California parents must keep their kids in car booster seats a bit longer, thanks to a new law that went into effect Jan. 1. Children in California are now required to ride in car safety seats until they are 8 years old or until they reach a height of 4 feet, 9 inches. Parents who don't comply could be slapped with a fine of $475.
Previous California law required kids to remain in booster seats until they were 6, or until they reached a weight of 60 pounds. The extra two years are necessary, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), because children up to 8 still may be big enough to fit properly into restraint systems designed for adults. By staying in child safety seats a little longer, their chance of surviving a crash increases by 45 percent, according to an OTS news release.
“This is an important new law that will impact more than 1.1 million children in California,” Christopher J. Murphy, director of the California Office of Traffic Safety, said in a statement.
The law applies to parents and any adults driving with children. For each child not restrained, drivers could get hit with the $475 fine as well as a violation point on their driving record.
Seat belts designed for adults are often not enough to keep a child safe during an accident, according to OTS. Such seat belts often cross a small child's body at the stomach, rather than at the hip bones -- and that means more serious injuries in the event of a crash.
The law has a lot of support from public health and child advocacy groups. Yet some opponents argue that booster seat requirements impose extra costs on low-income families, according to the National Council of State Legislatures.
According to OTS, however, the financial impact on families will be minimal. Booster seats for children between ages 6 and 8 generally cost between $15 and $20. Moreover, since 6-year-olds already were required to ride in child booster seats, parents can simply continue to use the seats they already have.
Parents who have questions about the new requirements and about car seats in general can visit their local California Department of Public Health office, according to OTS. There, a child passenger safety coordinator will be able to refer them to fitting stations, car seat installation demonstrations and resources for low-income families.