Washington Car Seat Laws: What You Need to Know (Important to Read!!!)

Even if you are an excellent driver, it is still best to be cautious, especially when driving with kids. Unexpected things can happen! So, it would be best if you do your share by ensuring your child's safety while on the road.

The state of Washington has recorded around 75% seat belt usage. This means that most citizens are restrained properly every time they are hitting the road. However, just like in any other state, Washington still aims to have a 100% mark. Thus, there are periodic revisions with Washington car seat laws to keep up with the recent guidelines.

Read on and find out the laws governing the streets of Washington!

Car Seat Laws in Washington

washington state car seat laws 2020

According to RCW 46.37.510, all children less than 16 years of age should be equipped with a safety belt system when transported in a motor vehicle, a medium-speed electric vehicle, or a neighborhood electric vehicle in operation.

Every driver must secure that the child is properly restrained in a passenger seating position according to the following conditions:


#1. Children Below Two Years Old

A child who is less than two years of age must be properly secured with a rear-facing child restraint system until such time that he or she reaches the height and weight limit set by the manufacturer, as per recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics.


#2. Children Two to Four Years Old

A child below four years of age and is not using a rear-facing child seat must be properly secured with a forward-facing child restraint system with a harness

This type of child restraint must be used until the child outgrown the system based on the manufacturer's standards.


#3. Children Four Years Old and Older

A child four years old or older and under four feet nine inches tall must be properly secured in a child booster seat

This can be used until such time that the vehicle lap and the shoulder belt fit the child correctly, which is between the age of eight to twelve years old.

This type of seat should be used if the vehicle comes with proper headrests.

In case of a crash, the child's neck and shoulders must be protected with appropriate headrests or a full-sized booster seat with head protection.

Booster seats with headrests

Vehicles without headrests should have a full-sized booster seat that includes headrests.

Keep in mind that children can suffer from severe injuries once the head and neck are not protected during an accident.


#4. Seat Belts for Children

For children 13 years old or older, they are required to wear a seat belt, which both have a lap and a shoulder belt.

It should be worn properly as long as the vehicle is moving.

NOTE

The child restraint system should comply with the standards set by the United States Department of Transportation. It should also be secured in the vehicle according to the vehicle's manufacturer's instructions and the child restraint system's manufacturer.

Penalties for Violations

washington car seat laws 2020

The penalty for getting pulled over for not wearing a seat belt or any appropriate child restraint system can be pretty steep.

A law enforcement officer can issue the driver a traffic citation, which may include a penalty of $112 or more for every child not wearing a proper restraint system.

However, instead of paying the ticket, this can be dismissed once the driver proves to have obtained an adequate child restraint system within seven days of ticket issuance.

If the driver already has a record and was issued a second ticket, then the second ticket will no longer be waived.

Consistent failure to wear a seat belt may result in the suspension of the license or even revocation, depending on the driver's number of offenses against the driver.

Are There Height and Weight Requirements in Washington?

There are really no height and weight requirements in Washington. However, the following guidelines and recommendations should be followed:

  • Children aged 0 to 2 must use a rear-facing car seat during travel.
  • Children aged 2 to 4 must use a front-facing car seat during travel.
  • Children aged 4 to 12 and having a height of 4'9" must use a booster seat with a seat belt.
  • Children aged 13 and up must use a seat belt.

Additionally, Washington's state requires children 13 years and below to be seated in the motor vehicle's rear seat.

Are There Exemptions to the Car Seat Laws of Washington?

There are certain exemptions to Washington's Car Seat Laws.

Still, they apply only to vehicles such as taxis, buses, school buses, limos, large passenger vans, and company vehicles, which are operated by workers. Vehicles who need to make frequent stops, such as those that deliver packages and postal mail, are also exempted from the law.

Are there rules for children with medical conditions?

If a child has a medical condition that stops him or her from using a car restraint system, then it is a must to carry documentation signed by a physician in case a police officer pulls over your vehicle.

Car Seat Support in Washington

Washington Traffic Safety Commission

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission offers up-to-date information about the laws and regulations governing the use of car seats in the state.

It has several programs that can be of great help to drivers and motorists.

Click It or Ticket

This WTSC program makes use of a high visibility enforcement model through intensive public education. It informs people about the issuance of tickets for seat belt related violations by law enforcement. After the publicity, they then focus on those who are traveling without the proper restraints.

As the years progressed, the Click It or Ticket program's effect has shown a significant difference, with only 82% buckling-up in 2002 to a 95% rate in the following years.

washington state child car seat laws 2020

Child Passenger Safety Program

This is another WTSC program that helps maintain and support a network of safety technicians and inspection stations dedicated to child passenger seats and safety. 

The Child Passenger Safety Program seeks to increase and strengthen the efforts in improving compliance with the child restraint law by proper education of both the public and law enforcement.


Washington State Booster Seat Coalition

Be informed about the use of booster seats for children. It is a must when to educate yourself on when to shift from one seat type to another.

The Washington State Booster Seat Coalition is here to help solve the problem.

Washington Car-Seat Law Video

This video helps boost child protection in the state of Washington.

Final Thoughts

Read Washington car seat laws to keep children safe during transport. As parents, it is your responsibility to follow these laws to ensure that your child is safe and protected at all times.

Be sure to understand the different rules governing the use of car seats in the state. Check for updates regularly, as changes may occur to keep everyone in your family protected.

Safe travels!

Kathy Warner

Kathy is a busy mother of two and a CPS technician for more than eight years. Her mission is to awaken parents to the importance of child passenger safety and show them the right practice. You can read more about her here

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