Berney Elementary students met with members of the Walla Walla County Traffic Safety Coalition recently. 

Nancy McClenny-Walters, coordinator for the coalition, spoke to the students about the importance of riding in the correct car seat for their age and size.  

“Most students in kindergarten are right at the change point — moving from a five-point harness to a booster seat. If they have a car seat with an upper weight limit to 65 pounds, they are good until they outgrow the seat either by weight or height. Then they should move to a booster seat until they can pass the five-step test for riding in a seat belt, usually after they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall,” she said.

It is important that parents check upper weight limits for the seat’s harness system. Some seats have a harness system that only holds a child to 40 pounds. In that case, children should move to a booster seat or get a seat rated to a higher weight limit.

Students also learned a little about current Washington law that requires children to sit in the back seat until age 13 when possible.  

“The law realizes that is not always possible. Sometime you are transporting several kids at once and some vehicles do not have a back seat, but whenever possible, kids under 13 should be riding in the back seat,” Nancy added.

During a recent survey near a local elementary school, 20 percent of the kids were observed jumping in the front seat when picked up from school.  

According to Safe Ride 4 Kids — there are at least two important reasons to keep kids in the back seat: it keeps children further away from the most common type of impact and it keeps them away from the frontal air bag and potential of being inside the air bag deployment zone.  

Also, the older children get, the more dense their bones become.  

“We want to give our children the best chance by keeping them in the back seat until their bones are stronger” Nancy said.

The five-step test to determine if a child is ready to move from a booster seat to a lap and shoulder belt follows. 

Your child should be able to:

Safely wear the seat belt — lap belt low and snug across the upper thighs and shoulder belt should go across mid-chest and shoulder

Sit without slouching

Keep back against the vehicle seat

Keep knees naturally bent over the edge of the vehicle seat

Keep feet flat on the floor

Parents who may be unsure if their child is riding in the correct seat, can make an appointment with a certified car seat technician or attend a community car seat check up event.  

The next community event will be from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. June 22 at Walla Walla Fire District 4 Fire Station, 2251 S. Howard St.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at or afternoons at 526-8313. 

Annie joined the U-B news staff in 1979 and since 1990 has written Etcetera, a daily community column. She was promoted to a copy editing post in 2007. She edits copy, designs and lays out pages, including the weekly arts and entertainment guide Marquee,