Most parents want to do everything they can to keep their children safe at all times. Being mindful of Texas car seat laws when you are transporting your child by motor vehicle will help protect your child from injury and will also protect you from getting a traffic violation.
While it’s natural to want to believe car accidents aren’t going to happen to you as long as you are careful, the responsible thing for all parents to do is to make sure your child is in a car seat for their own protection. It’s also important to protect all other occupants of your vehicle by making sure they use their seat belts.
Why Car Seats Are Important
It’s important to properly restrain your child in a car seat to prevent injury to them in case you suddenly have to swerve or stop your vehicle. There are more vehicles on the road than ever before, and often other vehicles are traveling at fast speeds. A car seat can help protect a child’s brain and spine in the event of an accident.
An unfortunate fact is that vehicle crashes are the leading cause of child injuries and fatalities. Having your child in a car seat can reduce the risk of injury by as much as 82%, and reduce the risk of death by more than 25%.
The brains and bodies of children are still developing, and the impact of a serious car accident can tragically interrupt this development. The small size of a child can make it easier for them to be sent flying if there is a wreck, particularly if they are not properly restrained in a car seat.
Car Seat Laws for Infants
Infants definitely require the protection of a car seat when traveling in a vehicle. Their skeleton is largely made up of soft cartilage that hasn’t yet turned into bone, making them particularly vulnerable to serious injury in a car accident.
In Texas, all children who are under a year old or weigh less than 35 pounds should be placed in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of your vehicle. For the best protection, babies should stay in a rear-facing seat as long as possible, preferably until they reach the upper height or weight limits of the car seat. Check the owner’s manual of the car seat for limits to weight and height.
Why the Front Seat is Dangerous for Small Children
A rear-facing car seat shouldn’t be placed in the front seat of your car. Placing it in the front seat in front of an airbag is extremely dangerous because both front and side airbags inflate with such force that they can cause severe neck or head injuries and may even kill small children. Airbags have been found to be dangerous to children even in low-speed collisions.
If you are in a head-on collision and your child is in the front seat of your vehicle, they are at high risk of being thrown against the dashboard or out the front windshield. There is also a higher risk of objects coming through the front windshield if there’s an accident, which can further endanger your child. This is less likely to happen if your child is in the back seat.
Texas Car Seat Laws for Toddlers
When a toddler has outgrown the rear-facing car seat, it’s time to use a forward-facing seat. This usually happens at between one and two years of age and the child will continue to use this seat until they reach the upper weight and height limit of the car seat. This stage usually lasts until age four or until your child weighs around 40 pounds.
The forward facing seat should always be buckled securely in the back seat. At this age, it is still dangerous to put a car seat in the front seat of your vehicle. Even though your toddler may resist being put into a car seat, it’s still the safest way for him or her to travel in your vehicle. They will need to continue to use a safety seat until they are over 36 inches tall in the state of Texas.
When your child is at least four years old and over 40 pounds, they will be able to ride in a booster seat. They should be securely buckled into the back seat using a lap and shoulder belt.
Your child will continue to need to use a booster seat until they are at least eight years old, or until they are at least 4 foot 9 inches tall and weigh between 80 and 100 pounds. Most children will be between eight and twelve years old when they become big enough to use an adult safety belt.
Take Your Time
There’s no reason to rush your child to the next level as they start to grow. The longer your child can stay at each level, the better protected they will be. Read the owner’s manual of each car seat or booster seat and continue to use it until your child has reached the maximum age, height or weight limits for that phase. Be sure to register the car seat with the manufacturer so that you will receive any recall or safety notices.
Don’t rush your child to graduate to use the adult safety belt. In order for them to be safe, the safety belt needs to fit them properly. In Texas, all children younger than the age of 13 should always ride in the back seat and be properly restrained.
Getting Help for Car Seat Placement
For maximum protection of your child, the car seat needs to be installed properly in your vehicle. The seat belt needs to hold the car seat securely in place or it won’t protect your child in the event of a crash.
Installing a car seat for small children can be challenging, but you can obtain installation assistance from a certified technician near you. Safe Kids can connect you with a child passenger safety (CPS) technician in your area. These technicians are trained to install your car seat for you and to help you learn how to install a car seat on your own.
When you go to your appointment, know the weight and height of your child, and bring the child along. It’s also a good idea to bring the owner’s manual of the car seat as well as the owner’s manual of the vehicle. The technician will make sure the car seat is appropriate for the size of your child and will check that there are no recalls on the car seat. He or she will help you install the car seat yourself and answer any questions you may have.
If There is an Accident
In spite of taking every possible precaution, accidents sometimes happen. If you or your child are injured in an accident caused by the negligence of another driver, it’s important to discuss what happened with a personal injury attorney. At Patterson Law Group, we are experts in this field and want to help. Contact us using the form on this page, and a member of our legal team will get back to you soon to see how we can help.