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California Car Seat Laws You Need To Know (2021)

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When you’re planning a family trip to California, it’s important that you make sure to follow local (or exceed) the child passenger safety laws.

Official California Car Seat Laws

You can find the official California car seat law in California Vehicle Code Section 27360

Flag of California painted on grungy wooden background

California Rear-Facing Car Seat Law

California rear facing car seat law requires children to remain rear facing (either in an infant car seat or a convertible car seat) until at least 2 years old unless they exceed 40lbs or 40″.

Rear-facing is significantly safer for children as it dramatically decreases the risk of head and neck injuries. This resource is full of great information.

The current guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics is that children should remain rear-facing to the limits of their convertible car seat. Nearly all convertible car seats today will accommodate kids up to 40 pounds (they have variable height limits so read your manual) – the size of an average 4 year old – rear facing.

Though it’s not specified by the law, research indicates that kids should continue riding in a harnessed car seat (whether rear-facing or forward-facing) until at least age 5, 40 pounds and mature enough to sit properly for the whole drive.

CA car seat law recommends that children ride in a harness car seat until they reach the maximum height or weight specified by the manufacturer, though there is no age requirement.


California Booster Seat Law

California’s law for booster seats requires children to ride in a booster seat (or harnessed car seat) until they reach 8 years old OR 4’9″. Be sure to follow manufacturer minimum and maximum size requirements for your booster seat – most manufacturers now require a minimum of 4 years old, 40″ tall and 40 pounds.

Most children do not fit properly in an adults seatbelt until 10-12 years old, when they pass the 5-step test. California Highway Patrol rightly encourages parents not to rush out of the booster seat, as adult seatbelts are designed to fit a 165lb man.


When Can Kids Ride In the Front Seat In California?

The California front seat age minimum is just 8 years old – when kids are legally eligible to ride without a booster seat (even though we know their bodies aren’t safe that way). However, many car manufacturers specify that kids should not ride in the front until age 13. Here’s an excellent explanation of why.


Upcoming Changes To California Car Seat Law

California instituted its 2 year old minimum to forward face back in 2017 and hasn’t made any changes since then, nor are there any pending proposals.

Get the latest from California Highway Patrol


If you’ll be flying to California, be sure to bring one of these travel car seats. If you’re planning a family road trip, consider one of these comfortable convertible car seats or comfortable booster seats. Check more car seat laws by state as you plan your route.

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