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The Safety Restraint Coalition

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Washington Laws

Washington state has two laws that address the use of seat belts and child restraints for motor vehicle passengers. Below is a brief description of each law.

Washington's child restraint law requires:

  • Children under 13 years old are to be transported in the back seat "where it is practical to do so". Click here to Read/Print the entire text of the law along with a document explaining when a child might ride in the front seat before age 13.
  • Children up to their 8th birthday, unless they are 4'9" tall (which ever comes first), must use a child restraint that is appropriate for their age, weight and height.
  • The restraint system must be used correctly according to the car seat AND vehicle manufacturer's instructions.
  • Vehicles equipped with lap-only seat belts are exempt from the requirement to use a booster seat for a child weighing more than 40 pounds.
  • Children 8 years of age or at least 4'9" who wear a seat belt MUST be able to wear it correctly (never up across the abdomen, with the shoulder belt under their arm or behind their back) or continue to use a child restraint.
  • How do I know if my child is able to wear the seat belt correctly? Use this 5-Step Test for Proper Seat Belt Fit:
    • If you can say YES to all five parts of the test below your child is ready to use a seat belt, which is usually between 8-12 years of age or at least 4 feet 9 inches tall:

      1. Does the child sit all the way back against the vehicle seat?
      2. Do the child’s knees bend comfortably at the edge of the vehicle seat without slouching?
      3. Does the lap belt stay on the top part of the child’s thighs, not over the abdomen?
      4. Is the shoulder belt centered on the chest and shoulder?
      5. Can the child stay seated this way for the whole trip?

      If the answer is NO to any of these questions, or if your child puts the shoulder part of the seat belt under their arm or behind their back, your child still needs to use a booster seat.

  • Always follow the manufacturer's instructions and guidelines for both the child restraint and the vehicle.

Washington’s seat belt law requires:

  • All vehicle occupants must be properly restrained in all seating positions.
  • The driver is responsible for properly securing all children under the age of 16.
  • Passengers 16 years of age and older are responsible for themselves and may receive their own citation if they are not properly restrained.
  • Buckling one seat belt around two people or placing the seat belt under the arm or behind the back is dangerous, can cause death or serious injury and is a violation of the law.

To read or print the entire text of the Seat Belt Law, click on the button below.

View Law