Selecting the right car seat and securing it properly are critical to keeping your child safe in a vehicle. Not only will a car seat help protect your child in an accident, but they are also mandated by Texas law.
What are Texas’s Car Seat Laws?
Any child who is younger than eight years old must ride in a child passenger safety seat system when traveling in a motor vehicle. The only exception is if the child is taller than 4 feet, 9 inches. An approved child passenger safety seat system is one that is in accordance with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, and is:
- Appropriate for the size and weight of the child; and
- Installed within and attached safely and securely to the motor vehicle, either:
- In accordance with the instructions for installation and attachment provided by the manufacturer of the child restraint system; or,
- In another manner that is approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Car Seat Recommendations by Age
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) specifies the following seat recommendations by age, in order to keep children safe in vehicles:
All Children: Keep children in the back seat for as long as possible, or at least until age 12. It’s always the safest way to ride.
Birth – 1 Year Old: Infants should be seated in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the seat manufacturer’s height and weight limits, typically around age one.
1 – 3 Years Old: Children should continue using a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible. Then a child can use a forward-facing car seat with a harness until the child has reached the seat manufacturer’s height and weight limits, which could be anywhere from 65 to 90 pounds.
4 – 8 Years Old: After outgrowing the car seat with a harness, children can use a booster seat that raises them, so the car’s seat belt fits correctly and until they’ve grown tall enough, which is typically around 4 feet 9 inches.
8 – 12 Years Old: Once they fit correctly, children must wear a seatbelt. The lap belt should lie across the thighs, not the stomach. Additionally, the shoulder belt should not come across the face or neck.
Seat Belt Tips: Children sitting in booster seats designed for shoulder belts should not use only a lap belt. At no time should items such as books, towels, or pillows be used to boost a child. Shoulder belts should always lie across the chest and never behind a person’s arm or back since it will eliminate any protection for the upper body in an accident.
Get Assistance with Installing and Inspecting Your Car Seat
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration maintains a directory of inspection stations that can connect you to a certified technician in your area. The certified technician will perform a car seat inspection for free and will demonstrate how to install and use your car seat correctly.