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Car Seat Safety


*updated 9/1/17*

Over the last decade, new cars have gotten smarter and safer.  In addition to technology making cars smarter and air bags making them safer, millions of dollars have been spent on campaigns to remind the public of the dangers of drunk driving, texting while driving, and not using proper safety restraints.

In spite of innovation, technology and education, more Americans are dying on roads and highways than in years past.  In fact, last year 40,200 people died in car accidents, a 6 percent rise from the previous year.  The 2016 total comes after a 7 percent rise in 2015 making the 2 year increase 13 percent, which is the largest increase in more than a half a century.  To break it down further, on any given day, nearly 700 children are harmed in accidents on our roadways.  Of the 250,000 kids injured each year, approximately 5,000 die from their injuries.  Children make up about 5% of the total fatalities from car accidents making it the leading cause of death in children between the ages of 2 and 21, as well as the leading cause of acquired disability (ie. brain injury, paralysis, etc.).

Approximately 20% of the children who die in car accidents each year are killed in accidents involving a driver who is legally intoxicated.  Nearly half of these children were killed while riding as passengers in an automobile driven by an intoxicated driver.

Failure to wear a seat belt, use a safety restraint system, or use one properly, is a major contributing factor in more than half of the children who die or are injured in car accidents.  Not only is an unrestrained child a potential distraction, but also the failure to wear a seat belt or be restrained properly, dramatically increases the chance that a child will suffer a serious injury and/or death.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), at least 72% of 3,500 observed child safety restraints are used incorrectly fueling the risk that a child will suffer an injury or a more severe injury.  Furthermore, the NHTSA estimates that a properly installed and used child safety restraint lowers an infant’s risk of death by 71%, and a toddler’s (age 1-4) by 54%.  Moreover, research has found that children are safer riding rear facing, and under age 2, are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are riding rear facing in a properly installed child safety restraint system.

The past few years have brought change and new recommendations to the AAP’s policy on the way parents buckle up their children.  As of January 2017, some of these recommendations are now the law in California.

Types of Car Safety Seats at a Glance (

Age Type of Seat  General Guideline
Infants Infant seats
& rear-facing
convertible seats
The AAP recommends that all infants ride rear-facing starting with their first ride home from the hospital. All infants and toddlers should ride in a rearfacing seat until they are at least 2 years of age or, preferably, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat manufacturer. Jul 18, 2017
Toddlers/Preschoolers Convertible seats Children who have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their convertible seat should use a forward facing seat, with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight and height allowed by their car safety seat manufacturer.
School-aged children Booster seats Booster seats are for older children who have outgrown their forward-facing car safety seats. Children should stay in a booster seat until an adult belt fit correctly (usually when a child reaches about 4′ 9″ in height and is between 8 and 12 years of age). All children younger than 13 should ride in the back seat.
Older children Seat belts Children who have outgrown their booster seats should ride in a lap and shoulder belt in the back seat until 13 years of age.


What is the LAW regarding Car Seats?

  • Per California Law Effective 01/01/2017 – (the law is different than our AAP recommendations):
  • Children under 2 years of age shall ride in a rear-facing car seat unless the child weighs 40 or more pounds OR is 40 or more inches tall. The child shall be secured in a manner that complies with the height and weight limits specified by the manufacturer of the car seat. (California Vehicle Code Section 27360.)
  • 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. (California Vehicle Code Section 27363.)
  • Passengers who are 16 years of age and over are subject to California’s Mandatory Seat Belt law.

Older Children – Seat Belts:

Seat belts are made for adults. Your child should stay in a booster seat until adult seat belts fit correctly (usually when the child reaches about 4′ 9″ in height and is between 8 and 12 years of age). This means:

The shoulder belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not the neck or throat.

The lap belt is low and snug across the upper thighs, not the belly.

Your child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with her knees bent without slouching and can stay in this position comfortably throughout the trip.

Make sure your child does not tuck the shoulder belt under her arm or behind her back. This leaves the upper body unprotected, putting your child at risk of severe injury in a crash or sudden braking.

Never allow anyone to “share” seat belts.  All passengers must have their own car safety seats or seat belts.

 If you need Installation Help:

If you have questions or need help installing your car safety seat, find a certified CPS Technician.  Lists of certified CPS Technicians and Child Seat Fitting Stations are available on the NHTSA Web site at

You can also get this information by calling 866-SEATCHECK (866-732-8243) or the NHTSA Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236.

Important Reminders:

  1. Be a good role model by making sure you always wear your seat belt.  This will help your child form a lifelong habit of buckling up.
  2. Never leave your child alone in or around cars.  Any of the following can happen when a child is left alone in or around a vehicle:
  • Temperatures can reach deadly levels in minutes and the child can die of heat stroke.
  • Power windows, sunroofs or accessories can strangle him.
  • He can knock the vehicle into gear, setting it in motion.
  • He can be backed over when the vehicle backs up.
  • He can become trapped in the trunk of the vehicle.

Links to helpful information on Car Seat Safety:

CDC Website:

California Highway Patrol


Healthy Children Car Seat info

Schedule a car seat inspection: