Be Car Seat Savvy

Be Car Seat Savvy

Crib, onesies, diapers—the list of supplies needed before your new baby comes home is long. One essential item to buy is a car seat. And car seats aren’t limited to newborns; a properly fitting car seat (and then, when size appropriate, a booster seat) is legally required for your child. The options for car seats are extensive, but there are things to watch out for, including counterfeit seats. Here we give an overview of things to know and resources to keep on hand for purchasing and installing car seats.  

The law:
Washington State’s Child Restraint Law, per

  • Children up to age 2 must be properly secured in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Children ages 2-4 years must ride in a car seat with a harness (rear or forward facing).
  • Children 4 and older must ride in a car or booster seat until they are 4 feet, 9 inches tall.
  • Children over 4 feet 9 inches tall (typically around ages 8 to 12) must be secured by a properly fitted seat belt.
  • Children up to age 13 must ride in the back seat when practical to do so.

How to pick a car seat or booster seat:
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends the following when selecting a car seat:

  • Select a car seat based on your child’s age and size, then choose a seat that fits in your vehicle (not all car seats fit in all vehicles), and use it every time.
  • Always refer to your specific car seat manufacturer’s instructions (check height and weight limits) and read the vehicle owner’s manual on how to install the car seat using the seat belt or lower anchors and a tether, if available.
  • To maximize safety, keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits within the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements.
  • Keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12.

Learn more about car seats and booster seats from the NHTSA:

Many local agencies offer car seat inspections by certified child passenger safety technicians. Find a car seat inspection station near you.

Is it Legit?
Car Seats for the Littles reports a rise in counterfeit car seats, that look and act like car seats, but are not safe or legal to use. Unfortunately, we have seen counterfeit car seats in our Birth Center. When this happens, Birth Center staff educate parents on what to look for. Read what CSFTL recommends looking for to ensure your car seat isn’t a fake.  

Read more on how to make sure your car seat meets federal regulations in Consumer Reports: How to Know If Your Child’s Car Seat Meets Federal Safety Standards.

The following organizations offer resources, including education, purchasing, and inspecting car seats:

More Car Seat Information Resources:

About The Author

Valley Medical Center's Marketing and Community Outreach Office