Parents of infants, toddlers and small children are presented with the difficult task of exploring the world of car seat safety when attempting to choose the best product for their child. Washington State has one of the strongest child restraint laws in the nation, and because an improperly secured child during a car accident can result in nothing but negative consequences – ranging from fines to criminal charges to child fatalities – it is beneficial for parents to be aware of all the factors coming into play.
Washington State’s Car Seat Safety Laws
In 1996, Autumn Skeen was driving on Interstate 82 towards Yakima with her son, Anton. She took her eyes off the road to switch the radio channel for just a moment and lost control of her SUV, resulting in a number of flips and rolls along the roadway. At just four years old, Anton was too small for the vehicle’s seatbelt and the collision ejected him from the car, killing him.
Though the tragedy of the accident resulted in the loss of her son, Anton’s mother began fighting for tougher child restraint laws in the State of Washington. In 2000, then-Gov. Gary Locke signed “Anton’s Law” into effect, which required car booster seats for children under the age of six. In 2007, revisions to the law included increasing the age to eight years old and requiring that children under 13 sit in the back seat when it is practical to do so.
To put it simply, if a child is under eight years old or less than 4’9” tall, they are required to ride in a child restraint – child car seat, booster seat, vest, or other federally-approved devices – at all times. If a child is older than eight or taller than 4’9”, they must wear the vehicle’s safety belt correctly at all times. Also, the type of restraint varies by a child’s age, height and weight. See the table below for the NHTSA’s guidelines:
Choosing the ‘Right Seat’
Though the laws seem simple enough, choosing the right car seat for a child that abides by those laws is a completely different story. Not only do parents have a difficult time deciding between the brand, but also the style – forward-facing, rear-facing, car seat, booster seat, vest – of child restraint that is most appropriate.
Thankfully, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has created a website designed to help parents on their journey through the world of car seat safety.
The NHTSA’s ‘The Right Seat’ website, which is part of a larger site focused on general vehicle safety, helps parents through the child restraint guidelines and offers a variety of resources on the topic.
Visitors can view a map of child car seat inspection stations in the area, provides details about the various types of car seats and step-by-step instructions for proper installation. The site also features instructional videos to help parents learn best practices for preventing their child from being seriously injured in a car accident.
The site is new, so as of now visitors will have access to helpful tips based on the most up-to-date information available. The real challenge will be for the NHTSA to keep up with guidelines and federal car seat safety laws as they change.
What do you think about the NHTSA’s website? Will you use it to help you determine the best car seat for your child? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comment box below.