New law requires car seats for kids 8 and younger

California law will go into effect Jan. 1

A new child safety law effective Jan. 1 will require kids in California to use a booster seat in a vehicle until they are 8 years old, according to the state's Department of Public Health.

A previous state law required car seats or booster seats for kids until they were 6 years old or weighed 60 pounds.

"This new law will help protect more children from being injured during a crash," said Patrice Christensen, a registered nurse and coordinator of the San Mateo County Emergency Medical Services injury prevention program.

Kids aged 8 years and older are ready to ride without a booster seat when the child can sit against the back of a vehicle seat with knees bent, without slouching and can comfortably stay in that position.

The lap belt should also be low on the hips and touch the upper thighs with the shoulder belt crossing the shoulder and chest without touching the child's face or neck. Drivers who are caught not complying with the new state law can face fines starting at $475.

For information on the new law or for help determining if a child still needs a booster seat, call Patrice Christensen at 650-573-3728, contact a local California Highway Patrol office or go online at

— Bay City News Service

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Posted by Rick Frenkel
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 29, 2011 at 10:57 am

The headline says car seats are required "for kids 8 and younger." The article currently reads that kids must stay in booster seats "until they are 8 years old." If you believe the headline, an 8-year-old must be in a booster seat (I assume "car seat" in the headline was used in the generic sense, and the law says "booster seat" but even that's not entirely clear). But if you believe the article, once a kid turns 8, they no longer have to be in a booster seat.

I think the article could have benefited from the text of the actual law, which is short. Here it is:

Children *MUST* be secured in an appropriate child passenger restraint (safety seat or booster seat) IN THE BACK SEAT OF A VEHICLE until they are at least 8 YEARS OLD or 4' 9" in height.

That means that the text of the article is accurate, and the headline is inaccurate. I suggest the headline be changed to "New law requires booster seats for kids under 8 years old". Someone correct me if I'm not interpreting this correctly. I have an 8-year-old.

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Posted by Picky
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 29, 2011 at 12:05 pm

The text Rick posted is not the actual text of the law. It does accurately describe the law, however, and Rick's main point (that the article's headline is incorrect) is valid. 7-year-olds (unless quite tall) must be in a booster seat; 8-year-olds need not be.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2011 at 12:30 pm

The really important change is that they must be in the back seat of the car not the front.

The carseat/booster seat makes sense, but even more sense would be if buses - particularly school buses had seatbelts for children.

Not in Palo Alto, but in some communities, children are in school buses more than they are in the family car.

It may also make it difficult for kids to carpool so all parents driving kids to school don't have to keep trading carseats, so that means more traffic on the roads too.

The big problem for us in Palo Alto is the difficulties that this law makes for school field trips. How many schoolkids are going to take a seatbelt to school for the field trip and how many drivers are going to fit them correctly? It may mean that all school field trips need to be in buses because they don't need to wear seatbelts.
Oh wait a minute, field trips are banned now because they are unfair anyway.

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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 29, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Resident - kids have been bringing their booster seats to school for years on field trip days, this just means they need to bring them until they are older. By the time kids are school age, they are using boosters not car seat, boosters are pretty easy to install.

I don't remember any school field trips in the younger grades being very expensive (relatively easy to fund thru PTA $$) so I don't think the new law will cause too many problems for the young kids. It is the Coloma, Science Camp, Washington DC, New York kinds of trips that will be problematic.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 29, 2011 at 1:51 pm

My hint of sarcasm just got lost. sigh.

Like this comment
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 29, 2011 at 8:41 pm

I think that this law would have made more sense if the booster requirement was for a certain SIZE rather than AGE. As a teacher, I have seen quite a few bigger/taller seven year olds who would look funny in a booster seat.

I suspect that there are some economically disadvantaged families who might find the funds for booster seats difficult to come by.

Like this comment
Posted by Nannystate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 29, 2011 at 8:53 pm

I insist in my children wearing bike helmets in the car in addition to the booster seats. I also think 8 years is too young a limit.

Lets keep children tied up and in the backseat until 11, irregardless of their size. When it comes to children's safety we must rigorously mandate as many aspects of their lives as we can.

Most parents just can't be trusted to take care of their kids, so we as a civil society must assume that responsibility.

Like this comment
Posted by Safety first
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 29, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Nannystate's attempt at humor is a failure. People do not know what is safe and what isn't. I don't want an accident to injure a child even though it isn't my child.
Maybe Nannystate would respond more positively if those injuries were discussed in terms of the money those injuries cost us, not only the parents. He probably understands money more readily than safety.

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Posted by Daddio
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 30, 2011 at 3:54 am

Nannystate, when someone T-Bones your car and you were "just driving a few blocks, so your child didn't need the car/booster seat", you would sing a different tune. Too many parents roll the dice when it comes to their kids safety. Many adults can't be bothered to buckle up unless the law forces them. So YES this law is required. I agree with Safety first's comments regarding your rather immature comments.

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Posted by AG
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 30, 2011 at 10:24 am

The important safety requirement is that the child should be in a booster seat until he or she is 4'9". Turning 8 does not necessarily mean that the child is that tall, so it's more important to go by height. As for the claim that some families cannot afford booster seats, one can buy a booster seat for $20 or $25, which is a small price to pay for a child's safety.

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Posted by MidtownMom
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 30, 2011 at 10:55 am

I read the entire bill on the .gov site earlier -

It is upto the "8th" birthday. So, once the child turns 8, the "law" is not applicable - however the recommendation is to keep the child in the booster till they are 4ft 9inches (it could very well be 10yrs for some kids).

Some cars offer adjustable seat-belts - use those and keep the kids in the backseat till they are 18 ;) !

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Posted by Up the age
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2011 at 10:43 pm

This is a good law, but the age should be 10. My 7-year old child is on the taller side and is only 4'2". There are many kids who are shorter. If they recommend booster seats until 4'9", they should not use the age of 8 as the cap because most kids will not be 4'9" when they turn age 8.

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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 31, 2011 at 10:19 am

@ AG:

You are saying that a booster seat costs $20? I looked for one at Wal-Mart a few months ago because my brother, sister and their children were flying in for a visit. The cheapest booster seat was $39.99 (although they had cheaper models online).

Still, I think that your statement misunderstands the struggles of lower and middle class people in this country. There are many struggling families who don't have a computer to look up this information. In fact, unless I had seen this online, I wouldn't have even known about this law.

Remember: It is difficult for some of us to understand, but MANY lower-income Americans don't even have a computer in their house...or newspaper/magazine subscriptions.

Also, many California residents belong to multiple-child families. So, in many cases, one booster seat won't be enough. It is common for a couple to simultaneously have three (or even more) children under the age of eight. Those families will need to purchase multiple booster seats to accommodate their children.

Six of my siblings have multiple children under the age of eight. One sister and one brother actually have FOUR children under eight right now. However, they each belong to middle class families and live in Texas, and the law is very clearly defined.

Now, you are correct that this is a small price to pay for safety. Unfortunately, the "age" part has little to do with the safety of the issue. This is a safety issue that primarily revolves around a person's HEIGHT and WEIGHT.

Most states, like Texas, have height requirements in regard to booster seats. In Texas, a child after the age of 4 must be in a booster seat until they are 4'9" -- regardless of their age -- because that is when it is safe to use a lap/shoulder seat belt.

Two things:

1. The state needs to educate residents about the change in the law.

2. The state needs to educate residents WHY there is a change in this law.

When Texas updated their child passenger laws, they created a very clear and visible set of announcements. The state took out television and radio commercials, internet announcements, billboards and newspaper ads BEFORE the law went into effect. There were signs at the Texas DMV offices, courthouses and car dealerships. Texas teachers were instructed to send home fliers announcing the change in the law. All Texas welfare offices (including housing, food stamps, unemployment, etc...) had visible posters announcing it. Newspapers were asked (and complied) to write articles about it. By the time the Texas law went into effect, most people knew about it.

Why is there a law? While this CA law was meant to protect children, the benefits of those seats are scarcely mentioned.

The facts: Approximately 1200 children in the United States ages 14 and under are killed in traffic accidents. Of those figures, an average of 560 between the ages of 4-7 years old are killed in U.S. traffic accidents each year. Of that number, approximately half (209) of those are killed because the driver of their vehicle was intoxicated. Approximately 28% of the U.S. fatalities between ages 4-7 were completely unrestrained (with no seat belts or booster seats).

Web Link

I suspect that a portion of those deaths might have been prevented if the children were sitting in booster seats.

I do think that California's law would be better if it resembled other states that focused upon height and weight. There are parents of slightly older children age 8-10 year old kids who are still under the height of 4'9" (which auto manufacturers say is the safe height for children to use seat belts) who have no legal motivation to ride in a booster seat.

Do you think that California will take the steps necessary to inform citizens of this change in the law?

Like this comment
Posted by Goodnews
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 3, 2012 at 9:09 am

How about a law requiring seat belts on school buses and buses that take kids on field trips ?

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Posted by Nannystate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 4, 2012 at 9:45 am

As businesses pour out of the state of California, due to stupid and stupider laws by meddling neighbors and would be nannies we are having a field day. This most recent excerpt from Investors Business Daily:

California's in trouble. Businesses are leaving along with intellectual and investment capital and skilled workers. But rather than face up to serious problems, legislators pass silly laws.

One would think that given the serious nature of the state's problems, the legislature would focus on solutions at the exclusion of all else.

Instead, lawmakers — what would we ever do without them? — found the time in 2011 to trespass even deeper into Californians' personal lives.

Topping off Sacramento's monument to foolishness is a law requiring children younger than 8, except for those taller than 4 feet 9 inches, to sit in booster seats in cars. Previous law let kids leave their boosters at 6.

Now children who had moved out of cars seats are being forced back into them.

Actually, the law is more authoritarian — and offensive and infuriating — than it is silly. It assumes that wise lawmakers have a greater interest in children's safety than their parents do. It also expands the state's supervisory role over adults while decreasing their status as free citizens.

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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 4, 2012 at 10:59 am

Nannystate - while CA certainly has too many business-related regulations, public safety is one of the primary roles government should play. Keeping kids safe in cars is a good thing. I know many parents who don't even require their kids to be buckled in seat belts, much less car/booster seats, anything that encourages them to keep their kids safe in a car (even if the kids protest) is a good thing.

I do wish that the law was totally height based and not age-related. Their are many kids who are 4'9" in middle school. And having it be a law gives the parents additional ammunition when telling their kids they need to be buckled in boosters for safety. "Mom says so" does not carry as much weight as "its the law".

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Posted by Nannystate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 5, 2012 at 12:19 am

Palo Alto Mom, evidently you are taller than 4'9'', but unfortunately there are fully grown women that are not, and as you have noted there are quite a lot of older kids in middle school and even high school that would suffer from this stupid law if the state were to follow your advice.
As for me, like most parents everywhere, I do not need the state or the law to keep my kids safe when I drive them somewhere. But don't take it from me, here are the comments from the rest of the nation laughing at our imbecilic lawmakers, and by implication, the stupid voters that support them.

Posted By: Jane E(5) on 1/4/2012 | 11:53 AM ET
Wow- I was under 4"9" when I began high school, then I grew over 6 inches in my sophomore year, following the same pattern as my father when he was a young adolescent. (I was really tired that year- LOL) There is no way in hell that I would have ridden in a booster seat then. I began dating when I was still very short. The fellows picking me up at my home would have had to strap my booster seat into their car to take me out???!!! Or risk a fine? Poor California has gone insane.

Posted By: dorsaighost(180) on 1/4/2012 | 4:18 PM ET
neither my wife nor her 2 siblings reached 4' 9" before the age of 15 or 16 and I'm not sure my mother in-law has reached that lofty number ... this is insane ...

Like this comment
Posted by ResponsibleParent
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 5, 2012 at 10:18 am

some very good points have been raised/discussed regarding up to what age or size kids should be in car seats/boosters and that seat belts are alarmingly absent from school buses.

But regarding the location of the child in the car, I think it is worth noting that the passenger seat next to the driver is the most dangerous seat in most cars, unless you stuff a child in the middle of the back seats with just a lap belt on (when considering the average accident). I think too many parents get tired of their kids telling them they are "too old to sit in the back if it's just you & me, Mom..." and let them sit up front, in the most dangerous seat. Let's keep our child(ren)'s safety as the priority, above both the law's minimum requirements and the whining of our youngsters.
ref: Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Sarah
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 5, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Hey Nannystate, I think you're funny. i know your just kidding.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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