Car Seat Inspections

DID YOU KNOW THAT 4 OUT OF 5 CAR SEATS are installed incorrectly? East Pierce Fire and Rescue offers free car seat inspections to residents within our service area. Let our Car Seat Technicians check your child's car seat and provide you with installation guidelines and tips.

Car seat inspections are by appointment only. Plan accordingly- inspections may take up to an hour. Call 253-863-1800 to schedule an appointment.

Please bring the following to your appointment:

  • The car seat manufacturer's instructions
  • The vehicle owner's manual
  • Your child, if available

DO NOT stop by the fire station to have your seat inspected. Only certified child passenger safety technicians can help with the child seat. Firefighters are not able to do this while on shift, and are not certified technicians.

If you are not an East Pierce Fire and Rescue resident, or need your child's seat inspected sooner than we can accommodate, check out other inspection resources near to you.

Child Passenger Best Practices

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to keep their toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age 2, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat. It also advises that most children will need to ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years of age.

Parents often look forward to transitioning from one stage to the next, but these transitions should generally be delayed until they're necessary, when the child fully outgrows the limits for his or her current stage.

A rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash, because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body. For larger children, a forward-facing seat with a harness is safer than a booster, and a belt-positioning booster seat provides better protection than a seat belt alone until the seat belt fits correctly.

While the rate of deaths in motor vehicle crashes in children under age 16 has decreased substantially - dropping 45 percent between 1997 and 2009 - it is still the leading cause of death for children ages 4 and older. Counting children and teens up to age 21, there are more than 5,000 deaths each year. Fatalities are just the tip of the iceberg; for every fatality, roughly 18 children are hospitalized and more than 400 are injured seriously enough to require medical treatment.

New research has found children are safer in rear-facing car seats.

Research has shown that children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are riding rear-facing.

The 'age 2' recommendation is not a deadline, but rather a guideline to help parents decide when to make the transition.  Smaller children will benefit from remaining rear-facing longer, while other children may reach the maximum height or weight before 2 years of age.

Children should transition from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat with a harness, until they reach the maximum weight or height for that seat. Then a booster will make sure the vehicle's lap-and-shoulder belt fit properly. The shoulder belt should lie across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not near the neck or face. The lap belt should fit low and snug on the hips and upper thighs, not across the belly. Most children will need a booster seat until they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years old.

Children should ride in the rear of a vehicle until they are 13 years old.

Although the Federal Aviation Administration permits children under age 2 to ride on an adult's lap on an airplane, they are best protected by riding in an age- and size-appropriate restraint. Children should ride properly restrained on every trip in every type of transportation, on the road or in the air.Click here for a list of approved car safety seats.

Click here to download a full version of the new policy statement from the AAP website.

Click here to download the Technical Report on Child Passenger Safety that was released simultaneously by the AAP.

Washington State Vehicle Occupant Protection Laws

The Seat Belt Law requires:

  • All vehicle occupants must be properly restrained in all seating positions;
  • The driver is responsible for properly securing all children under the age of 16.
  • Passengers 16 years of age and older are responsible for themselves. They may receive their own citation if they are not properly restrained.

Buckling one seat belt around two people or placing the seat belt under the arm or behind the back is dangerous, can cause death or serious injury, and is a violation of the law.

WA Seatbelt Law (PDF)

The Child Restraint Law requires:

  • Children under 13 years old be transported in the back seat where it is practical to do so.
  • Children up to their 8th birthday, unless they are 4'9" tall (which ever comes first), must ride in a child restraint. For example a child car seat, booster seat, vest, or other restraint that is federally approved for use in the car.
  • The restraint system must be used correctly according to the car seat AND vehicle manufacturer's instructions.
  • Vehicles equipped with lap-only seat belts are exempt from the requirement to use a booster seat.
  • Children 8-years of age or at least 4'9" who wear a seat belt MUST use it correctly (never under the arm or behind the back) or continue to use a booster.

Always follow the manufacturers' instructions and guidelines for both the child restraint and the vehicle.

WA Child Restraint Law (PDF)

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