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Children's Booster and Car Seats | Spokane laws
Children's Booster and Car Seats

  • Children less than 16 years of age who are riding in vehicles in the state of Washington are required by law to be restrained in a child restraint system. 

  • It is essential to install car seats correctly, or it puts a child's health at risk.

  • The safest car seat depends on the weight and height of the child.

  • Washington's Child Passenger Restraint Law (RCW 46.61.687) requires:
Children under age 8, unless they are 4'9" tall (which ever comes first), must be restrained in an appropriate child restraint system (car seat or booster seat).

Children 8 years old or at least 4'9" tall who wear a seat belt MUST use it correctly (never under the arm or behind the back) or continue to use a child restraint.

Children less than 13 years old are to be transported in the back seat, where it is practical to do so.
Child restraint system must be used correctly according to the car seat AND vehicle manufacturer's instructions. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions and guidelines for both the child restraint and the vehicle.
  • Car seat and booster seat recommendations.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following car and booster seats guidelines for families:
Infants and toddlers should be kept in rear-facing car seats until at least 2 years old or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer of the car seat.
All children age 2 or older, or those younger than 2 who have outgrown the rear-facing seat, should use a forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer of the car seat.

All children who have outgrown the forward-facing car seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap-and-should seat belt fits properly, typically when they reach 4'9" tall and are between 8 and 12 years of age.

When children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use lap-and shoulder seat belts for optimal protection.

All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection.

Be careful
not to graduate your child to the next seat too soon. Keep your child in the current seat for as long as possible (according to the seat manufacturer's height and weight requirements), to maximize safety.

  • The #1 cause of death for children ages 1 to 13 is car crashes. 

  • 1 in 6 teens is in an accident their first year of driving.

  • 41% of teen deaths are caused by motor vehicles; and for every teen killed in a car accident, there are 87 who are injured. 

  • 3 out of 4 car seats are not being installed or used correctly.  75% of parents install or use car seats incorrectly.  (General  Motors Crash Dummy Test Lab, Sept. 2012) 

  • One in 5 parents do not read the instructions when installing car seats.   (U.S. Government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

  • In Spokane County, over 95% of car seats are used incorrectly.

What You Can Do
  • The best thing you can do for your children to prevent injury from a car crash is to make sure they are properly restrained in a size-appropriate restraint.  
  • Spokane County locations which offer FREE car seat checksby appointment ONLY:
Cheney Fire Dept.
611 S. Fourth St.
(509) 498-9291
Providence Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital / Safe Kids Spokane
101 W. 8th Avenue
Spokane, WA  99204
(509) 474-2103
  • Help keep children safe by seeing they ride in vehicles using appropriate safety seats.  As children grow, their need to be seated securely in a car, truck, van or SUV changes.  For maximum child passenger safety, parents and caregivers should follow the Steps for Kids: (NHTSA):
Infants:  For the best possible protection, infants must ride in rear-facing child safety seats as long as possible; at a minimum, until age of one and at least 20 pounds.  When children outgrow their rear-facing seats (at a minimum age 1 and at least 20 pounds), they should ride in forward-facing child safety seats, in the back seat until  they reach the upper weight or height limit of the particular seat (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds.)

Kids up to their 8th birthday, unless they are 4’ 9” tall (57 inches) must ride in the back seat in booster seats, or until the vehicle seat belts fit properly. Seat belts are engineered to fit an adult male 5’10” weighing 165 lbs. Children ages 4 through 7 are generally too small for adult seat belts and need a “boost” to ensure the seat belt will fit securely across their chests and low across the upper thighs, to help prevent internal injuries, neck, head and spinal injuries, and even ejection or death in the event of a crash.  

Booster seats are easier to use than child car seats because they don’t have to be anchored to the vehicle. You place the booster on the vehicle seat, and secure the child with the car’s lap and shoulder belt. (WTSC)
Children ages 4 to 8 who use booster seats are 59% less likely to be injured in a car crash than children who are restrained only by a seat belt. (Partners For Child Passenger Safety (PCPS), CHOP)  83% of kids ages 4 to 8 are using adult seat belts. (AAP).  Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lies across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest

Kids up to age 13 must ride in the back seat (where practical to do so).  Cars with all lap belts in the back are exempt from boosters.   
  • Car Seats and Toxic Chemicals.  Over 150 children’s car seats were tested for chemicals in 2011, and test results showed that 60% of them contained harmful chemicals that are linked to reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, hormone imbalances, and cancer.  For more information, visit http://www.ecocenter.org/healthy-stuff
Local Organizations
Additional Resources

Booster Seat Websites: 

Washington State Safety Restraint Coalition  

Partners for Child Passenger Safety