Tag Archives: child restraint

Children under 13 must ride in the back seat, if possible

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 half.

“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 passengers.

“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 away… ‘

–  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 safety belt.”

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 billboard.