As the Rabbi Lawyer who handles Los Angeles car accident cases, this is a question I’m asked at least once per week.
Invariably, the question becomes at what point do children no longer require a car seat? When is a child old enough to ride without one?
Children Under 8
In California, any child under 8 must ride in a car seat. The car seat must be securely fastened in the back seat, not the front.
Children who are under one year old must use rear-facing car seats. Once a child reaches a certain weight, he or she can switch to a front-facing car seat. Check the instructions on your car seat for more information.
There are some exceptions to this rule, such as when the car does not have a backseat. So no, your Corvette does not need a car seat to transport your five-year-old.
Children Over 8
If the child is 4’9″ and over 8, the child may ride in a regular seat as long as the lap belt fits across the hips, and the shoulder restraint crosses the center of the child’s chest. If the child is not tall enough to comply with these requirements, then the child must still use a booster seat.
Children Over 13
A child who is over 8 and meets the above requirements may also sit in the front seat. However, experts agree that children are safest in the back seat until 13 years old.
Besides for car seat information, there are other important safety tips that apply to families transporting children. It’s illegal to smoke in a car with children riding in it. It’s also illegal to leave a running vehicle unattended while children are inside.
Always make sure your car seats are snug and properly installed. The CHP offers inspection sites, and you can also call your local Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA) for more information. Some businesses will also come to your house to make sure your seats are properly installed.
And if G0d forbid you are in an accident, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises you to replace any car seats that were in the affected vehicle. Insurance companies must replace them for you if an insured driver caused the collision.
Stay safe as you transport your little ones to and fro.