but not yet ready for adult seat belts. 

This requirement is crucial as it provides additional support and restraint for young children who may not be adequately protected by seat belts alone. 

Using appropriate car seats or booster seats significantly reduces the risk of injuries in a collision.

3. Children 8 Years of Age or Older

Once a child is up to eight or has reached a height of 4’9″, they may transition from a car seat or booster seat to a seat belt. 

But, it is vital to note that though children may no longer be required to use booster seats, they must still be secured by a safety belt. 

This provision ensures that children are safely restrained and protected while traveling in vehicles, regardless of their age or size.

4. Passengers 16 Years of Age and Over

California’s Mandatory Seat Belt law applies to all passengers 16 years and over. This means teenagers and adults must always wear seat belts in moving vehicles. 

Seat belts are a fundamental safety measure that significantly reduces the risk of severe injuries or fatalities in accidents. 

By enforcing this law, California aims to cultivate a culture of responsible and safe driving habits among all residents.

The Rear-Facing Car Seat Law in California

Children must use a rear-facing car seat until they reach the age of 2, weigh 40 pounds, or are up to 40 inches in height (equivalent to 3 feet 4 inches).

California Laws For Booster Seats

There are no specific standards that booster seats must meet. The California Office of Traffic Safety provides recommendations in this regard. As per the law, children under eight must utilize a booster seat

But, children who are eight years old or older and measure over 4’9″ in height can either use a booster seat or directly use a seat belt, depending on their weight or height.

California Laws on Front-Facing Car Seats

According to California law, children should use a front-facing car seat or a booster seat until they reach either 8 years of age or a height of 4 feet 9 inches (57 inches). 

While specific weight limits for front-facing car seats are not explicitly stated by the state, they typically range from 40 to 65 pounds. However, the state does provide clear guidelines based on age and height.

Also,  California does not specify a particular age at which children must transition from rear-facing to front-facing car seats. 

Instead, parents and caregivers are expected to follow the car seat manufacturer’s instructions regarding the appropriate age and usage of the front-facing seat or harness.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How Much Will I Be Charged For Not Using a Child Car Seat?   

In California, the initial offense incurs a “basic fine” of $100 for not having a child in a car seat. 

But, subsequent offenses result in a fine of $250 each time. This serves as a deterrent for repeat offenses and emphasizes the importance of consistently using a child restraint device.

What are the Exceptions to California Car Seat Law? 

The regulations outlined in Section 27360 of the California Vehicle Code do not apply to a driver if the child’s parent or legal guardian is riding along as a passenger.

When Can My Child Ride Without A Booster Seat In California? 

If a child is either eight years old or above or has attained a height of 4’9″ and safety belts fit them well, they can stop using booster seats.

How Can I Adequately Secure a Child Car Seat?

Follow these steps to secure a child car seat adequately:

1. Read the Car Seat Manual Instructions

Carefully read the instruction manual the car seat manufacturer provided. Each car seat model may have specific installation requirements and guidelines that you need to follow.

2. Choose the Right Location

Install the car seat in the back seat. The back seat is generally considered the safest place for children.

3. Install the Base

If your car seat has a detachable base, secure it tightly according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Ensure the base is level and not moving more than an inch in any direction.

4. Harness Adjustment

Adjust the harness straps to fit your child correctly. The straps should lie flat against the child’s chest, with the harness clip at armpit level. 

Ensure the straps are snug and secure, allowing only one finger to fit between the harness and your child’s collarbone.

5. Secure the Installation

Use the seat belt to secure the car seat, depending on the type of car seat. You can follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper installation and ensure the seat is securely attached with minimal movement.

6. Check for Stability

Give the car seat a firm tug for stability after installation. If the car seat feels loose, tighten the installation or adjust the seat’s position. 

7. Test the Security of the Seat

Put your child in the seat and fasten the harness straps. Ensure that the straps are snug and properly positioned. 

8. Conduct Regular Inspection

Inspect the car seat for any signs of wear, damage, or recalls. Replace the car seat after any damage. Keep updated with the manufacturer’s recommendations and make necessary adjustments or replacements.

What Are The Best Safety Tips On Using Child Car Seat?

For adequate child safety, it is advisable to maintain your child in rear-facing and forward-facing car seats for as long as possible without rushing to transition them into a booster seat before they are developmentally prepared. Booster seats are advised until a child reaches a height of 4’9″. 

Also, it is better that all children aged 13 and below ride in the vehicle’s back seat. The back seat offers excellent protection and reduces exposure to potential airbag deployment, which can be dangerous for young passengers.


Child passenger safety laws in California prioritize the protection and well-being of young passengers. 

These California car seat laws outline specific requirements for children under 2 years of age, children under 8 years of age, and passengers 16 years of age and older. 

By strictly adhering to these regulations, parents and caregivers can ensure the safety of children while traveling in vehicles. 


Leave a Comment