Recently, a Los Angeles County case was ruled on by the California Supreme
Court. The case stems from a situation where the parents of several children
suffered a terrible, and likely preventable tragedy, resulting in the
death of an 18-month-old girl. The parents did not have a child safety
seat when transporting the baby (the baby was sitting in the lap of her
Aunt) and their car was hit by another driver who ran a stop sign.
Current law provides that all children under age 8 or are shorter than
4'9" must be secured in a safety seat
in the back seat of the car.
This law, which took effect on January 1, 2012, is a significant change
from the prior law, which only required a booster seat if the child was
under 6 years of age or less than 60 pounds. Under either law, this child
was not properly seated in the vehicle (lap sitting is never permitted).
What is worse for these parents is that, on top of losing their baby,
Los Angeles County Child Protective Services (CPS)removed the other two
children from the parents' care due to their demonstrated neglect.
The California Supreme Court upheld the LA County CPS's action in
removing the children,
Justice Marvin R. Baxter, writing for the court (who ruled unanimously
for LA County CPS), said "when a parent's or guardian's negligence
has led to the tragedy of a child's death, the dependency court should
have the power to intervene… even if the parent's lethal carelessness
cannot necessarily be characterized as sufficiently 'gross,' reckless,
or culpable to be labeled 'criminal.' "
This should be a warning to all parents. The law is clear and unambiguous.
If your child is under age 8, then they need to be in a car seat in the
back seat of the car, unless they are taller than 4'9" (in which
case they may be restrained by only a seat belt but must still be in the
back seat). Failure to follow this law can result in death or removal
of your child from your car. The risk just isn't worth it.