California Car Seat Law

  • Effective January 1st, 2012 children under the age of eight (8) or under four (4) feet, nine (9) inches tall must be properly secured in the rear seat of a vehicle with child passenger restraint system.
  • Children under the age of one (1) weighing less than twenty (20) pounds may not ride in the front seat of a vehicle with an active passenger side airbag in a rear facing infant seat.

California Car Seat Law Exceptions

  • There are legal exceptions to the California Car Seat law.
  • In some cases a court sanctioned exemption or a medical condition will exempt the driver from being cited for a violation of this law.
  • In addition, “physical unfitness”, size or transporting a child during a life threating emergency may also qualify for an exemption of the California car seat law.
  • If a child is over forty (40) pounds, the child may sit in the rear seat of a vehicle with lap belts when the backseat of the vehicle is not equipped with a combination lap and shoulder safety belt.

Additional Exceptions

A child under the age of six (6) or a child weighing less than sixty (60) pounds may sit in the front seat of the vehicle under the certain conditions. If any of the following conditions apply the child may be allowed in the front seat if they are restrained in a “Child Passenger Restraint System” (CPRS) that meets federal safety standards.


  • A Medical Condition that restricts the child from occupying a rear seat (May require proof of condition)
  • The rear seats are occupied by other children under the age of 12.
  • The CPRS system can’t be installed in the rear seat.
  • The seats in the rear face backwards (Rear Facing Seats)
  • The back seats face each other ( side facing jump seats)

Child Safety and Active Passenger Airbags

If the vehicle has an active passenger airbag a child may not ride in the front seat under the following conditions:

  • If the child is riding in a rear facing CPRS
  • If the child weighs under twenty (20) pounds
  • If the child is under the age of one (1)

Height, Weight and Age References for the California Car Seat Law

Rear Facing Car SeatRear Facing Car Seat

  • For a newborn or infant up to 20-35 pounds
  • Until at least one (1) year of age and twenty (20) pounds in the back seat.
  • Car Seat may never be facing forward

Front Facing Car SeatForward Facing Car Seat

  • A child must be over one (1) year of age and weight at least twenty (20) pounds
  • Facing forward only.

Booster SeatBooster Seat Requirements

  • The child must weight over forty (40) pounds
  • Booster Seats must be used with both lap and shoulder belts
  • The lap belt should fit low and tight across hips
  • The shoulder belt should cross the collar bone and center of chest

Seat BeltsSeat Belt Requirements

Children under the age of 8 who are 4′ 9″ or taller may be secured by a safety belt in the back seat.

Must be seated in the back seat unless exemptions apply.

Article Source: California Highway Patrol 2012 New Car Seat Law

Article Source: California Highway Patrol Document

California Car Seat Law Changes in 2012