Washington Car Seat Laws
Parents and guardians must ensure that their children are safe when they are riding in a vehicle. Every state has enacted specific car seat laws related to child safety. Here, we want to review what Washington says about car seats and booster seats as well as penalties for violating these laws. Incorrectly using car seats can result in serious injuries, and even death. By understanding and implementing Washington car seat laws catastrophic injuries can hopefully be avoided.
Why Car Seats Are Important
Information available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of death and injury among children aged 12 and younger. Additionally, the CDC states that, during a recent reporting year, 38% of the children who lost their lives in vehicle accidents were not properly buckled. Seatbelts and car seat usage significantly reduce the risk of injury or death in children. In fact, the CDC says that proper car seat use reduces the risk of children injuries by 71% to 82%.
What Washington Says About Car Seat Usage
Like other states, Washington models their car seat rules around the age of the child.
- Infants and toddlers. Children in this age group should use only rear-facing child seats. Every infant toddler should be in a rear-facing child seat until they are at least two years of age or until they have reached the weight and height requirements allowed by the manufacturer of the car seat.
- Toddlers and preschoolers. Toddlers and preschoolers, those who have outgrown the rear-facing car seat weight and height limits, should you use a forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible. This should continue until they have reached the weight and height limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer. This is usually children ages 2 through 4.
- School-aged children. Any child whose height and weight exceed the forward-facing car seat limit should you use a booster seat until the adult seat belts for the vehicle properly fit them. This typically occurs when an individual reaches 4 feet 9 inches in height, usually when the child is aged 8 to 12. All children under the age of 13 should ride in the back seat of the vehicle.
- Older children. Once a child is old enough and has met the proper height and weight requirements for an adult seat belt to fit them properly, they should use both the lap and shoulder belts to obtain the best protection.
We do want to add a quick note here to remind parents to always check their car seats, even if they do not think their child is in the vehicle with them. Any break in a normal routine for a parent could lead to them forgetting that their child is with them. As impossible as this may sound, it happens more often than people realize. Washington summer months can get incredibly hot, and it does not take very long for a child to overheat inside of a locked car.
Any parents who may not be sure about whether they have their car seat installed correctly should check their local jurisdictions for child passenger safety technicians. For example, and Seattle, parents can register for a free safety check with a certified car seat technician. If you were in a car accident with your child, contacting a Seattle car accident attorney can help.