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Washington Seat Belt Laws

December 27, 2022

Even with the many advances in vehicle safety features in recent years, seatbelts remain the biggest factor for surviving car accidents and minimizing the severity of injuries. In 2021, over 90% of Americans used seatbelts, saving an estimated annual average of close to 15,000 lives. A seatbelt keeps drivers and passengers from forceful ejection from a motor vehicle during an accident.

Most states in the U.S. have strict seat belt laws. Washington is one of 34 states that have a primary seat belt law — meaning a police officer requires no other reason to pull citizens over but can pull them over for not wearing a seatbelt even if they aren’t speeding or breaking traffic laws.

Washington Seat Belt Laws

What Seat Belt Laws are in Effect in Washington?

Washington residents have a responsibility to familiarize themselves with the state’s seat belt laws, not only to avoid fines of up to $124 per unbelted person but also to protect themselves and their loved ones from the potentially deadly consequences of not wearing a seat belt in the event of a crash.

According to state law, the driver and all passengers in any motor vehicle who are age 16 or older must wear their seat belts properly. Wearing a seatbelt incorrectly greatly reduces its effectiveness in an accident. The following points are important to remember for seat belt safety:

  • Seat belt wearers should sit straight in the seat with feet on the floor and back against the backrest
  • The shoulder strap should cross the center of the chest
  • The lap belt should fit snugly under the stomach and across the hips

Washington law also demands that passengers under age 16 wear a proper, age-appropriate restraint which includes a seatbelt for children over age 8 and the appropriate child car seat or booster for younger children.

Child Restraint Laws in Washington

Washington’s child restraint laws serve to protect children during car travel by following the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The driver of the vehicle bears the responsibility to ensure that all children are properly restrained in a child restraint system that meets the standards of the U.S. Department of Transportation. This includes seeing that the child restraint system is properly installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Child restraint laws in Washington include the following:

  •  All children under 2 years of age must be secured into a rear-facing car seat
  • Children aged 2 to 4 years old must ride either rear or forward-facing in a car seat with a child-restraint harness.

Newborns and infants who cannot sit upright should ride in an infant or convertible car seat and remain rear-facing for as long as possible. Once a child outgrows the weight limit for an infant seat, they should transition to a size-appropriate car seat, remaining rear-facing for as long as possible. Once the child exceeds the maximum height and weight limit for a car seat, they should move into a booster seat. Boosters lift a child enough to allow a seat belt to fit correctly. Children should remain in a booster seat until a seatbelt fits properly without it, typically around age 8.

Children should always ride in the back seat until at least age 13. If a child under age 13 must ride in the front seat, the passenger airbag must be turned off.

Benefits of Buckling Up

Wearing a seat belt while riding in the front seat of a car reduces the risk of fatal injuries by 45% and moderate to critical injury by 50%. Wearing a seat belt is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself in case of a Seattle car accident.

Besides the fine for failing to wear a seatbelt, Washington residents may face a violation on their driving record. Multiple violations may result in license revocation.

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