Car seat laws in Washington are put in place to keep babies, toddlers and small children safer in vehicles. Car accidents are a leading cause of injury and death among children younger than 13 years of age, making it imperative for all parents and caretakers to learn the laws for safe travel.

Booster seat laws, for example, indicate the age or weight a child can begin using an adult seat belt with the help of a booster seat.

Learning the correct booster seat age is important not just because it keeps kids safer, but because you can be penalized for breaking the law. It is your responsibility to know the regulations for car seats not only as a parent or caregiver, but also as a licensed driver in Washington, as you can be fined if you violate any rules.

Below, learn everything you need to know about car seat safety in Washington and discover what types of car seats are available to children of different ages.

What are the car seat laws in Washington?

Before buying a car seat for your child, it is important to learn what the laws are for each type of safety seat. In many cases, your child’s age, weight or height will determine which type of seat he or she can safely use. While regulations may indicate the correct booster seat weight, for example, you should always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when deciding on a car seat for your children.

Some car seats can be used by children at a wider range of heights and weights, while other seats are limited to children who fall within more specific measurements.

With that in mind, the laws relating to the correct car seat ages in Washington are as follows:

  • Children must use an age-appropriate car seat until they are either eight years of age or reach a height of four feet and nine inches.
  • Child restraint seats must meet the Department of Transportation (DOT) safety standards.
  • Once a child outgrows a booster seat or reaches eight years of age, he or she must be properly fastened with the adult seat belt according to the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications.
  • Vehicles with lap-only belts are exempt from laws relating to the booster car seat age, as these seats must be used with lap and shoulder straps.
  • Drivers must continue to transport children younger than 13 years of age in the back seat when it is practical to do so.
  • Car seats must be used according to the instructions from both the vehicle manufacturer and seat manufacturer.

Note that while there are booster seat weight requirements and other regulations, there are also a variety of recommendations you should follow. Even when child car seat laws no longer apply to your children based on their age, you should always continue using the size-appropriate seat that is recommended for your child.

For example. booster seats may be used beyond a child’s eighth birthday, especially if he or she is too small to safely use an adult seat belt without a booster. Contact local DOL offices about recent updates to driving laws in Washington.

Penalties for Violating Car Seat Regulations in Washington

Parents and caregivers who do not adhere to the correct car seat ages or other requirements will face consequences when stopped by a law enforcement officer. Drivers can expect to receive a traffic citation as well as a fine of at least $112 per child that is improperly restrained.

After violating a law, a driver may have his or her ticket dismissed instead of paying the ticket, provided that he or she shows proof that an adequate child restraint system has been obtained within seven days of receiving the ticket. However, if drivers have already dismissed a ticket for disobeying the correct car seat weight or any other regulation, then they cannot get a second ticket waived.

In any case, breaking car seat regulations in WA does not count as negligence towards a child. In other words, tickets for child seat violations cannot be shown as proof that a parent or caretaker neglected a child.

Types of Car Seats

In order to understand child car seat safety, it is important to learn about the different types of seats available. When a child is younger than eight years of age, the laws for car seats in Washington do not specify the exact type of seat children need to use. Instead, you must rely on the age and weight requirements from car seat manufacturers in order to tell whether you are choosing the right seat. The most common types of seats available include:

  • Rear facing car seat styles, which are designed for infants and small babies up to two years in age.
  • Forward facing car seat designs, which are intended for children between two and four years of age.
  • Booster seats, which are recommended once children are between four and eight years of age and meet the weight requirements for these seats.

Some of the best car seats on the market include ones that transition from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat once your child is old enough. You can save money by purchasing a convertible seat that has this function. Another great option is an all-in-one car seat, which converts from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat and then finally to a booster seat.

When looking for the safest car seats, focus on designs that offer the most support for your child. For Example, when it comes to booster seats, you can buy either a backless seat or a high-back seat, which is intended to offer more support in vehicles that do not have headrests. In any case, getting the safest car seat means buying one suited for your child’s height, weight and age.

Car Seat Installation Information

Learning how to install a car seat is critically important, as even the safest seat can be dangerous when it is not anchored properly. In general, car seats should always be placed in the back seat when possible. If you drive a vehicle that only has front seats, then you must turn off the passenger airbag before you can use a seat in the front. Keep the following tips in mind when installing a car seat:

  • Always follow instructions from your car seat manufacturer as well as your vehicle manufacturer and keep in mind that not all seats are designed to be used in every type of vehicle.
  • Have the seat inspected at a car seat checkup station, which can be found at various locations throughout the state.
  • Pay attention to product recalls for your car seat. Registering the seat with the manufacturer is the best way to stay on top of safety notices.
Last updated on Wednesday, September 23 2020.