Properly installed child safety seats and the use of seatbelts are the best tool to prevent children in California from being injured in an automobile accident. Unfortunately, many parents fail to either use car seats at all, to use the correct car seat, or to properly install the seats, which can lead to tragedy.

In California, there are four basic stages of car seats and safety belts for children. Infants belong in rear-facing infant seats until they either reach age one or 20 pounds. Many pediatricians recommend leaving the infant rear-facing in the car for a longer period of time. Children who are over 20 pounds and are older than one year old should be in a forward-facing seat with a five-point harness until they reach the top weight or height limit allowed.

Once the five-point harness seat is outgrown, children who are under the age of eight and less than 4’9” can use either a high-back booster seat or a backless booster seat. The booster seat must be used with a lap and shoulder belt – never with a lap belt alone. Finally, children who are over the age of eight, or who are taller than 4’9” can use a regular adult seat belt as long as it is checked for a proper fit. The lap belt should fit low and snug across the top of the thighs, and the shoulder belt should cross the collar bone and the center of the chest.

These child safety seats must be used in the back seat in California until the child is eight years old or 4’9”. However there are a few exceptions – if the vehicle doesn’t have a rear seat, if the rear seats are only side-facing jump seats, if the child seat can’t be properly installed in the rear seat, if all the rear seats are filled with younger children, or if the child can’t ride in the rear seat for medical reasons, the child may be allowed to ride in the front seat.At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes parents have a duty to keep their children safe in an automobile. Have you or your child been involved in an automobile accident in the San Francisco area, including Oakland, Tracy, Fairfield or Hayward? If so, call Micha Star Liberty of Liberty Law at 415-896-1000.

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