Short Washington Kids Face Increased Safety, Embarrassment Under New Law

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
short washington kids face increased safety embarrassment under new law

If memory serves correctly, your author was approaching a height of 5’4″ as he neared his 12th birthday. Still, even before that early growth spurt, transportation to and from various locales meant fastening a lap belt in the back seat of my dad’s Ford Fairmont, assuming no one had called shotgun.

It was a simpler — and much more dangerous — era for youthful passengers, despite being a move up in safety from generations that came before. Today, height-challenged kids in the great state of Washington are staring at a future that promises even greater levels of embarrassment, all in the name of safety.

On April 19th, Governor Jay Inslee signed into law an update to the state’s Child Passenger Restraint Law mandating that children under 4’9″ must sit in a rear booster seat until the age of 12 — or perhaps later. Previously, the age ceiling was 8.

Again, if memory serves correctly, I was in Grade 5 leading up to my 12th birthday, and we were already learning “health” in class (a precursor to the sex ed that started in Grade 6). The updated regulations are meant to reflect new studies on the impact of side- and front-impact crashes on passengers of small stature.

“In head-on crashes, there are significantly fewer serious injuries and fatalities when toddlers are in rear-facing seats, which better protect their still-developing heads and necks. In older children, poorly fitted seatbelts are associated with injuries to the spine, intestines, head and neck,” the UW School of Medicine wrote in a release.

House Bill 1012 states that kids will be booster-bound “until the vehicle lap and shoulder seat belts fit properly, typically when the child is between the ages of eight and twelve years of age, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, or must be properly secured with the motor vehicle’s safety belt properly adjusted and fastened around the child’s body.”

Notice that the 12-year-old rule is a hazy one — the bill implies that older kids who don’t pass the height test may still need to use a booster.

The existing law that all kids under 13 must ride in the backseat remains. Children under the age of 2 must ride in a rear-facing child seat, while those aged 2 to at least 4 years are required to use a forward-facing child harness seat. After that, it’s booster time.

Washington’s new child restraint laws come into effect on January 1st of next year. Fail to comply, and you could face a fine.

[Source: CNN]

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10 of 54 comments
  • Matt Foley Matt Foley on Apr 24, 2019

    Overreaction is what government does best. Solve the problem - then beat the dead horse. Forty years ago, people smoked everywhere - in elevators, even. Stupid. So we made people smoke outside. Smart. Now, many public parks - outdoor parks - have banned smoking entirely. Stupid. Fifty years ago, the threshold for DUI was 0.15. Stupid. Then they lowered it to 0.10. Smart. Then they lowered it to 0.08...then 0.06 in some jurisdictions...and of course there's a movement for 0.00. Stupid. Forty years ago, all kids rode unbelted. Stupid. Then they required child seats for babies and boosters for kids up to 4 years old or 40 lbs. Smart. Then they raised the booster requirement to 8 years old...and now the idiocy in this article. Fifty years from cars having no emissions controls whatsoever, to Dieselgate. "There oughta be a law" always becomes "there oughta be a stricter law."

    • See 6 previous
    • Matt Foley Matt Foley on Apr 25, 2019

      @Luke42 Between us, I hate tobacco smoking too. But if we let the Nanny State ban everything other people do that we don't like, sooner or later they'll come for something we like (in my case, cars, motorcycles, hamburgers, and firearms). I'm wasting my time - I'm sure you'd like to ban me from enjoying those things too. Every time I'm tempted to argue on the Internet, I should just go buy another box of ammo instead.

  • Windy Windy on Apr 24, 2019

    I wonder if other old farts like myself recall (in the 50s when very few cars had seatbelts) that as toddlers our mothers right arm would automatically sweep to the left to restrain us as the brakes were applied... I doubt there was any conception that their 40 lb toddler would have the apparent weight of several hundred pounds in even a low speed crash with perhaps just 6 gs of impact force....

    • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Apr 24, 2019

      Right just because we did things that way in the past doesn't mean it is right to do it that way now. I was at fault for a low speed collision with my wife's Terrain and the whole family was in the car. I'm pretty happy that both my daughter and son were in child seats that were properly installed and secure. It would be nice if more manufacturers would offer the built in child seats for kids who are on that edge between the forward facing seat and a regular seat.

  • Kwik_Shift If I'm in that situation of being in an unfamiliar area looking for an address/parking, I'll put on my hazards. If you want to pass, then pass. Otherwise you have warning.
  • Tassos Strictly a collectible, nota daily driver. Way too old. Even the Awesome S class from 1991-99 is getting to old to be a daily driver these days.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird The small van segment is quite popular in Europe. Many business owners and crafts people buy the Transit, the Renault Kangoo or Peugeot Partner since it fits their needs and can navigate the narrow streets. They should have done better here for folks whose Ranger or S-10 with a cap is getting old.
  • Kwik_Shift So well-used ones can be overpriced.
  • Cprescott Ford killed the TRANSit because it identified itself as a station wagon.