As Washingtonians prepare for upcoming summer travel, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission emphasizes the simplest step in keeping families safe: buckle up. The national “Click It or Ticket” seat belt enforcement campaign is taking place now through June 4, concurrent with Memorial Day, one of the busiest travel and holiday weekends of the year.
“It’s more than just putting your own seat belt on in the car; it means making sure everyone else in your car is properly restrained, especially children,” said Cesi Velez, Project Manager of Washington’s Child Passenger Safety Program.
During the Click It or Ticket campaign, in Pierce County, the Bonney Lake, Dupont, Fife, Fircrest, Gig Harbor, Lakewood, Milton, Puyallup, Ruston, Steilacoom, Sumner, Tacoma and University Place Police Departments, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, and the Washington State Patrol will be placing special emphasis on seat belt and proper child restraint use.
Motor vehicle crashes continue to be a leading cause of unintentional death among children. From 2011-2015, almost half (48 percent) of child fatalities caused by a vehicular collision had unknown or no restraint use; 15 percent of those were under 13 years of age and illegally riding in the front seat; and 21 percent were riding without a booster – restrained only by a lap/shoulder seat belt. The majority of these tragedies likely could have been avoided had these children been properly restrained. Unfortunately, Washington’s current child passenger safety law can be difficult to interpret.
Washington’s child passenger safety law (RCW 46.61.687) says:
Vehicle occupants of any age must be “properly” restrained:
· Under the age of 8 or 4-feet, 9-inches tall must ride in an appropriate car safety seat. It must be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
· Age 8 or taller than 4-feet, 9-inches tall must use the seat belt correctly or continue use of a child safety seat.
· Under the age of 13 must ride in the back seat “where it is practical to do so.”
Safety advocates strongly encourage a child remain rear-facing in their child restraint until at least age 2; this provides them with the best protection of their spine, neck and head.