UW News

April 25, 2005

Washington Legislature strengthens booster seat law

Washington’s Child Restraint Law, passed in 2002 as the first such law to be enacted in the U.S., has been updated to require proper child restraint and booster seat use until a child is 8 years old unless he or she is 4’9″ tall. The new law, effective as of June 1, 2007, was signed by Gov. Christine Gregoire in an Olympia ceremony at the close of the recent legislative session.

Washington’s original booster seat law required booster seats for children 4-6 years old or 40-60 pounds. Booster seats raise a child so that a vehicle’s lap and shoulder belts fit properly, providing a safe transition between a child seat and the seat belt designed to fit adults. The new age and size limits follow the recommendations of physicians and safety experts.

“The revised booster seat law is great news for children and parents,” says Dr. Beth Ebel of the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center and a University of Washington assistant professor of pediatrics. “Washington’s law now reflects what we know is safest for children under eight — being buckled up in a booster seat in the rear seat of the car.

Ebel, who cares for seriously injured children on the Harborview Trauma Unit, testified before the House and Senate Transportation Committees on the effectiveness of booster seats and community outreach efforts. Ebel took part in the April 22 signing ceremony in Olympia.

Motor vehicle crashes are the single largest killer of children 4-8 years old, and 55 percent of all child passenger injuries are in this group, even though these children represent only 43 percent of all child passengers. Booster seats reduce a child’s risk of injury by 59 percent, compared to using only a seat belt. Booster seats have been proven to be effective in protecting children up through 7-years-old from serious injury, and they protect a child against head injury four times better than seat belts alone.

Booster seats are inexpensive and easy to install. For more information on booster seats, including access to coupons for booster seat discounts, and a crash video showing the risk to children who are not using a booster seat, click on http://www.boosterseat.org or call 1-800-BUCKL-UP (1-800-282-5587).