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Thousands of children are injured or killed every year by safety seats that are improperly fastened by parents or caretakers. In an effort to cut down on the number of injuries and deaths that occur every year, California Law now requires children to ride in the back seat in a properly secured child passenger safety restraint until they are at least 8 years old or until they are at least 4 feet 9 inches in height. If you’re a California Auto Insurance holder, make sure you understand the full implications of the new law went that into effect on January 1, 2012.

What was the law prior to January 1?

The new rules shift the focus from a child’s weight to a child’s height. The old California Booster Seat Law had required a child under 6 years of age, who weighed less than 60 pounds, to be secured in a rear seat in a child restraint that met federal standards, but allowed the child to ride in the front seat if properly secured, including riding in taxis if all rear seats are already occupied by children under 12 years of age. The new California law for 2012 extends the old law by requiring children to ride in booster seats in the back seat until their 8th birthday or they meet the minimum height requirement of 4’9” tall.

Why the change?

Children are at greater risk when riding in the front seat. A child’s injury risk is reduced by 33% when moved from the front seat to the back seat. A booster seat raises the child up, so the seat belt allows the lap belt to lay across the upper thighs (rather than the child’s stomach), and allows the shoulder harness to lay across the shoulder and chest (rather than across the neck or face). Seat belts are made for average adults and don’t fit a child who is not at least 4’9″ tall. 6-7 year old kids are at risk because they might be too big for child car seats and yet too small to be protected by seat belts. Statistics show that using a booster seat, as opposed to a seat belt, reduces a kid’s risk of injury by 59 percent.

Are there exemptions?

Your child may ride in the front seat of your vehicle if:
• Your vehicle has no rear seats. 
• Rear seats are side-facing jump seats. Child safety restraints must never be placed on side-facing vehicle seats. 
• The child restraint system cannot be properly installed in the rear seat. For example, your vehicle has lap belts only in the back seat, but there are lap and shoulder belts in the front seat. Your child is 5 and weighs 45 pounds and must ride in a booster seat. The booster seat must be used with a lap and shoulder belt; therefore your child may ride in the front seat. 
• Children under age 12 occupy all rear seats. 
• Medical reason (written by the pediatrician) requires that child not be restrained in the back seat. All children are safer in the back seat, ask another adult to ride with the child in the back.

The new child safety seat law for 2012 imposes stiff fines and penalties for violations, 
including a $475 ticket and the possibility of child endangerment charges.

Remember, most collisions occur within a mile of the home – so buckle your child in a safety seat for every trip, no matter how short. Properly buckling your children in before every trip in your car is critical.

Visit the California Highway Patrol’s website for more information on the new law.

Posted 2:16 PM  View Comments

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