Washington Car Seat Laws in 2021

Washington’s child passenger restraint law applies when a child under sixteen is being transported in a motor vehicle required to have a safety belt system in the passenger seat or in a neighborhood or medium-speed electric vehicle. The law states that a child under thirteen years old should be transported in the back seat when practical.

Washington’s safety belts law applies when a child between sixteen and seventeen is operating or riding in a motor vehicle including a: passenger car; truck; bus designed for more than ten passengers; neighborhood or medium-speed electric vehicle; three-wheeled motorcycle; or multipurpose passenger vehicle.

A child restraint system must meet United States Department of Transportation standards and be secured according to vehicle manufacturer’s and child restraint system manufacturer’s instructions. A child booster seat must meet United States Department of Transportation standards and be secured according to vehicle manufacturer’s and child booster seat manufacturer’s instructions to position a child properly in a federally approved safety seat belt system.

Babies and Children Up to Two Years Old

A child under two years old must be properly secured in a rear-facing child restraint system until he or she reaches the manufacturer’s weight or height limit.

Children Between Two and Three Years Old

A child between two and three years old may be properly secured in a rear-facing child restraint system until he or she reaches the manufacturer’s weight or height limit, or must be properly secured in a forward-facing child restraint system with a harness until he or she reaches the manufacturer’s weight or height limit.

Children Between Four and Fifteen Years Old

A child between four and fifteen years old may be properly secured in a forward-facing child restraint system with a harness until he or she reaches the manufacturer’s weight or height limit, or in a child booster seat until he or she reaches 4’9” tall or the vehicle lap and shoulder belts fit properly if both are available, or must be properly secured with a safety belt properly adjusted and fastened around his or her body.

Children Between Sixteen and Seventeen Years Old

A child between sixteen and seventeen years old must wear a properly adjusted and securely fastened safety belt assembly when operating or riding in a motor vehicle.

Penalties for Violations

You may be issued a notice of traffic infraction for violating the child passenger restraint or safety belt laws.

For a first violation of the child passenger restraint law, your notice of traffic infraction will be dismissed if you present proof of acquisition of an appropriate approved child passenger restraint system or child booster seat within seven days to the issuing jurisdiction.

A finding that you committed a traffic infraction by violating the safety belts law will be listed in your driver’s abstract but will not be available to insurance companies or employers.

Enforcement Subject to Visual Inspection

Law enforcement may visually inspect your child restraint system to determine if it is appropriate for your child’s height, weight, and age and is being used according to the vehicle manufacturer’s and child restraint system manufacturer’s instructions.

Exemptions

Your child may be exempt from the child passenger restraint law if he or she weighs more than forty pounds and is in a seat with only a lap belt available.

Your child may be exempt from the child passenger restraint law if he or she is being transported by a: for hire vehicle; vehicle designed to transport sixteen or fewer passengers, including the driver, operated by an auto transportation company; vehicle providing customer shuttle service between parking, convention, and hotel facilities, and airport terminals; or school bus.

Your child may be exempt from the safety belts law if he or she is between sixteen and seventeen years old and no safety belt is available because all seats required by federal motor vehicle safety standards to have safety belts are occupied.

Your child may be exempt from the safety belts law if he or she is between sixteen and seventeen years old and is operating or riding in a: motor vehicle not meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards for manual seat belts; neighborhood or medium-speed electric vehicle not meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards for seat belts; or motorcycle not equipped with safety belts meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards.

Your child may be exempt from the safety belts law if he or she is between sixteen and seventeen years old and has written verification from a licensed physician that he or she is unable to wear a safety belt for physical or medical reasons.

* Ms. Blake is licensed in the state of Maryland. The information provided in this article does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.


Attorney Denise A. Blake*

Denise practices family law at Blake Law, LLC in Westminster, Maryland. She holds a Juris Doctor with an emphasis in Family Law from the University of Baltimore School of Law.