The right car seat should be at the top of your list of critical items to buy for your child. However, it is important to choose a car seat that is adequate for your child, making sure it fits your child’s weight, size, and age. You must also make sure it fits your vehicle. Knowing Texas child seat laws before you purchase a car seat will help you ensure it adheres to our state’s legal requirements.
Car crashes are a leading cause of death among children. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), on average, 325 children under the age of five are saved by car seats each year. Parents are required to have car seats to protect their children in the event an auto accident occurs and to ensure they are riding as safely as possible while in a car or other vehicle designed to seat adults much larger than they are. Unfortunately, about 46 percent of car seats are misused. With children being extremely vulnerable to getting hurt in a car accident due to their smaller size and stature, it is important to be familiar with Texas child seat laws and safety guidelines to ensure your child’s wellbeing on the road.
What are the Car Seat Laws in Texas?
Texas law requires all children under eight years old to be secured in a child safety seat whenever they are riding in a motor vehicle. Once a child is taller than four feet nine inches, a car seat is no longer required. Older children who have outgrown a booster seat must be properly buckled in with a seat belt. Everyone in Texas in a moving vehicle is required by law to wear a seat belt. If you are driving and are caught with improperly secured children in the backseat of your car or the front passenger’s seat, you can expect to receive a ticket.
Luckily, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) offers free car seat inspections throughout the year. Simply input your zip code on the website savemewithaseat.org to schedule a car seat inspection.
Federal Safety Standards for Car Seats
The approval process of car seats and booster seats is covered by the federal government. Car seat companies conduct their testing according to a set of federal standards before putting a car seat on the market. All car seats are required to meet federal safety standards in a 30-mph crash test.
Car Seats Safety Recommendations
As a child goes through the different stages of life from infancy to eight years old, the safest way for them to ride in a vehicle will evolve along with their bodies. The following types of car seats are required for a child under eight years old, depending on the age, weight, and height:
Rear-Facing Car Seat
All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are two years old or until they reach the maximum weight or height allowed by their safety seat’s manufacturer. Do not move a child to a forward-facing car seat before the child’s first birthday and/or until they weigh 20 to 22 pounds.
Forward-Facing Car Seat
Toddlers and other small children of a certain size can be safely placed in forward-facing car seats. Any child age two or older who has outgrown their rear-facing car seat’s weight or height limit should use a forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight and/or height allowed by the car seat’s manufacturer. This also applies to any child younger than two years who have outgrown a rear-facing car seat’s height or weight limit, which is usually between 40 and 65 pounds.
At about age four, children can start using a booster seat after outgrowing a forward-facing seat. Children should remain in a booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly and tightly enough, which typically occurs when they reach four feet nine inches tall and are between eight and 12 years old.
Adult Safety Belt
When a child is four feet nine inches tall or taller, they can graduate to wearing an adult seat belt without using a booster seat.
Common Mistakes Caregivers Make When Using a Car Seat
There are many brands of car seats to choose from, so it is easy to make a mistake when purchasing and fitting a car seat for your child. Some common mistakes caregivers can make when using car seats include:
- Not installing a car seat according to your vehicle’s instructions and those of the car seat manufacturer. Always read the directions on how to properly install a car seat.
- Advancing your child to a booster seat too quickly when they have not yet reached the appropriate height or weight.
- Using the wrong car seat or booster seat for a child’s age, height, or weight, especially if they need to be upgraded to a bigger seat.
- Buying used and possibly outdated or broken car seats. Car seats have expiration dates, and it’s important to check them for damage and to remain aware of and check for any recalls before purchasing them.
- The chest clips do not sit at the armpit level on your child as is appropriate for maximum safety.
- The straps are too loose no matter how much you tighten them.
All in all, choosing the right car seat can save a child’s life if you find yourself in a car accident while they are in the backseat. Sometimes, defectively manufactured car seats can lead to unforeseen injuries in a child. Knowing and abiding by Texas child seat laws can help prevent needless car wreck injuries to children. If you or someone you know has a child who was injured in a motor vehicle accident, it’s important to contact a personal injury lawyer who is experienced with car accident cases.