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New car and booster seat regulations go into effect in 2020

December 27, 2019 GMT

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — In less than a week, some kids may need to remain in booster seats well into middle school.

Governor Jay Inslee approved updated regulations on car and booster seat use, which go into effect January 1.

KOMO-TV reports the new rules require children older than 4 years old but shorter than 4’9” and who have outgrown their child harness seat to use a booster seat. That means most kids will need a booster seat until 10 to 12 years old.

They also say children under age two must use a rear-facing car seat until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. And kids ages two and at least four should use a forward-facing, age-appropriate child harness seat until they reach the seat’s height or weight limits. Many seats can accommodate children up to 65 pounds.

Drivers will be ticketed if a passenger under age 16 is not using the correct car seat, booster seat or seat belt based on their age, height or weight.

University of Washington pediatrics professor Beth Ebel regularly sees kids 8 to 12 years old with preventable injuries, even if cars are driving at slow speeds, like 30 miles per hour. She cares for injured children at Harborview Medical Center.

“Catastrophic car-crash injuries we’ve seen to children’s brains, organs and nervous systems might have been preventable had the child been buckled in the correct car seat,” Dr. Ebel said.

There are significantly fewer serious injuries and deaths when toddlers are in rear-facing seats, which better protect their developing heads and necks.

“When I talk to parents about child safety, they say, ‘Why isn’t this the law?’” Ebel said. “Now that Washington law is updated, more families will follow these guidelines and more kids will come home safe. At the end of the day, that’s what’s important.”