Washington seat belt laws encourage individuals and families to follow safety guidelines for protecting themselves and their children in the event of an accident.
Washington Seat Belt Laws
Everyone ages 16 years and older who operates or rides in a motor vehicle must wear a seat belt. Additionally, the vehicle cannot be driven until the driver has ensured all children under the age of 16 are either in safety belts or child restraint devices. Washington’s seat belt law is a primary law, which means law enforcement officers can pull over an individual in violation of the state’s seat belt law without another reason for the traffic stop.
Washington Child Restraint Laws
Washington’s child restraint laws require motorists to keep all children properly restrained as follows:
Children under the age of 8 who are less than 4 feet 9 inches tall must use a child restraint system that complies with the United States Department of Transportation’s standards.
Babies and children under 2 must be properly secured in a rear-facing car seat.
Children between 2 to 4 must ride in a car seat with a harness (rear or forward facing) or until reaching the manufacturer’s weight or height limits.
Children 4 and older can ride in a booster seat until they are 4’9” tall.
Children under the age of 13 must ride in the backseat whenever possible. Additionally, the best protection is if children remain in each stage of restraint until they reach the manufacturer’s weight and height limit.
How Should a Seat Belt Be Worn
A seat belt should be fastened while sitting upright in the seat, and placing the shoulder belt across the center of the chest. The lap portion of the belt should fit firmly across a person’s hips. A seat belt should not feel loose. Wearing a seat belt the wrong way can significantly increase the chances of a severe injury if a collision were to occur.
Penalties for Violating Washington Seat Belt Laws
A violation of Washington’s seat belt laws can result in a fine of up to $124. In other states, if you are involved in an accident without wearing a seat belt, it can be used as evidence of negligence. However, Washington does not allow seat belt use to factor into negligence lawsuits.
How Do I Know If My Child is Ready to Use a Seatbelt?
Moving a child from a booster seat to a seatbelt should be held off until the child reaches four feet and nine inches in height and is between eight to 12 years old. However, there is also a five-step test to determine if a child is ready for a seat belt.
Their back must be against the vehicle seat without slouching.
Knees bend at the edge of the seat.
The lap belt runs across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt goes across the mid shoulder.
Feet rest on the floor.
The child is able to remain in the right position the entire trip.
This test is critical, as using the appropriate seat and restraint can reduce a child’s risk of fatal injuries in an accident by 71 percent.