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New car seat law could keep Washington kids in booster seats longer

New car seat regulations in Washington could keep some children in a booster seat until they’re almost in middle school.

Governor Jay Inslee signed a new law updating car seat regulations in Washington. The changes could keep some children in booster seats until they’re almost in middle school.

Under the new law, children under 2 must use a rear-facing car seat until they reach the manufacturer's weight or height restriction. Children between 2 – 4 years old should use a forward-facing harness until they reach the seat’s height and weight limits, or they outgrow the harness.

Any child over the age of 4 but shorter than 4 foot 9 inches who outgrow a harness seat will be required to use a booster seat. The changes mean most kids will need a booster seat until they're 10 or 12 years old. 

Just like the previous law, drivers can still be ticketed if a passenger is under 16, or if they are not using the correct car seat or booster seat based on their age, height, or weight.

Car Seat Safety instructor Sue Emery has spent years helping parents figure out and install the proper car seat for their children. She believes the new law helps clarify what's best for kids and necessary to keep them out of the emergency room.

“It’s backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. It’s backed by research,” Emery said about the safety changes.

University of Washington Medicine Pediatrician Dr. Beth Ebel supports the regulation changes.

“It’s incredible the sort of crashes that kids can withstand, with no injury, when she's in the proper harness seat,” Ebel explained.  

She said it’s important to make sure the fit is correct, so children don’t suffer “seatbelt syndrome” injuries.

“These are injuries where the seatbelt did its job saving your life but it's not in the right position on the body,” Ebel said.

Emery said parents often ask her for a suggestion on the “best” car seat, but she said not every child will fit every seat and not every seat fits every vehicle.

The new law takes effect in January of 2020 so parents can understand and implement some changes.

Emery said there are hundreds of certified car seat educators across the state who enjoy helping families.

“I want every parent to be empowered, encouraged, and educated because there is nothing more precious than family,” she explained.

You can find more car and booster seat safety information by clicking the links below:


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