Nothing is as important to parents as their child’s safety. Understanding Washington’s state laws regulating proper restraint inside a motor vehicle is essential, not only for legal reasons but to minimize the risk to children in the event of a car accident.
Car seats can be confusing for new parents, but by navigating the state’s child restraint laws successfully, parents not only avoid costly fines but also avoid potential disasters. Washington’s car seat laws follow the guidelines recommended by the Academy of Pediatrics for the best possible protection of children, which includes resisting rushing from one stage to the next, but instead keeping children in each recommended seat until they outgrow the weight limit.
All infant and child car seats have clearly marked guidelines for weight and height right on the seats themselves. Parents should always check these guidelines to be certain their child is within the limit, and then continue using the seat until the child outgrows the limits in either height or weight. Rear-facing car seats provide the best protection for children and many rear-facing car seats can seat children safely up to 40-50 pounds.
Research from the CDC shows that properly using the appropriate car seat for a child’s size and age is a critical factor in reducing injuries and saving lives.
National data shows that as few as 1 in 4 car seats in the U.S. are installed correctly. Car accident deaths are a leading cause of death in children ages 1-13. Motor vehicle accidents cause 1 out of every 4 accidental child deaths. In Seattle and throughout Washington, there are many resources to ensure correct car seat installation including special events and appointment-based inspections. Car seats must comply with DOT standards and parents must use them according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you purchased a defective car seat or a car seat caused your child an injury, you may be able to recover financial compensation through a product liability lawsuit.
Washington provides detailed guidelines for car seats and boosters. The following legal guidelines should help parents ensure they have the right type of car seat for their child’s age:
If a child climbs out of a booster seat regularly, or won’t sit upright with the straps in the proper position, parents should return the child to a harness-type car seat that’s appropriate for the child’s size.
Finally, it’s important to remember that the backseat is safest for children. Legally, children must ride in the backseat whenever possible until age 13.
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