It’s a hot summer afternoon in Sacramento, California. Your one-year-old child is positioned in his car seat facing the rear window and seatback. The temperature outside is over 105 degrees Fahrenheit, but it feels like 150 degrees in your car. You are driving southbound on 99, and your baby is strapped in the car seat’s Velcro and buckle restraint system. He is screaming at the top of his lungs and you are becoming increasingly annoyed and frantic. You want to do something to end the turmoil. But whatever you do, don’t turn that baby!
A new California law prohibits turning your baby forward in his or her car seat unless certain requirements are met. Since January 1st of 2017, California law requires children under the age of two to remain seated and strapped in their car seat facing the motor vehicle’s rear seatback. Of course, the car seat must be installed in the rear seat. There are some exceptions, however, if the child is over 40 inches tall or weighs over 40 pounds, then the child then may be turned around facing the front seat; the car seat must still be installed in the rear seat. Of course, most parents can’t wait to turn their child forward, but now they will have to wait until their child meets these new requirements.
Some parents are quick to turn their baby around once their baby’s legs extend well beyond the confines of the car seat. After all, the baby appears uncomfortable with his or her legs crunched up against the rear seatback. Even if the baby’s legs seem cramped in that frog-faced position, studies have shown that a child is just as comfortable as before. It is much more difficult to return the baby to a rear facing position after introducing him or her to a front facing position.
Most importantly, according to an American Pediatrics Study, children younger than two years old are 75% less likely to die in a car accident if the car seat faces the rear of the car. Since your child’s body is nowhere near fully developed, a severe neck injury can be mitigated by keeping your child and the car seat facing the rear seatback.
If law enforcement finds that you are violating the law, then you can be fined more than $500 and receive a point on your motor vehicle driving record. The California Highway Patrol can help you with car seat rules and tips to make it easier for you and your baby should you wish to learn more about these new car seat requirements.
We at Curtis Legal Group wish you all a cool and safe summer, and remind you not to turn the baby’s car seat too soon!