Hey Traffic Guy | Buckle up your kids the proper way
By MARTIN FULLER
Redmond Reporter Columnist
March 12, 2010 · 10:08 AM
A volunteer for Talk Time at the King County Library System asked an important traffic safety question. It’s a popular question from new parents, and those who have older children anxious to escape their “kiddie” car seat.
“What are the specific laws for Washington State regarding child car seats?”
Children can no longer ride on their mom’s lap, climb over seats, or roam around freely in the back of the family wagon as I once did. They must be safely secured in their own car seat.
On June 1, 2007, Washington State revised its Child Restraint Law, making it one of the safest in the nation because it requires the use of booster seats for older children. It requires all children under the age of eight, or shorter than 4 feet 9 inches tall, to sit in an approved child restraint seat that is appropriate for their size. Additionally, all restraint systems must be used according to the car seat and vehicle manufacturer’s instructions.
The law also requires all children under 13 years old, including infants, to be transported in the back seat whenever it is practical to do so and states the driver of a vehicle is legally responsible for ensuring that all passengers under the age of 16 are buckled up properly. This means parents may receive a $124 citation if their child is not properly restrained. This law does not apply to school buses, rental cars or shuttle buses.
There are three different child safety seats needed as children grow: The rear-facing seat for babies, the forward-facing seat for toddlers, then the booster seat for the 4-8 year olds and older children under 4 feet, 9 inches tall.
Babies need to ride in an approved rear-facing child safety seat from birth until the child is at least 1 year old and at least 20 pounds.
According to The Washington State Safety Restraint Coalition (WSSRC), rear-facing infant car seats protect in two important ways. The seat keeps children from being ejected from the vehicle and spreads crash forces over the baby’s back, the strongest part of an infant’s body. If a baby is placed forward-facing too soon, during a crash, the force of the baby’s head can stretch the ligaments of the spinal column and spinal cord resulting in severe head injury or paralysis.
When a toddler reaches at least 1-year-old and weighs 20 pounds, you can begin using the forward-facing child safety seat. This toddler seat is secured to the vehicle with the seat belt and is usually tethered to an anchor point. The child is then secured in the safety seat with its 5-point harness system. This seat becomes convenient because you no longer need an elaborate system of mirrors to see your child’s face.
This forward-facing seat should be used until the child reaches the recommended upper weight or height limit of the specific seat you use, which is usually around age 4 and 40 pounds.
Once your children outgrow their forward-facing child safety seat they must ride in a booster seat until they are 8 years old or at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall. A booster seat, lifts the child up so the adult lap and shoulder belts are properly positioned across the child’s abdomen and shoulder. Booster seats reduce the likelihood of being ejected during a violent collision.
Once your child is old enough and tall enough to use adult seat belts they will still need to ride in the back seat until they are teenagers.
For more information about child passenger safety, including recommendations and reference material, visit the Washington Traffic Safety Commission’s Web site at www.wtsc.wa.gov.
Officer Martin Fuller has been with the Redmond Police Department for eight years and has worked specifically in the Traffic Division for the last three. He is trained in Technical Collision Investigation and is an Emergency Vehicle Operations Instructor. If you have questions for him to address in future columns, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.Contact Redmond Reporter Columnist Martin Fuller at email@example.com.