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New Child Safety Seat Law: Safety is the Number One Priority

According to the California Highway Patrol, traffic collisions are the number one cause of death and permanent injury to children. Sadly, of the children under the age of four killed in car accidents every year, 80 percent would have survived if they had been properly buckled up in a safety seat.

California law previously allowed children to ride in regular passenger seats once they turned six and reached a certain weight.  Too many children were slipping through seatbelts and ending up injured or worse.

It is important for parents and caregivers to understand the new Law, which went into effect January 1, 2012. The new law states that children below the age of eight must be secured in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat. Children below the age of eight who are 4’ 9” or taller may be secured by a safety belt in the back seat.

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, drivers can be ticketed upwards of $400 per child under 16 who is not properly secured. Parents can also receive a violation point on their driving record.

A study from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control found that among seats inspected, 72 percent of car and booster seats were either misused or defective. The most common problems inspectors discovered: car seats that were too small for the height and weight of the child, and car seats that were improperly installed.

Guidelines for Proper Installation:

:Birth to 12 months: rear-facing-only safety seat. This seat must be installed facing rearward. Some convertible models have higher height and weight limits so you can use them for longer periods of time.

:1 to 3 years: forward-facing safety seat. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, you can use forward-facing ones with a five-point harness and tether.

:4 to 7 years: Safety booster seat. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat, you can use a booster seat which positions the seat belt so it fits correctly.

:8 to 12 years:seat belt in the back seat. The seat belt should lie across the upper thighs and be snug across the shoulder and chest. It should not rest on the stomach or across the neck.

Helpful Resources

There are organizations that provide child safety seat fitting stations throughout California. The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration has a search tool to help you find a child car seat inspection station near you.

The Safe Kids USA Coalition provides information about car seat safety laws, car seat recalls, and locations and events where car seat inspections are available.

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