Personal Injury Lawyer & Car Accident Gold Firm

Child Car Seat Laws in San Bernardino, California

Many children see the ability to ride in the front seat or transition out of their car seat or booster seat as a milestone, and are eager to achieve it. However, prematurely moving out of child safety seat arrangements can be significantly dangerous. There is also a concerning lack of awareness among individuals, including parents, regarding the importance of using a seatbelt, especially for their children. Lack of information, and not realizing the life-saving purpose of seatbelts, can have severe and sometimes fatal consequences for children.

In San Bernardino, as well as across California, strict laws govern child car seats and seatbelt usage to reduce the risk of injury. Recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals alarming statistics, that further back up the reasons for creating child car seat laws, not just in California, but throughout the nation. Among the 42,939 traffic fatalities reported in the United States in 2021, 1,184 were children under the age of 14. Of the 26,325 fatal motor vehicle accidents, unfortunately 863 of them were children, with 308 of these fatalities occurring due to improper car seats or not wearing a seatbelt. Proper child restraint usage significantly increases the odds of survival, and is proven through statistics of child involved motor vehicle accidents. Of the 4,691 child passenger vehicle occupants who survived fatal crashes, 4,365 were properly restrained. Following child car seat and seatbelt laws and guidelines is paramount to safeguarding the lives of our children and ensuring their safe return home every day.

At the Gold Firm, we recognize the profound emotional toll that child car accidents can have on families, especially when they result in injuries or, in catastrophic cases, fatalities. We also know the importance of understanding the legal guidelines surrounding child car seat laws in San Bernardino is important for parents and caregivers to keep children safe at all times when riding in a vehicle. That is why we wish to provide information regarding child car seat laws, including those that involve knowing when kids can sit in the front seat of a vehicle. Our team is dedicated to providing information and guidance regarding child car seat laws and seatbelt laws, allowing families to make informed decisions that follow the law and prioritize the well-being of their children. We are here to offer support and assistance every step of the way, helping families navigate the complexities of child car seat laws, as well as child car accident injuries with compassion and legal guidance.

What Are The Car Seat Laws In California?

There are several car seat laws that are enacted by California legislation that parents and caregivers must follow when transporting children in their vehicles. Ensuring that all children are properly secured in their car seats before every motor vehicle trip is important for their safety. The California Highway Patrol offers considerable information and videos on these laws, serving as a valuable resource for parents who have further questions on proper car seat usage. Remember, buckling up and using car seats is the single most effective way to safeguard yourself and your children in the event of a car accident in San Bernardino.

Car Seats

For children under the age of 2, California law mandates that they must ride in a rear-facing car seat, unless the child exceeds either 40 pounds or 40 inches in height. The car seat must also be installed in the back seat of the vehicle. In cases when children meet these requirements, the child should still be secured in accordance with the car seat manufacturer’s specified height and weight limits for the car seat, which can be found on the side of the car seat. This is the law and is outlined in California Vehicle Code Section 27360, and prioritizes the safety of infants and toddlers by ensuring they are appropriately restrained in vehicles.

Booster Seats

Once a child reaches 8 years old OR has a height of 4’9” or taller, they may transition to using a booster seat, but they must still be secured by a safety belt at a minimum. As cited in California Vehicle Code Section 27363, children under the age of 8 must be secured in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat of the vehicle if they can no longer fit into a five point car seat harness. According to V.C. Section 27360.5, children that are age 8 or older but under the age of 16 must be properly secured either in a booster seat or a safety belt that fits properly. It’s essential to note that improper placement of the shoulder portion of the seat belt, such as putting it under the arm or behind the back, is not only dangerous but also subject to citation for the parent or driver.


For children 8 years or older, or those who are 4’9″ or taller, California law permits them to use only a vehicle seat belt if it fits properly. A properly fitting seatbelt means that the lap belt should rest low on the hips, touching the upper thighs, and the shoulder portion of the seatbelt crosses the center of the chest. However, if children are not tall enough for the belt to fit correctly, they must be secured either in a booster seat or car seat. However, for children under the age of 8, regardless of their height, they must be securely buckled into a car seat or booster seat in the back seat of the vehicle. These car seat and seatbelt laws are designed to maximize the safety of children in vehicles and mitigate injuries when car accidents occur.

Front Seat Requirements In San Bernardino

A common question asked by both children and parents is, “When can kids sit in the front seat?” According to California law, once a child reaches 8 years old, they are legally allowed to move up to the front passenger seat. However, it’s important to consider that even though they can sit in the front seat, it puts them at risk of more severe injuries when a car accident occurs. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that children under 13 years of age should continue to ride in the back seat of a vehicle whenever possible. This precaution is due to the inherent dangers and increased risk of injuries associated with riding in the front seat. Car accidents in San Bernardino pose a greater risk to front-seat passengers, who typically bear the brunt of the impact, especially in frontal or head on collisions. Front-seat airbags, designed for adult proportions, can also be extremely dangerous for young children. Before allowing a child to ride in the front seat, it’s essential to make sure they are physically and developmentally ready to sit in the front seat of a car, prioritizing their safety above all else.

Penalties For Breaking Car Seat Laws In San Bernardino

The legal penalties for not following San Bernardino car seat or seat belt laws for children under 16 extend beyond a mere fine. Parents or drivers found with children under 16 improperly secured in the vehicle can face fines exceeding $500 for each child. Additionally, violation of Vehicle Code 27360 results in another point on the DMV driving record. Accumulation of points on a driver’s license within a specific timeframe can lead to a negligent operator license suspension. Which means the license will be suspended, and the driver will no longer be able to legally operate a vehicle. The thresholds for suspending a license include:
  • 4 points in 12 months
  • 6 points in 24 months
  • 8 points in 36 months
Ignoring tickets for violating California Vehicle Code 27360 may result in charges under California Vehicle Code 40508 for failure to appear, which can be charged as a misdemeanor offense. Therefore, it’s crucial to follow child car seat and seatbelt laws to avoid legal consequences and ensure the safety of children while traveling.

How Do I Know If My Car Seat Is Installed Correctly?

For those seeking guidance and information on how to properly install their car seat or booster seat, the Safe Kids Worldwide organization offers valuable information and resources on how to do so. However, if you are still doubting whether or not your car seat is installed properly, San Bernardino County provides assistance through child seat checks and educational courses on how to install car seats. To check if the installation of  a child’s car seat, parents and caregivers can schedule a car seat check-up appointment by calling 1(800) 782-4264 to speak with a Child Passenger Safety Technician. They will help provide additional educational resources, or they can schedule an appointment to perform a safety check. San Bernardino County also offers free educational car seat safety classes monthly in both English and Spanish for parents and caregivers. Led by certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians, taking these classes will cover all the essential topics such as:
  • California buckle-up laws
  • Basic crash dynamics
  • The effectiveness of car seats and seat belts in crashes
  • Proper seat belt use and car seat installation techniques
To enroll in one of these informative sessions, parents and caregivers can also call 1(800) 782-4264. These resources are available to offer parents and caregivers the knowledge and skills necessary to make sure their children are safe while riding in vehicles, and mitigate risks in the event an accident does occur.