A couple weeks after National Child Passenger Safety Week, California passed an important child seat law that will make children across the state safer by raising the age and size required for a child to ride without a booster seat. The law, which was sponsored by state senator Noreen Evans and passed into law by Governor Brown on October 4th, will require all children under eight years old or shorter than 4’9’’ (whichever comes first) to use a safety chair.

The intent of the law is to ensure that safety belts will fit across children’s chests, rather than higher and closer to the neck. Federal groups like the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, National Transportation Safety Board and the American Academy of Pediatrics have been advocating for such regulations for years.

In fact, thirty states already have similar requirements.

California was once the leader in child seat safety laws. Back in 2000, the state passed the strictest child passenger safety laws in the country. But under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, education on proper safety seat use became the focus rather than passing more and tougher laws.

Perhaps governor Schwarzenegger was overcome by the ever-powerful first grader lobby. Children look forward to getting into adult seats, and likely would oppose any regulation that keeps them strapped into a special seat any longer than absolutely necessary.

Hopefully, with this law in hand, parents can avoid an argument or fuss.

While this adjustment will probably be fairly seamless for families with kids currently under six years old, it seems unlikely that the new regulations will cause all parents of seven year olds to go out and buy car seats for the year. Of course, the cost of picking up a new car seat is well worth dramatically improving a child’s safety.

This law will certainly do some good, but regulation alone is not enough. Even though previous California administrations failed to keep up with the best child safety seat laws, the message that it’s nearly as important for parents to keep up with best practices for using the seats remains spot on.

A study by Safe Kids USA showed that although almost all parents used child safety seats, only 28 percent of parents were properly using them. So although the news here is that kids need to stay in safety seats until their a bit older, it’s a good opportunity to remind everyone that there are free resources out there to help you make sure you are fastening your child into his or her seat properly.

Just click over to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration for a list of locations near you. Here is a map the California locations where you can get a brief tutorial on child seat safety best practices.

Photo Credit: Culpepper County Sherriff’s Office


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Andy Gillin

Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Andy is a highly recognized wrongful death lawyer in California.