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UC Davis Medical Center

UC Davis Medical Center

Be sure you know California's new booster-seat requirements for kids

Checkup on Health

child in booster seat
Booster seats are designed to place the child in the proper seating position. Without the use of a booster seat, the lap belt is improperly positioned and can injure a child during a crash.

The holidays are over, and while most people might be focused on making good on their New Year’s pledges to lose weight, be more organized or drink less caffeine, many families will need to add “following a new law” to their list of 2012 resolutions.

The California Booster Seat law, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2012, requires all children to ride in the back of the vehicle and to be properly fastened in either a child safety or booster seat until they are 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall.

“The booster seat law was passed because seatbelts are designed to fit adults, not children,” says Catherine Morris, child passenger safety coordinator for UC Davis Health System’s Trauma Prevention Program

Booster seats are designed to place the child in the proper seating position so that the seat belt fits snugly across the chest with the belt resting on the child’s shoulder, and the lap belt low and tight across the hips. 

Without the use of a booster seat, the lap belt is improperly positioned and during the impact of a crash it can cause damage to a child’s spinal cord, as well as their internal organs.

Some helpful tips for parents when shopping for or using a booster seat:

  • Consider your options when purchasing a booster seat for your child. There are two types of seats, a backless booster and a high-back booster.

  • If the rear seats of the vehicle do not have head rests, it is required that the high-backed booster seat be purchased; in case of an accident, the child’s head, neck and spine will be supported.

  • Test the fit of the seat. Many manufacturers produce seats that adjust with the growth of your child.

  • Be sure to read all manufacturer instructions on how to properly install the safety seat in your vehicle.

  • If you are unsure of how to install a booster or car seat in your vehicle, you can find your nearest car-seat fitting station by visiting:  www.nhtsa.gov/cps/cpsfitting/index.cfm. Or to schedule an appointment at our UC Davis Medical Center fitting station, please visit: www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/injuryprevention.

  • Always check that your child is properly buckled in before you begin any journey.

For more information on car-seat safety and injury prevention please visit the Trauma Prevention Program website at /www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/injuryprevention.