New booster seat law takes effect

New booster seat law takes effect »Play Video
The new month means a new law. Starting today, June 1st, more kids in the state of Washington will be required to ride in booster seats. It's a move designed to save more lives.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and injury for children between the ages of 4 and 8. Safety experts say many of these tragedies could be prevented if more kids were riding in booster seats.

Under the new law:

  • Children must be transported in an appropriate child restraint system, such as a car seat or a booster seat, until their eighth birthday, unless they are at least 4'9'' tall. Older cars that do not have lap belts in the rear seats are exempt from the law.

  • Children who are at least 8 years old or taller than 4'9'' tall who wear a seat belt must use it correctly. That means they cannot wear it under the arm or behind the back. If they can't wear it properly, they need to continue to use a booster seat.

  • The restraint system must be used correctly according to the car seat and vehicle manufacturer's instructions.

  • Finally, children under 13 years old must be transported in the back seat when it is practical to do so.

    Jennifer Pavey with the Washington Safety Restraint Coalition says there are two different types of booster seats - the high-back seat and the no-back seat. The difference is the high-back provides whiplash protection. If your car has a low bench-style seats without head rests, as are often found in older vans, this type of seat would be especially ideal, Pavey says.

    Pavey says booster seats play a key role in safety because small children don't yet have the adult-sized hipbones seat belts are built for.

    "A lap belt rides up over the soft tissue of a kid's tummy," she explains, "and therefore in a crash, the belt rips and tears into the internal organs. It basically pops them like a balloon and it can cause massive internal injuries in a crash."

    For kids who no longer need a booster seat, Pavey says the shoulder belt plays a key role in restraining the upper body from lurching forward, and therefore should never be worn behind the back.

    In case you're wondering why your child has to ride in the back seat until they are 13, Pavey says it’s because people are less likely to be injured or killed just by riding in the back seat. And taking this precaution is especially important for kids, Pavey says, since they can't yet fit over the edge of the seat and they tend to move around.

    Also, kids who do sit up front tend to want to interact with people in the back. As a result, they lean forward and turn around to talk to others, which puts them even closer to the air bag in case of a crash.

    Breaking the new booster seat law is a ticketable offense with a $112 fine.

    For More Information:

    Washington State Booster Seat Coalition

    The Law

    Is Your Child Fit for a Booster Seat?

    You can also call 1-800-BUCKLUP to have your individual questions answered.