California Child Passenger Buckle-Up Laws and Seat Belt Safety Information


Booster seats save lives! Car crashes are a leading preventable cause of death and permanent injuries in children. SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A. is a non-profit organization dedicated to child passenger safety. Its mission is to help reduce the number of serious and fatal traffic injuries suffered by children by promoting the correct, consistent use of safety seats and safety belts. The following information is provided courtesy of this organization. Visit for more information.

California Buckle-Up Laws for Parents

Children under age 8 must be properly buckled into a safety seat or booster in the back seat (V.C. 27360). Exceptions:

  • A child who weighs over 40 pounds and is riding in a car without lap and shoulder belts in the back seat may wear just a lap belt.
  • A child under age 8 who is at least 4' 9" may wear a safety belt if it fits properly.
  • Children under age 8 may ride in front if there is no forward-facing rear seat in vehicle, the child restraint cannot be properly installed in rear seat, all rear seats are occupied by other children age 7 or under, or for medical reasons.
  • A child in a rear-facing safety seat may not ride in front if there is an active passenger air bag.

NEW LAW EFFECTIVE 1/1/17: Children under 2 years old must be rear-facing unless they are 40 lbs or greater or are 40 inches in height.

Having problems with your child safety seat? Don't worry, you're not alone! Visit for a list of local safety seat inspection stations. Or try Safe Kids Ventura County, where you can schedule a car seat inspection in collaboration with the Ventura County Fire Department in Camarillo (Wednesdays 805.389.9748), Moorpark (Mondays 805.552.1917) and Thousand Oaks (Mondays 805.496.9035) by appointment.

Children age 8 or older may use the vehicle safety belt if it fits properly, with the lap belt low on the hips, touching the upper thighs and the shoulder belt crossing the center of the chest. If children are not tall enough for proper belt fit, they must ride in a booster or safety seat. (V.C. 27360.5)

Seat belt safety graphic courtesy of SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A.

Seat belt safety graphic courtesy of SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A.

According to SafetyBeltSafe, most kids need to ride in a booster seat until age 10 to 12. Using a booster instead of just a belt prevents 45% of crash injuries. If your child isn't using a booster, try the following simple 5-step test:

  1. Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
  2. Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
  3. Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
  4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
  5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?

Answering "no" to any of these questions indicates your child needs a booster seat.

Consequences for not properly buckling up children under age 16:

  • Parent gets ticket if child under 16 is not properly buckled up.
  • Driver gets ticket if parent is not in the car.
  • Cost of ticket could be more than $500 per child (including penalties) and $1,000 per child for a second offense. And a point is added to your driving record.

Related information:

  • Older babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing convertible seat until they are at least two years old.  Check seat instructions for maximum weight (30-45 lbs).
  • Children should ride in a safety seat with a harness as long as possible (40-90 lbs).
  • Children who have outgrown safety seats need a booster for proper belt fit (usually age 10-12)
  • Auto insurers must replace safety seats that were in use or damaged during a crash.

Refresher on other vehicle and safety laws:

  • Drivers and passengers 16 or older must be properly buckled up. Drivers can be ticketed for not wearing a seatbelt and for each unbuckled passenger. Passengers may also be ticketed if not properly buckled up. Fine is more than $100 per person, with penalties. (V.C. 27315)
  • Pickup truck passengers must be properly buckled up. The driver may be ticketed for letting passengers ride in the back of the truck. No exemption for camper shells. Cost of ticket can exceed $250, including penalties. (V.C. 23116)
  • Children up to 6 years old may not be left alone in vehicle if the health or safety of child is at risk, the engine is running, or the keys are in the ignition. The child must be supervised by someone at least age 12. Cost of ticket can exceed $500. (V.C. 15620)
  • Smoking in vehicle is prohibited if child under age 18 is present. Ticket can exceed $500.
  • Children under age 18 who are skating or riding a bicycle, scooter or skateboard must wear a properly fitted and fastened helmet.
  • All motorcycle drivers and passengers must wear a helmet that meets federal standards, fits correctly and has the proper label.