Children in Car Seats


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has stricter guidelines for children in car seats than most states.  California is one of the most stringent in terms of state laws for children.  According to California law, a child must be in a booster seat until they reach age 8, or a certain height.  Violations of this standard will result in the driver being fined.  Other states that require car seats to age 8 are Maryland, Texas, Maine, New Jersey and Washington.

The reason for these car seat laws is that the standard adult seat belt does not fit a small child correctly.  To avoid more serious injuries, the lap belt should not sit at the abdomen, but rest at the upper thighs/pelvic area.  The shoulder harness should sit across the chest from the shoulder, not from the neck.  A booster seat ensures that the seatbelt hits the proper bodily areas.

The NHTSA recommends that children 8-12 use booster seats, indicating age 13 as a safe transition to adult seat belts.  However, larger children may reach the size that the adult belt will hit the proper points, which is really the most important criteria – size vs. age.  Age 13 is not a magic number.

To ensure that your child is secured property in a car seat or adult seat belt check the following:

  • Make sure they stay seated during the entire car ride.
  • Sit straight and back in the seat with knees bend at the edge of the seat.
  • The seat belt should sit low on hips, not across the abdomen.
  • The shoulder strap should cross at the center of the chest and not rub against the child’s neck or face.

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