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Using a booster seat could save your child’s life. Without a booster seat or a proper car seat, your child could suffer extreme or fatal injuries in a car accident. Motor vehicle accidents are one of the top causes of childhood deaths in the U.S. Like most states, California has car seat laws in place to encourage parents and guardians to take control of their children’s safety while driving. Obeying California’s booster seat law could protect your child and keep you out of legal trouble.
A booster seat is instrumental in keeping a young child safe in a vehicle accident. Vehicle manufacturers design seat belts for adults, not children. For a seat belt to work effectively at absorbing the shock of a collision, it must fit snugly in the correct position: over the passenger’s lap and shoulder. Positioning the belt elsewhere could cause more harm than good, as the straps might damage internal organs in a crash.
Children are too short for adult-sized seat belts to fit properly. A booster seat solves this problem. A booster seat lifts the child to the proper height, so a seat belt fits properly over his or her lap and shoulder. Booster seats work in conjunction with seat belts rather than using a five-point harness system like a car seat. High-back and backless booster seat models fit different types of seats. According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, 35% of children who died in car accidents in 2017 were not buckled up. Booster and car seats are integral in saving children’s lives.
California Vehicle Code 27360 states that children two years old and younger must ride in rear-facing car seats. As the child grows out of the seat’s maximum height or weight limit, he or she will transfer to a forward-facing seat and then a booster seat. The car seat must comply with applicable federal safety standards. The guardian should follow the seat’s instructions for installation and use.
Additional California car seat laws state that guardians must secure children under eight years old in car seats or booster seats in the back seat of the vehicle. If the child is eight or at least 4’9”, he or she may graduate to a seat belt. Until the child reaches these milestones, however, he or she must remain in a forward-facing car seat or booster seat. The booster seat should be appropriate for the child’s height and weight for it to work properly.
It is an infraction to break California’s car seat or booster seat law. The police can enforce this as a primary law, meaning an officer does not need another reason to pull a vehicle over. If the officer notices unrestrained children in the car, he or she can pull the driver over and issue a ticket. The fine is $100 for a first offense and $250 for a second or subsequent offense. The driver has the option of the court waiving the fine if he or she can prove an economic disadvantage and agree to take a community education program on child car seats.
Obeying the booster seat law is important for you and your child. Failing to use a booster seat until your child is at least 40 pounds or 4’9” could put his or her life at risk. You can make sure you comply with state law by bringing your vehicle and booster seat to a free community inspection center. These are checkpoints where a professional can help you with car seat installation and make sure the device you use complies with federal safety regulations. Your community may also have financing options if you cannot afford a booster seat.