Washington’s Child Car Seat and Seat Belt Laws

Vehicle child safety seat requirements, including age and height limits for different types of car seats.

Washington has child safety seat and seat belt requirements that generally apply to all children younger than 16 years old. The type of restraint required varies depending on the age, weight, and height of the child and the guidelines of the child seat manufacturer.

Car Seats and Booster Seats

Rear-facing car seats. Under Washington law, children who are younger than two years old must be in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the weight or height limit set by the seat manufacturer. The child can continue to use a rear-facing seat (even if older than two years old) until he or she reaches the weight or height limits of the seat.

Forward-facing car seats. A child who is younger than four years old (who is not properly restrained in a rear-facing seat) must be in a forward-facing car seat until he or she reaches the weight or height limit set by the seat manufacturer. The child can continue to use a forward-facing seat (even if older than four years old) until he or she reaches the weight or height limits of the seat.

Booster seats. Children who are not properly secured in a rear- or forward-facing car seat (in other words, who have outgrown them) and are shorter than four feet nine inches must use a booster seat. The child can continue to use a booster seat until the normal seat belt fits properly, which is typically around eight to 12 years old.

When Children Can Use Normal Seat Belts

Children can use a normal seat belt once they reach four feet nine inches tall.

When Children Can Sit in the Front Seat of a Car

Washington law specifies that all children who are younger than 13 years old must be seated in the back seat area of a vehicle "where it is practical to do so." This rule gives parents some leeway where the back seat positions are occupied by other children or the vehicle doesn't have back seats.

Exceptions to Child Seat and Seat Belt Laws

Washington's child seat and safety seat rules don't apply to for-hire vehicles, vehicles operated by transportation companies that are made to carry 16 or fewer passengers, shuttles (such as airport or hotel shuttles), or school buses.

Child Seat and Seat Belt Violations

Seat belt and child seat violations are traffic infractions in Washington. The purpose of the child seat laws is to keep kids safe. So anyone who's cited for a first child seat violation can get the ticket dismissed by providing proof with seven days of the violation of acquiring an appropriate child seat or restraint system. The fines and fees for a child seat or seat belt violation are normally total at least $100.

Child Seat Information and Resources

For more information about child safety seats, you can go to the Target Zero website. Also, recalls are occasionally issued for child safety seats. To find out about recalls, you can register with the NHTSA to receive recall information about the seat you have or search for recalls that have already been issued.

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