If you’re finding the CA car seat laws 2023, you’re right here.
According to California State Law, a child under eight years old should be secured with a child safety seat and then use a seatbelt as an adult. Children under 13 years of age should sit in the back seat.
That’s the overview of California car seat laws. Here in this guide for CA car seat laws, we try to provide as many details as possible to explain the California car seat laws on booster seat age and height requirements, rear-facing and forward-facing rules, and when a child can sit in the front seat in California.
Overview of California Car Seat Laws
The child seat laws go into three car seat stages – rear-facing, forward-facing, and booster. So we also talk about California car seat laws in these three categories.
Many parents would like to know how much does your child have to weigh to sit in the front seat in California, so we also explore details on the California front seat law.
Can’t wait to know the CA booster seat laws. Just click the booster field below.
California Car Seat Laws Rear-Facing
In California Legislature section Section 27360. (b), the law requires all children under two years old to ride in a rear-facing car seat unless the child weighs at least 40 pounds OR is 40 inches tall.
The law Section 27360. (a) also indicates that the rear-facing car seat must be placed in the back seat of the motor vehicle.
It’s recommended to keep the child facing the rear as long as possible until they outgrow the weight or height limits allowed by the car seat manufacturers.
However, some infant-only car seats are designed with a maximum weight of around 35 pounds and a maximum height of around 32-inches.
It seems they can’t satisfy the need to ride a child rear-facing following the CA rules.
You may turn to a convertible or all-in-one car seat or directly use these two types of car seats at first since your baby’s birth.
The convertible and all-in-one car seats have higher rear-facing height and weight limits, allowing an infant to travel facing the rear for a longer period of time.
We list a few best options for rear-facing longer in the following part of this post, you may read and make your decisions.
California’s rear-facing car seat law is a bit higher than the average requirements in other states, on age, height, and weight.
To ride your child according to the CA child seat laws, it’s better to get a convertible seat at the very first.
RF: 4-30 lbs/ 30″
Best for Preemie
Chicco KeyFit 30
RF: 4-35 lbs/ 32″
Best for Travel
Doona Infant Car Seat Stroller
California Forward Facing Car Seat Law
CA law does not mention the age, weight, and height requirements for facing forward car seats.
But it’s a common rule to turn a child to a front-facing car seat until they exceed the safety weight or height limit for rear-facing car seats.
Based on the regulations in California Legislature section Section 27360. (b), a child is approved to use a forward-facing car seat when weighing 40 pounds or more, or 40 inches or more in height, which typically happens when the child is 2-4 years old.
The California Highway Patrol indicates to use a forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible until the child outgrows the weight or height limit.
Most harnessed forward-facing safety seats, no matter convertible or harnessed booster, feature a 65-pound weight limit and 49-inch height limit. That means a child can ride in a forward-facing car seat at age 6-7 before moving to the next car seat stage.
You should follow the CA regulations to install the car forward seat in the back seat in the automobile until they are 8 years of age.
FF: 22-65 lbs/ 49″
FF: 22-65 lbs/ 49″
California Booster Seat Law 2022
The CA law does not indicate the requirements for using a booster seat.
It’s the California Office of Traffic Safety that gives some tips.
It states the rules that a child under the age of 8 must ride in a booster seat.
Children who are 8 years old OR at least 4’9” may be secured by a booster seat or wear a seat belt, based on the child’s weight or height.
However, the regulation in section 27363. (d) talks about an exceptional case where a child who is younger than 8 years old can use a seat belt.
Let’s move to the next part on seat belt laws for children in CA.
Age for Booster Seat in CA
CA booster seat laws do not mention the age rule.
It’s the OTS department supplement the California booster seat laws, indicating that child under 8 years old should ride in a booster seat.
You may also want to know about the backless booster seat laws. Actually, the government regulations won’t specify the models in details.
So the booster seats include the backless ones.
Booster Seat Weight and Height
Based on our experience of reviewing 30+ car seats, most booster seats have a minimum weight limit of 40 pounds. The maximum weight limit may differ based on different brands, commonly ranging between 100-120 pounds.
57-inch is the most common seen height limit for a booster seat. Few backless boosters and backless booster mode in all-in-one car seats are designed with a higher height limit – up to 63-inches.
What about the backless booster seat requirements in CA?
It should be the same as the CA booster seat laws – child under 8 years old should stay in a booster seat until they’re 4 feet 9 inches tall.
The booster seats include the backless models.
Booster: 40-100 lbs/ 57″
Chicco GoFit Plus
Booster: 40-100 lbs/ 57″
Graco Atlas Harness Booster
California Child Seat Belt Law
The CA car seat law in section 27360. (a) says that children under 8 years of age must ride in a child restraining system. That means a child can use a seat belt at least on his or her eighth birthday.
The rules in section 27363. (d) allow a child younger than 8 years old to wear a safety belt, but this has a minimum height requirement, the child should be at least 4 feet 9 inches or taller.
The laws in the two sections are not conflictive. The child uses a car seat (including rear-facing, forward-facing, or booster) because they are small and can’t use the seat belt properly for optimal protection.
As long as they’re big enough in size to get the seat belt fitting properly, they are ready to get out of the car seat.
How do you know if your child is ready to use a seat belt?
The regulation just requires the minimum terms, not the best. You may check via below five questions:
1. Can your child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
2. Do your child’s knees bend with ease at the edge of the seat without slouching?
3. Does the lap belt fit snugly across the top of the thighs, not upon the tummy?
4. Does the shoulder belt come across the center of the shoulder and chest?
5. Can your child sit like this for the whole trip?
If the answers to the above questions are ‘Yes’, your child might be ready to use a seat belt for traveling in the car.
Penalty for Breaking Car Seat Laws in California
Violating the California laws, for the first time, will be fined $100.
For a second or subsequent offense, the people who are responsible for the child passenger will be fined up to $250.
Plus, the fine is just a portion of the total cost if not obeying the CA law.
Adding the penalty assessments may result in paying over $475 for the first offender, and up to $1000 for a second offense.
California Car Seat Laws Apply for
The driver is responsible for the child’s safety in the motor vehicles.
But if the parent or legal guardian of the child also sits in the motor vehicle as a passenger, according to the CA law statement in section 27360. (c), the driver does not have the responsibility.
At this time, the parent or guardian will take over the duty to ensure the child’s safety in the car.
A court can make an exception to any of the child safety restraint laws when the application of the law would be impractical because of a child’s:
- physical unfitness
- medical condition, or
California Front Seat Law
How old do you have to be to sit in the front seat in California 2022?
In California, the law in section 27360 (a) says that all children under 8 years old should ride in an appropriate child restraint system in the back seat.
The regulation in section 27363 (e) tells some exceptions that parents will not be punished if not following the law, but to place a child younger than 8 years old in the front seat.
- there is no back seat
- the rear seats are side-facing jump seats
- the back seats are rear-facing
- the child seat can’t be installed properly in the back seat
- all the rear seats are occupied by children under the age of eight, or
- medical reasons require that the child ride in a front seat.
The law and rules are the basic requirements. According to child safety experts, it’s best to have your child ride in the rear seat for as long as the child grows to 13 years old.
Taxi Car Seat Law California
According to the CA car seat law, taxis are not exempt from the regulations in California. Although the responsibility falls on parents first.
If the parents aren’t present, then the cab driver will be held responsible.
Age, Weight, Height Requirements in California Laws
California laws are a bit strict on the usage of a rear-facing car seat and the seating position for children younger than 8 years of age.
The rules are not 100% following the guidelines from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA for short), but state a few requirements on age, weight, and height.
Rear-facing (stage 1): under two years of age and below 40 pounds or 40 inches tall.
Forward-facing ( stage 2): more than two years old and above 40 pounds or 40 inches in height.
Booster (stage 3): under the age of 8 and below 57 inches in height.
Seat belt (stage 4): 8 years of age or older or at least 4’9” tall
What you Need to Know – Four Car Seat Stages
Car Seats to Meet California Laws
Based on the CA child car seat laws, here are the best car seats that will ride your boys or girls safely without breaking the rules.
To help parents quickly find the best option based on your child’s current age, this list is made by age.
Birth - 2 Years
30-lb rear-facing maximum weight
35-lb rear-facing maximum weight
40-lb rear-facing maximum weight
50-lb rear-facing maximum weight
Birth - 4 Years
65-lb forward-facing maximum weight
49-inch forward-facing maximum height
100-lb booster maximum weight
120-lb booster maximum weight
57-in booster maximum height
63-in booster maximum height
- Best to Fit 3 Across – Diono Radian 3R
- Best with backless booster – Graco 4Ever DLX
The Diono Cambria 2 XL combines a highback and backless booster into one. It provides spacious room for growing big kids.
Diono Cambria 2 XL
Car Seats with Unique Functions
- Doona infant car seat stroller (with wheels)
Car seat with 5-point harness
- Britax One4Life (120 lbs/ 63”)
All 50 US States Car Seat Laws
FAQs on California Child Seat Laws
What is the weight requirement for a booster seat in California?
California booster seat laws do not tell any requirements on weight. It requires children under the age of 8 to be secured in a car seat or booster seat.
The CA law only mentions the weight requirement for rear-facing. The rear-facing law in California says that all children under two years old to ride in a rear-facing car seat unless the child weighs 40 or more pounds OR is 40 or more inches tall.
When can my child stop using a car seat California?
At least 8 years of age.
According to the California Vehicle Code Section 27360 about car seat and booster seat.
- Children under the age of 8 must be secured in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat.
- Children who are 8 years of age OR have reached 4’9” in height may be secured by a booster seat, but at a minimum must be secured by a safety belt.
Does a 7 year old need a car seat in California?
According to California booster seat laws, children must normally use a child car seat until they’re 8 years old or 57 inches tall, whichever comes first.
So a 7 year old still need a car seat in California.
Is backless booster seat safe in California?
The CA car seat laws do not prohibit using a backless booster.
While high-backs are the safest choice, backless boosters are still much safer than no booster at all.
There are some legitimate reasons parents might choose a no-back model. For one thing, backless boosters are generally less expensive.
What kind of car seat should a 5 year old be in to travel in California?
Does an 8 year old need a booster seat in California?
According to California booster seat law, children who are 8 years of age OR have reached 4’9” in height may be secured by a booster seat, but at a minimum must be secured by a safety belt.
But the safest practice is to keep your child in a car seat for as long as possible until they outgrow that car seat.
How old do you have to be to ride in the front seat in California 2022?
At least 8 years old.
According to California car seat laws on the front seat, children under 8 years old may ride in the back seat of a vehicle in a federally-approved child passenger restraint system.
Normally, a child can sit in the front seat in California at the age of 8.
However, if there is no rear seat in the car, you child can be placed in the front seat, even he or she is under 8 years old.
At what weight can a child use a backless booster seat?
California booster seat laws do not mention the weight requirements, only say that a child should use a booster under 8 years of age or less than 57″ tall and require parents to use the car seat as per the manufacturers’ instructions.
If so, a child with at least 40 pounds weight can use a backless booster. However, it’s recommended to stick to the car seat with 5 point harness for as long as possible.
An average 40-pound child is typically closer to age five, a much safer age to consider making a transition to booster use. And many booster seats that can be used in both a highback and backless configuration have a higher minimum weight limit of 40 pounds when used in the backless mode.
How much is a ticket for not having a child in a car seat in California?
There are four important points to know about California car seat law on a penalty. The “base fine” for not using a child restraint system is $100 for the first violation; and, $250 for every other violation.
Base fines are much less than the actual fine given since actual fines include fees and penalty assessments.
Can an 11 year old sit in the front seat in California?
According to California child seat belt laws, children can sit in the front seat from the age of 8 years. So an 11 year old can legally sit in the front seat in California. However, it’s not the best practice.
It’s best to keep a child under 13 years old in the back seat if possible.