Northwest NEWS

July 1, 2002


New Washington booster seat law takes effect

Effective July 1, Washington will enact one of the most comprehensive child restraint laws in the nation - the Anton Skeen Law. It requires the use of booster seats for older children. Despite recent national trends showing improving rates of motor vehicle occupant safety, between 1994 and 1998 there was no comparable decrease in child-occupant death rates. Children ages 4-8 years are particularly vulnerable. Although they make up 43 percent of child passengers, they sustain 55 percent of child passenger injuries. A recent Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center study found that only 25 percent of children this age are using booster seats. A booster seat provides protection for older children who do not fit properly in motor vehicle seat belts. Seat belts are too loose, allowing the lap belt to ride up on the abdomen and the shoulder belt to rub against the neck. Booster seats raise children so that the lap and shoulder belts fit correctly. Recent national studies have shown that booster seats protect against serious injuries in older children 3-1/2 times better than seatbelts alone.
   Key provisions of the law: Children under the age of 16 years must be restrained in a vehicle according to the following schedule:
   1 year of age or under or weighing less than 20 pounds: a rear facing infant seat.
   Between 1 - 4 years old and 20 - 40 pounds: a forward facing child safety seat.
   Between 4 - 6 years old or 40 - 60 pounds: a booster seat with a lap and shoulder belt.
   6 years old or 60 pounds and greater: a seatbelt.
   Tickets will cost $86 for each improperly restrained child. The law was the work of a bi-partisan legislative effort spurred on by a Walla Walla parent, Autumn Alexander Skeen who lost her four-year-old son, Anton Skeen in a rollover collision. Anton was using a seat belt in accordance with state law at the time. Yet, because seat belts are built for adult bodies, he slid out of his seat belt and was thrown from the vehicle and crushed in the collision. For additional information, call 1-800-BUCK-L-UP.