California law as of January 1, 2005, states that children must be secured
in the back seat of a vehicle until they are either 6 years old OR 60
pounds (with limited exceptions). Further, a child may never (without
exception) ride in the front seat of a motor vehicle with an active passenger
air bag if the child is (1) under one year of age and weighs less than
20 pounds or (2) riding in a rear-facing child passenger restraint system.
Keep in mind, however, that these are the minimum standards established
by the state. The guidelines outlined in the owner's manual of your
specific seat or your vehicle will be more stringent and should be followed.
For example, studies have shown that it is safer for children to remain
in a rear-facing car seat until they are both 1 year-old AND 20 pounds.
Even though this is not a legal requirement, it is sound advice that should
Also, children may not ride in the back of a pickup or flatbed truck (covered
or uncovered) unless secured to a restraint system that meets federal
standards. And finally, no child under 6 years old may be left unattended
in a car (meaning no one over 12 years old is present) if (a) the health
or safety of the child is at risk, (b) the engine is running, or (c) the
keys are in the ignition.