child safety lawsVehicle accidents are a leading cause of death for children under 13. If you are a parent, grandparent, or caregiver, not following child passenger safety laws puts your child passengers at risk of injury or death in an accident- and you could even face criminal charges. One of the biggest risks to children in a vehicle are airbags. Although airbags can be life-saving to adults, an inflating airbag can cause serious injury or death to a child or an infant.

As children grow, they transition from a rear-facing seat to forward facing seat to booster seat. Even when children no longer sit in car seats, they should sit in the back seat for some time. It can be confusing sorting out laws and recommendations for when these milestones occur, especially when state requirements vary widely. Because children of the same age can grow at different rates, it is important to not just consider a child’s age, but also their height and weight. This blog will explain basic child safety laws in California and some important considerations. 

  • Children Under the Age of 2

Under CA law, children under 2 must ride in a rear-facing seat until they weigh at least 40 pounds or are at least 40 inches tall. Parents should keep children in car seats that are appropriate / comply with the limitations specified by the car seat manufacturer. A child in a rear-facing car seat should NEVER ride in the front seat of a vehicle with an airbag. In other words, a rear-facing car seat should always be in the back seat. 

  • Children Under the Age of 8 or Under 4’9″

Children under age 8 must ride in the back seat in either a car seat or a booster seat. When a child reaches either age 8 or they are 4’9” in height, they can ride without a booster seat (just a safety belt). 

A violation of California’s car seat laws is typically an infraction. If a violation exposes a child to some unjustifiable danger, then a driver could be charged with child endangerment, per Penal Code 273a PC.

Is It Safe For A 10-Year-Old To Ride In The Front Seat?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises that children ages 13 and under ride in the back seat. This recommendation is backed up by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 

When can a child stop using a 5 point harness?

The move from a car seat to a booster seat is also the transition out of a 5 point harness. Generally, children should not move to a booster seat until they’ve outgrown the weight limit or height limit of their forward-facing car seat. This is usually around 65 pounds. 

When can a child use a regular seat belt?

The youngest age to transition from a booster seat to a regular seat belt is 8 years old. When children can comfortably rest their back against the back seat of a car while bending their knees over the edge of the seat, they can generally start wearing a regular seat belt. 

Should you turn off the airbag when a child is in the front?

Because airbags have many proven safety benefits, they are by default kept on in vehicles. However, there may be a few instances where it is safer to turn off passenger airbags for the safety of those sitting up front. The NHTSA recommends airbags should only be turned off when 

  • A vehicle has no back seat 
  • A vehicle’s seat is too small to accommodate a rear-facing infant seat 
  • A passenger has a medical condition in which the risks of deploying the airbag are greater the risk of impact in the absence of an airbag. 

The procedure for turning off a vehicle varies depending on vehicle make and model. Vehicle owners wanting to have an on-off switch installed should fill out the Request for Air Bag On-Off Switch form. The NHTSA will provide a letter of authorization to take to a repair shop 

What is the Mandatory Seat Belt Law For Adults? 

According to the California Highway Patrol, wearing a seatbelt is the single most effective thing you can do as a driver to protect yourself and your passengers. It is not just recommended – it is required. California has a Mandatory Seatbelt Law – Vehicle Code 27315 VC, which requires all drivers and passengers to wear seatbelts, as well as vehicle owners to maintain safety belts in good working order.

Pet owners should also keep in mind that airbags can be harmful to pets. Dogs should never ride on a driver’s lap, where they could be crushed by a steering wheel or airbag. Although it is legal for pets to be unrestrained in a driver’s vehicle, pet owners should consider their pet’s safety and also ensure that an unrestrained pet could not be a distraction. 

Contact an Orange County Car Accident Lawyer 

Children can suffer serious injuries in car accidents – just like adults. If your child was injured in a vehicle accident due to another person’s negligence, you may have the right to pursue financial compensation in a personal injury claim. The car accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates will fight for fair compensation and the best possible outcome. Contact us today to discuss your potential case. 

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