When you’re planning a family trip to Washington, it’s important that you make sure to follow local (or exceed) the child passenger safety laws.
Official Washington Car Seat Laws
You can find the official Washington car seat law in RCW 46.61.687.
Washington Rear-Facing Car Seat Law
Washington rear facing car seat law requires children to remain rear facing (either in an infant car seat or a convertible car seat) until at least 2 years old unless they exceed the manufacturer’s size limits for their convertible car seat.
Rear-facing is significantly safer for children as it dramatically decreases the risk of head and neck injuries. This resource is full of great information.
The current guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics (which is explicitly echoed in Washington’s car seat law) is that children should remain rear-facing to the limits of their convertible car seat. Nearly all convertible car seats today will accommodate kids up to 40 pounds (they have variable height limits so read your manual) – the size of an average 4 year old – rear facing.
WA car seat law requires that children ride in a harness car seat until they reach at least 4 years old or the maximum height or weight specified by the manufacturer.
Though it’s not specified by the law, research indicates that kids should continue riding in a harnessed car seat (whether rear-facing or forward-facing) until at least age 5, 40 pounds and mature enough to sit properly for the whole drive.
Washington Booster Seat Law
Washington’s law for booster seats requires children to ride in a booster seat (or harnessed car seat) until they reach 4’9″ – the average height of an 11 year old. Be sure to follow manufacturer minimum and maximum size requirements for your booster seat – most manufacturers now require a minimum of 4 years old, 40″ tall and 40 pounds and some have even higher height requirements.
Most children do not fit properly in an adults seatbelt until 10-12 years old, when they pass the 5-step test. I applaud the Washington booster seat rules for encouraging parents not to rush out of the booster seat, as adult seatbelts are designed to fit a 165lb man.
When Can Kids Ride In the Front Seat In Washington?
The Washington front seat age minimum is just 13 years old, which lines up with car manufacturer rules. Here’s an excellent explanation of why.
Upcoming Changes To Washington Car Seat Law
Washington instituted its 2 year old minimum to forward face in January 2020 and hasn’t made any changes since then, nor are there any pending proposals.
Get the latest from Washington State Child Passenger Safety Program
If you’ll be flying to Washington, be sure to bring one of these travel car seats. If you’re planning a family road trip, consider one of these comfortable convertible car seats or comfortable booster seats. Check more car seat laws by state as you plan your route.