According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics, 325 children on average, aged five years and under, survive potentially fatal accidents every year thanks to car seats.
By law, every driver with a child passenger in the vehicle is required to have a car seat to protect them from life-threatening injuries should they be involved in a crash.
That said, there are specific laws that govern the type of car seat you should use based on the age, size, and weight of the child in question. Here’s everything you need to know about Texas car seat laws.
State of Texas Car Seat Laws
Texas state law requires drivers and passengers – adults and children alike – to wear seat belts at all times when traveling in motor vehicles. When it comes to children aged 17 years and below, each of them needs to be secured in a child safety seat or a safety belt if they’re older. If you have a child under the age of eight, they have to ride in a car seat at all times, unless they are taller than 4 ft. 9 in.
On the other hand, an older child who has outgrown a booster seat needs to be buckled in with a seat belt. Failure to do this will result in a ticket fine amounting to $250.
Any child under the age of 13 needs to ride while buckled up in the backseat.
Federal Safety Standards for Car Seats
The federal government oversees the approval process of booster seats and car seats. Manufacturers are required to conduct their own independent tests in accordance with set federal regulations before any car seat can go on the market.
All car seats need to go through testing and certification and should pass the federal 30-mph crash test standard.
Texas Baby Car Seat Laws
If you’re traveling with a child in Texas, you need to be mindful of the existing baby car seat laws in place. If you fail to comply with them, you might receive a traffic citation that could cost you points on your license, a fine, and a requirement for you to go through a Texas seat belt course.
Whether you have an eight-year-old or an infant on board, there are specific provisions you need to adhere to ensure your child is safe and secure while they are traveling in a vehicle with you.
If you have a child who’s less than a year old or weighs less than 35 pounds, you should place them in a rear-facing baby car seat in the backseat of your car. Under no circumstances should you drive with them in the front passenger seat, whether or not you have them in a car seat. In the event of a crash, the impact from the front airbags could potentially kill them.
Once your child turns one year old, they can sit in a forward-facing car safety seat. Once again, this seat should be in the backseat of your vehicle.
The law defines the forward facing car seat age as one through four or if the child in question weighs 22 to 40 pounds. If your child is aged five years and below and is less than 36 inches tall, the Texas seat belt law requires them to continue using the safety seats.
Texas Booster Car Seat Laws
If your child is under the age of five but more than 36 inches tall, they can graduate to using booster seats. The law requires them to continue using these safety seats until they are four ft. 9 in height and weigh anywhere from 80 to 100 pounds. Children that fit this demographic are usually in the four-to-eight-year range.
Car Seat Requirements Texas
The Texas car seat requirements can be broken down into four main stages:
- Rear-facing car seat – The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) recommends the use of rear-facing safety seats for infants who weigh between 20 and 22 pounds and have not yet turned one.
- Forward-facing car seat – Once your child outgrows the manufacturer’s recommendations for rear-facing seats, they can graduate to a forward-facing car seat, provided that they weigh between 22 and 40 pounds.
- Booster – Children aged four years and above, and measure less than 4 ft. 9 inches in height, are required to use booster seats once they outgrow the forward facing car seats.
- Adult safety belt – If your child is taller than 4 ft. 9 in., they can graduate to using adult seat belts.
Keep in mind that car seat ages Texas apply to children aged one year or less, right up to the point they turn nine years old. Whether or not they continue to use car seats after this age will be determined by their height.
Once they turn 13 years old, they can start riding in the vehicle’s front passenger seat if they like.
How to Tell if Your Child Is Ready to Use a Regular Seat Belt
Your child has reached the required age, weight, and height to use an adult seat belt. How can you tell whether they are ready or if they should continue using a booster seat? Here are a few pointers to help you figure it out:
- If your child is sitting with their back directly against the vehicle seat (without the booster), and their legs don’t hang naturally over the edge of the seat with their knees bent, they must continue using a booster seat.
- If the seat belt doesn’t stay low on their hips, they need to continue using a booster.
- If the seat belt’s shoulder strap lies over their face or neck and not on their shoulder or collarbone, they should continue using a booster seat.
- If your child cannot maintain the proper posture with the seat belt on for an extended duration, they’re not ready to graduate from the booster.
Remember, child car seats, booster seats, and safety belts are the last line of defense to protect them against potentially fatal injuries in car crashes. Ensure you and your vehicle occupants have a seat belt on at all times when the car is in motion.
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