chicco-nextfit-zip-air-rf-There are a number of reasons why we love living in California and starting January 1st, there’s one more reason to add to the list. On the first day of 2017, California will join a small group of states that require children to remain rear facing until age 2 (with a few specific caveats).

Several existing laws remain in place, including:
1. All children under age 8 must be buckled into a car seat or booster seat in the back seat of the vehicle.
2. All children 8 years or older or 4’9″ or taller may use the vehicle seat belt if it fits them properly.

But the newest component replaces the previous 1 year and 20 pounds rear facing minimum requirement. California law states (Sections 27360 27360.5 27360.6 27363) :

“Effective January 1, 2017, children under 2 years of age shall ride in a rear-facing car seat unless the child weighs 40 or more pounds OR is 40 or more inches tall. The child shall be secured in a manner that complies with the height and weight limits specified by the manufacturer of the car seat.”

Violating these laws carries a fine that can exceed $500 for each improperly restrained child, as well as having points added to the driver’s license. In short, it’s not worth it, especially when you consider that ignoring this law puts your child at risk of death or significant injury.

SceneraNEXTEmmaRF sideThe law is written so that families of children who are very tall and/or heavy do not have to buy an expensive extended rear facing seat to make it to age 2. To clarify, the 40 pound/inch caveat should not be used to imply that rear facing is somehow less important for a 40 pound or 40 inch 18-month toddler, because it’s not. Science shows us that it is anatomical development (which comes with age), not the height or weight, that makes a young child less at risk for catastrophic neck injuries in a crash when forward facing.

We have known for a long time that rear facing is safer than forward facing for every person, and especially for infants up until at least age 2. It’s nice to see state legislatures like California’s catching up to the research and helping nudge parents to keep their children as safe as possible in the car.  Be sure to see our list of the best convertible carseats for extended rear-facing!