Children shorter than 4 feet 9 inches will be required by law to sit in booster seats beginning in 2020.

By Rebecca Macatee
April 25, 2019
Booster seat
Credit: KaliAntye/Shutterstock

April 25, 2019

Many tweens will try and tell you they don't need booster seats anymore, but a new law in Washington state says otherwise. Beginning January 1, 2020, children under 4 feet 9 inches who have outgrown the child harness car seat will be required by law to sit in a booster seat. And if they don't, their parents can be ticketed.

Governor Jay Inslee signed the stricter car seat regulations into law last week. Under House Bill 1012, most kids will need a booster seat until 10 to 12 years of age. This aligns with the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which states children who have outgrown the forward-facing car safety seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly.

Beth Ebel, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine and member of the Washington State American Academy of Pediatrics, said the new, stricter booster seat regulations "will help parents protect their children on the road."

Dr. Ebel, who studies transportation safety at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center and cares for injured children at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, has testified in support of a stronger law for three years.

According to a University of Washington press release, Dr. Ebel regularly sees kids 8 to 12 years of age "with completely preventable injuries, even at relatively slow speeds like 30 miles per hour." These injuries can be prevented by the proper booster seat, which is why Dr. Ebel advocated for the updated Washington law.

"When I talk to parents about child safety, they say, 'Why isn't this the law?'" she said. "Now that Washington law is updated, more families will follow these guidelines and more kids will come home safe. At the end of the day, that's what's important."

In addition to its booster seat mandate, House Bill 1012 requires that children under age 2 use rear-facing car seats until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the seat manufacturer. Children ages 2 to 4 should use forward-facing, age-appropriate child harness seats until they reach the seat's height and weight limits.

These regulations, again, align with the recommendations of the AAP. Additionally, all children under the age of 13 should be properly buckled in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection.