New California Car Seat Law Targets Older Children

Woman wearing seatbelt

With the new year came new laws, including a new California car seat law that requires children to use a booster seat until they are age 8 or 4 feet, 9 inches tall. The previous California law only required children to remain in car seats until they were 6 years old or weighed 60 pounds. The new law eliminates any weight requirements. Although children over the age of 8, but under the height requirement, are not required to use a booster seat, California’s Office of Traffic Safety has stated that it considers the use of a booster seat in the cases to be “best practice.

Because seat belts are designed to fit adults, a booster seat “boosts a child up to allow the adult-sized seat belt to fit properly. In order for a seat belt to fit correctly, the lap belt should be low on the hips, touching the upper thighs, with the shoulder belt crossing the chest without touching the face or neck, according to the Office of Traffic Safety. If the belt is ill-fitting (for instance, it crosses the stomach instead of the hip bones), a child can be severely injured by the seat belt itself in an auto accident. It can also be dangerous for children to put the shoulder belt behind their back or arm as it can increase the risk of head and spinal cord injuries.

Parents or drivers can be fined a minimum of $475 and receive one violation point on their driving record for each child under 16 who is not using a booster seat as required by the new law.

The use of booster seats has been shown to increase a child’s chance of surviving a crash by 45 percent, according to Christopher J. Murphy, director of California’s Office of Traffic Safety.

Illinois Seat Belt Laws

Illinois law also requires that all children younger than 8 years of age be properly restrained in a child safety seat. Additionally, as we recently reported, a new Illinois law that went into effect January 1, 2012 requires that everyone in a vehicle buckle up (with a few exceptions), including backseat riders. Previous Illinois law only exempted backseat riders over 18 from the requirement to use a seatbelt.

The new Illinois law exempts passengers in ambulances, taxis, school buses, delivery trucks that make frequent stops and do not exceed 15 mph, and anyone with a physical impairment that makes it difficult to wear a seat belt (such as a broken collarbone or shoulder injury). The law allows police offers to stop a vehicle if they see an unbuckled passenger. Offenders face fines starting at $25, which could amount to more, depending on court costs.

Howard Ankin of Ankin Law ( handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 346-8780 and


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