~ By Seattle Children’s Hospital
Child passenger safety guidelines are updated as new data tells us how we can best protect children in vehicles. Washington state has updated its law based on the latest recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Here are the new rules:
Keep car seats rear-facing until your child is at least age 2
Children under age 2 must ride in rear-facing car safety seats and they should remain rear-facing as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. Most convertible seats have limits that allow children to ride rear-facing up to 40 pounds or more.
Forward-facing car seats
Then, forward-facing seats with a harness for as long as possible. Once they outgrow rear-facing seats, children must use a forward-facing seat with a harness until they reach the seat’s height and weight limits. Many seats can accommodate children up to 65 pounds or more.
Then, switch to booster seats for all kids under 4 feet 9 inches tall. When children exceed the limits of a harness-style car seat, they must use a belt-positioning booster seat until they reach 4 feet 9 inches tall. Booster seats correctly position the vehicle’s lap belt low across the hip bones and the shoulder belt across the center of the shoulder. In a collision, poorly fitting seat belts are associated with injuries to the spine, intestines, head and neck. Most kids will need a booster seat until age 10 to 12.
Graduating to vehicle seat belts
Then, use the vehicle’s seat belt properly, and ride in a back seat until at least age 13. When children are tall enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they must use both the lap and shoulder belts; they must never slip the shoulder portion behind their backs. All children younger than 13 should ride in the rear seats of vehicles for the best protection, even if they are as tall and heavy as an adult.
Keep in mind that it is generally safest to transition a child to the next stage only when they become too big for the stage they are in.
The new law officially goes into effect in 2020. It’s safest, however, to adopt these rules immediately and share the changes with others, too. It may seem challenging to keep up with the latest rules, but it’s worth it to keep your child as safe as possible.