As of January 1, 2012, California’s child safety seat laws changed to require that all children under the age of 8 be secured in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat. Additionally, children under the age of 8 who are 4 fee 9 inches or taller must sit in the back seat, though they may be secured by a safety belt.
The new law was enacted because the risk of injury to a child is reduced by 33% in the back seat as compared to the front seat. There are a few exemptions to the new law, so a child may ride in the front seat if:
- The vehicle has no rear seats.
- The 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.
- Children under age 12 occupy all rear seats.
- A valid medical reason as written by the child’s pediatrician.
The CHP web site has an FAQ with some sample scenarios, such as when all belts in the back seat are lap belts.
You can sign up for car seat recall notifications from the NHTSA here.