Washington's Improved Child Passenger Safety Laws
Posted on 12/17/2019

Washington’s improved Child Passenger Safety law will take effect on January 1, 2020. The law was updated to comply with the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and applies to all passengers under age 16. Beginning January 1:

  • Children must ride rear-facing until at least age 2. In a rear-facing car seat, the shell of the car seats absorbs most of the crash forces and cradles the child’s head, neck, and spine, which are the most vulnerable parts of their body. We don’t worry about how long their legs get; kids can safely sit with their legs crossed, folded, or up on the seat behind them. The AAP recommends rear-facing until the child has outgrown either the weight or height limit of their convertible car seat. Most convertible car seats will keep a child rear-facing to 40 or 50 pounds.
  • Children must ride in a 5-point harness until at least age 4. The AAP recommends using the harness until the child has outgrown the weight or height limit. The limits are printed on labels on the side of the car seat as well as in the owner’s manuals. Most kids aren’t ready to ride in a booster seat until age 5 or 6, so don’t be in a rush to switch them to a booster unless they have outgrown their 5-point harness.
  • Booster seats must be used until the child reaches 4’9” tall. Washington law already requires that kids stay in a booster until the adult seat belt fits. The improved law is simply clarifying that this milestone is usually reached when a child is 10 to 12 years old. Older kids might prefer a low-profile seat like the Graco RightGuide Seat Belt Trainer, Bubble Bum, or Hiccapop Uberboost. 

  • Kids must ride in the back seat until age 13, where practical. If the back seat is filled with other kids or there is no back seat, make sure to slide their vehicle seat as far back from the air bag as possible and turn it off if you have a key.

If you have any questions about the new law or would like to have your child’s car seat or booster seat checked for free, please contact Safe Kids Benton-Franklin at 509-460-4214 or visit https://bfhd.wa.gov/programs_services/injury_violence_prevention/child_passenger_safety or wacarseats.com.