Washington Car Seat Laws (2023)- Rear- or Forward-facing, or Booster

According to the Washington State Law, all children under sixteen years of age should ride with a safety belt system in a passenger position.

The revised law beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, for children under 16 years old who are being transported in a vehicle. 

What is the car seat law in Washington?

Washington Legislature in Section 46.61.687 (1) on child restraint system reads: “Whenever a child who is less than sixteen years of age is being transported in a motor vehicle that is in operation and that is required by RCW 46.37.510 to be equipped with a safety belt system in a passenger seating position, or is being transported in a neighbourhood electric vehicle or medium-speed electric vehicle that is in operation, the driver of the vehicle shall keep the child properly restrained.”

Washington Rear-Facing Car Seat Laws

Washington law in Section 46.61.687 (1) (a) says that infants and toddlers under the age of 2 shall be restrained in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the height or weight limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer.

The rules also make it clear that the child passenger can keep using the rear-facing car seat, even if they’re over 2 years of age as long as they are within the height or weight limit as set by the manufacturer.

The rear-facing seats must be federally approved and used in accordance with the car seat manufacturers.

It’s best to place the child in the back of the vehicle.

Washington Forward Facing Car Seat Laws

According to the rules in Section 46.61.687 (1) (a) and (b), after the child outgrows t the weight or height limit for their rear-facing car seats, they should be moved to a forward-facing car seat.

The law in section (b) also says that the forward-facing car seat should feature a harness for optimal protection.

The regulation requires the forward-facing car seat to be used for a child who is under 4 years old.

You should keep using a forward-facing car seat for as long as possible, following the car seat manufacturer’s instructions and keeping them up to the highest weight or height.

The forward-facing car seat must be manufactured meeting or exceeding the standards of the United States Department of Transportation.

Most forward-facing car seats with a harness allow for 65-pound maximum weight and 49-inch highest height. That typically happens around age 6-7.

Child Booster Seat Laws in Washington

The rules in section RCW 46.61.687 (1) (c) (e) say that children who are under 4 feet 9 inches tall must ride in a child booster seat, after they outgrow their forward-facing car seat.

The booster seat should be used and placed for proper installation with a federally approved safety seat belt system.

When can a child stop using a booster seat in Washington state?

When they are shorter than 4’9” and under 8 years old, children are required to use booster seats. They can stop using the seat when the seat belt of the car fits them securely.

Does a 7-year-old need a car seat in WA?

From the booster seat rules listed above, you’ll find that a 7-year-old still needs to be secured in a car seat in WA, unless the child reaches 4 feet 9 inches.

That means if your child is less than 4 feet 9 inches in height, even he or she grows to 7 years of age, they should stay in a car seat.

For big kids growing faster than their peers, they may reach this 57-inch height limit sooner than they’re 7 years old. At this time, check if the vehicle seat belt fits properly or not before directly moving the child from a booster to a seat belt.

Seat Belt Laws for Child in Washington

The Washington laws on child in a seat belt is not listed as a clear statement.

However, according to the rule in section RCW 46.61.687 (1) (c), a child can get out of a booster and start to wear a seat belt when the vehicle seat belt fits them properly.

That typically happens when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between 8 to 12 years of age.

Penalty for Breaking Car Seat Laws in Washington

Violating the Washington law that not using an appropriate child restraint device for a child will cause a fine of up to $124.

Washington Car Seat Laws Apply for

The drive is responsible for the child’s safety in the car seat. They should make sure the child be secured in a proper child restraint system.

The Washington laws do not apply to:
(a) For hire vehicles

(b) vehicles designed to transport sixteen or less passengers, including the driver, operated by auto transportation companies, as defined in RCW 81.68.010

(c) vehicles providing customer shuttle service between parking, convention, and hotel facilities, and airport terminals

(d) school buses.

When can a child sit in the front seat in Washington?

The regulation in section RCW 46.61.687 (1) (c) says that all children under 13 are required to sit in the back seat, if there are back seats in the vehicle.

That means, your child can seat in the front seat on his or her thirteenth birthday, according to the Washington law.

Taxi Car Seat Law in Washington

Taxis are exempt from child restraint laws in Washington law for the keyword “fire vehicle”.

You can find this on the exceptional cases listed in the part of Washington laws application.

Age, Weight, Height Requirements in Washington Law

Age and height are the leading requirements in Washington laws on different car seat stages, weight is not a deciding factor. Check below conclusions for Washington laws on different car seat stages and ages.

  • Rear-facing (stage 1): under 2 years of age
  • Forward-facing (stage 2): below the forward-facing weight or height limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer
  • Booster (stage 3): before fitting properly in the vehicle seat belt, generally under 57 inches and 8 years of age
  • Seat belt (stage 4): at least 4 feet 9 inches, around 8 to 12 years old

Children younger than 13 years of age should ride in the back seat.

Best Car Seats to Work with Washington Laws

Rear- and Forward-Facing for Infants and Toddlers

Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat

Graco Extend2Fit

Chicco NextFit Zip Convertible Car Seat

Chicco NextFit Zip


This convertible car seat is great enough to meet the parent’s need to ride their kids in the rear- and front-facing for a longer time. It features 50-lb rear-facing weight limit to be one of the best rear-facing car seats for 2 years old.

When using it facing front, the 65-lb weight limit makes it go through the preschool ages – 3 years old, 4 years old, and 5 years old.

Booster Seats for Big Kids

Graco TurboBooster Backless Booster

Graco TurboBooster Backless Booster


The Graco TurboBooster is the most popular and best budget car seat to meet the law to ride older children, six or seven years old, or even bigger.