Updated state seatbelt law means changes for kids, parents

VIDEO: Updated state seatbelt law means changes for kids, parents

Plenty of new laws hit the books when the clock struck midnight January 1, but few will be more important to parents than the changes in Washington’s seatbelt law.

The new law mandates that children must be in a rear-facing car seat until they’re at least 2 years old. The law also states that children ages 2-4 must ride in a car seat with a harness regardless of which way the car seat faces. The final change involves booster seats: children 4 and older must ride in a car- or booster-seat until they’re 4-foot-9 or 13-years-old.

“I just want to make sure it’s secure and safe,” said Diane Ferzli, a mother who scheduled an appointment Sue Emery, a certified seat expert with the Safety Restraint Coalition.

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Ferzli was concerned about some wobble she noticed in her child’s seat, Emery told KIRO 7 News that too few parents are willing to ask for help.

“They’re too embarrassed to ask,” said Emery. “And heaven help us there’s the internet, as soon as they ask they’ll never be in that 80- to 90-percent.”

That percentage Emery is referring to is the percentage of parents she finds with improperly installed car seats. The number sounds high, which is exactly the point.

She’s hoping that the new law encourages more parents to ask questions.

Experts say that the change brings Washington state law up to date with recommendations from injury-research conducted by pediatricians.

Dr. Beth Ebel is one of those pediatricians. She regularly sees children between 8 and 12 years old with preventable injuries. Their parents have followed the law before it changed, but that meant they could still falling short of recommendations from safety experts.

“These are kids that according to the old law weren’t required be in a booster seat,” said Dr. Ebel, “and yet because of their small size that seatbelt didn’t fit.”