parent buckling baby into car safety seatAccording to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), auto accidents are the number one cause of death among children in our state. To protect children in the event of a car wreck, parents and other adult drivers in Texas are required by law to use child passenger safety seat systems for passengers under eight years of age who are 4’9” or shorter. Child passengers over eight years old or taller than 4’9” must wear regular seat belts, and those under 13 must ride in the back seat. Detailed guidelines as explained by our Houston auto accident attorney are listed below.

Texas Car Seat Guidelines

Child passenger safety seat systems include rear-facing infant seats, forward-facing seats, convertible safety seats, high-back booster seats, backless booster seats, and safety vests or harnesses. All safety seat systems should meet crash test standards established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Parents should choose a car seat appropriate for the child’s height and weight and for the type of car in which the seat will be used. All seats should be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and parents should follow TxDOT car seat guidelines conscientiously:

Child Passengers Up to Two Years of Age

Children under two years of age must ride in a rear-facing car seat that is appropriate for the child’s height and weight (up to approximately 20 pounds). The car seat should be properly installed in the back seat of the vehicle.

Child Passengers Between Two and Four Years of Age

A child who reaches the age of two or outgrows the height and weight limits for a rear-facing seat may use a front-facing seat with a five-point harness until the child reaches the height and weight limits (40-65 pounds) imposed by the car seat manufacturer for that seat.

Child Passengers Between Four and Eight Years of Age

Children four to eight years old who have outgrown the forward-facing car seat may switch to a belt-positioning booster seat and use it until they reach 4’9”. Most children attain this height between the ages of four and eight, at which time they must sit in the back seat and use regular seat belts that fit them properly until they reach the age of thirteen.

Making Sure Your Child Can Use an Adult Seat Belt

A child between eight and thirteen may use a regular seat belt and ride in the back seat of the car without a booster seat if:

  • The child can sit straight up against the back of the seat with knees bent over the edge of the seat.
  • The seat belt is tight and low across the child’s lap.
  • The seat belt’s shoulder strap lies over the child’s shoulder and collarbone, not over the neck or face.
  • The child can remain belted in this position for an extended period of time.

A child who meets these requirements may move to the front seat at the age of 13.

Common Errors for Parents to Avoid

Parents should not purchase or install a car seat that:

  • Is used
  • Has passed its expiration date
  • Has been recalled by the manufacturer
  • Has been damaged in an accident or in any other way

It’s important to do research and buy an up-to-date seat that is the right size for your child and your car. Install it according to the manufacturer’s instructions, making sure that the chest clips are at the level of your child’s armpits. When you pinch the harness at the child’s collarbone, there should be no excess webbing that you can pinch.