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New California Law Requires Rear-Facing Car Seats For Children Under Age 2

Emily Sutherland of Folsom chose to keep her two young boys, Jonathan and Benjamin, in rear-facing car seats until they were almost two years old.

Starting in January, a new California law will require Sutherland to keep her 15-month-old daughter, Lillian, in a rear-facing seat all the way until her second birthday.

Current law mandates rear-facing seats for children – but only for those under one year.


The American Academy of Pediatrics’ chapters in California, and other health organizations, supported the law. They said rear-facing seats provide the best support for the heads and spines of young children in the event of a crash.

Some parents have said the new law is an inconvenience, noting they can’t see their child’s face when they are in rear-facing seats.

But Sutherland said she’s not taking any chances.

“They still just seem so little and fragile when they’re one-year-old,” she told Capital Public Radio. “Anything you can do to keep their necks and their backs as safe as possible in case of an accident seems just kind of like a no-brainer to do.”

Officer Guillermo Garcia, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol, said CHP officers won’t stop drivers for violations of this law alone.


“If we do see something after we make a stop (for a separate violation), and potentially the car seat is not correctly (aligned) or if we notice the child is not the adequate weight or age, a citation can be issued by the officer,” Garcia said.

Kari Bluff of Sacramento said she plans to keep her 10-month-old son in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible, perhaps until he’s three or four.

To me, the benefits of front-facing just aren't worth the risk,” Bluff said in an email. “I don't see the law as any different as other car seat laws that have been implemented. I believe more states will eventually follow the lead of California and the other states that have extended rear-facing laws, and eventually it won't seem unusual.”

Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 53 into law in 2015.

Its author, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, and other supporters have cited results from a 2007 study that show rear-facing seats performed better in crashes.

The study was published in the journal Injury Prevention, and was called “Car Safety Seats for Children: Rear Facing for Best Protection.”

The new law exempts children that weigh more than 40 pounds or are 40 inches or taller. It goes into effect Jan. 1, 2017.

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