The in basket: Driving through Belfair the other day, I spotted
a billboard with a surprising message.
“Patrols Now,” it said. “Children up to age 13 must ride in the
back seat.” It depicted a woman officer talking with a child in the
back seat of a car. Nowhere was there any indication of who had the
message put up or what ‘Patrols Now” means.
I have been vaguely aware of the child restraint requirements,
but thought they applied to infants and toddlers. I was surprised
by the up-to-age-13 element.
But mostly I wondered what “Patrols Now” means
The out basket: The billboard is the work of the child passenger
safety unit of the state Traffic Safety Commission.
Cesi Velez, associated with the unit, tells me, “Each year
Washington participates in a national seat belt mobilization; Click
It or Ticket (CIOT). Seat belt and proper child restraint use
reduces the risk of serious injury and death in a crash by
“A statewide survey showed that there are two areas of
opportunity in keeping children safe when riding in vehicles;
improving booster seat use and children under the age of 13 riding
in the back seat. For this reason, this year’s CIOT campaign
focused on education about Washington’s child restraint law RCW
46.61.687 and the placement of billboard messaging.
“In addition to the messaging, an online training was released
with law enforcement its intended audience. The RCW can be
confusing for officers as well as parents. Enforcement occurs 24/7
although this emphasis started a concerted effort to focus on child
“I regret we did not include a sponsor on the billboard and
appreciate you bringing it to our attention,” Cesi said. “In the
future, it will be incorporated so that persons will know where to
direct any questions.”
The law, to which the up-to-13 element was added in 2007,
includes a qualifier as regards those under 13 having to be
in the back seat. It says “where it is practical to do so.” A
driver can be ticketed for not complying where it is practical.
I asked Deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for the Kitsap County
Sheriff’s Office, what is considered unpractical. His response: “If
there is a rear seat available in a motor vehicle, then a child
passenger under age 13 must be seated in the rear seat.
“If no rear seat is available, such as in a single cab pick-up
truck, or two-seater sports car, then the child may ride in the
front passenger seat. The child’s seat position or placement must
still be equipped to adhere to infant safety seat or child booster
seat requirements, where applicable
“If there are more child passengers under age 13 than there are
rear seat positions, that also would be an acceptable ‘where
practical’ example. Again, the provisions indicated in the
above sentence apply.
“Here’s where sheriff’s deputies observe the most common
violations of (this law),” Scott said.:
– Parents placing children under age 13 in the front seat while
transporting them to / from school or the store. ‘It’s quick
trip, we’ll be home in a few minutes, we only live a short distance
– Parents who place the child in the front seat, with the
rear seats folded forward / down in order to pack the car with
luggage, possessions, sports equipment, etc. In situations
such as these, the child under age 13 must be seated in a rear
seat, and the driver can place some items on the floorboard of the
front seat, or restrain equipment on the seat with the seat’s
Maybe this is all common knowledge to the parents of pre-teens,
but it was an education for me.
There may or may not be “patrols now” beyond day to day law
enforcement. Marsha Masters of the Kitsap County Traffic Safety
group says their Click It or Ticket emphasis patrols occur in May.
Mason County Sheriff’s Department didn’t know much about the