Child Passenger Safety: Safety Seats and Boosters


In California, automobile crashes are the leading cause of death for children 4-16  years old. When properly used, child safety seats are effective in saving children's lives in a crash. But a survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that nearly 80% of child restraints are misused.


It is recommended that every parent take 15 minutes for an at-home car seat checkup using the Safe Kids California checklist here >>


It's important to read the vehicle and car seat instruction manuals to help with the checklist. If you are having even the slightest trouble, questions or concerns, help is a call or click away. Certified child passenger safety technicians are able to help or even double check your work.


California law requires children under 8 years of age or under 4' 9" in height to be secured in a rear seat in a child passenger restraint system. All children under 8 years of age must be appropriately restrained in the back seat unless there are no other available seating positions.


There are several exceptions to the back seat rule.

  • A child may ride in the front if:
    • if the vehicle has no rear seats
    • if a child restraint system cannot properly be installed in the rear seat;
    • if all rear seats are already occupied by children under the age of 12 years;
    • if a medical reason requires the child to ride in the front seat.
    • back seats that are rear-facing or side-facing jump seats.
  • Never place a child in a safety seat or booster seat in the front seat of a vehicle equipped with a passenger air bag unless the car is equipped with an airbag-off switch for this purpose.
  • Child safety seats must never be placed in side-facing vehicle seats

Free Child Carseat
Safety Classes >>


Injury Prevention Information

  •  Distracted Driving

  •  Helmet Safety

  •  Fall Prevention

  •  Child Carseat Safety

  •  Booster Seat FAQs

< Santa Barbara Cottage

Hospital Trauma Center



Asientos de seguridad >>

Safe Kids checklist

Carseat Contacts:

Numerous local groups provide carseat safety checks >>


Additional information on child passenger safety can be found at







California Auto Insurance and Child Safety Seats Law
Insurance coverage is required to be provided for the replacement of a child passenger restraint system that was in use by a child during an accident.

It is illegal to sell or offer for sale a child passenger restraint system that was un use by a child during an accident.


Booster Seats


Children age 8 and older may use the vehicle seat belt if it fits properly, with the lap belt low on the hips touching the upper thighs and the shoulder belt crossing the center of the chest. Children who are not tall enough for proper fit must ride in a booster or car seat.


The 5-Step Test

  1. Does the child sit all the way back against the seat?
  2. Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
  3. Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
  4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
  5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?

If you answered no to any of these questions, your child needs a booster seat to ride safely in a vehicle. Kids like boosters because they are more comfortable, too.


Learn more about booster seats here >>