Car Safety for Children: Car Seat Safety Laws and Guidelines in Texas

parent fastening child into car safety seat

Ensuring young children are properly restrained in the car is crucial to keeping them safe in the event of a collision. When parents fail to use age-appropriate car seats, booster seats, or other restraints properly, their children are more likely to be hurt in a crash.

Improperly restrained children can be injured by standard safety belts or ejected entirely from the vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that approximately 35 percent of the 736 children killed in motor vehicle accidents nationwide in 2018 were not wearing safety restraints at the time of the accident.

Some children suffer injuries even though their parents have taken proper safety precautions. If you or your child has been injured in a crash that was not your fault, the Dallas car accident lawyers at Kraft and Associates, P.C., can help you seek full compensation from the party or parties that hurt you.

Our Texas personal injury attorneys at Kraft and Associates, P.C., have been helping accident victims for half a century. Our attorneys and staff are friendly and easy to talk to. We’ve been widely recognized for our exceptional legal counsel. We’ve received an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. Get a free initial consultation today by calling (214) 999-9999 or visiting our online contact page.

Texas Child Injury and Death Statistics Involving Car Accidents

Motor vehicle crashes are a major cause of injury and death for children nationwide. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that an average of 520 children ages 14 and younger were injured and three were killed in traffic accidents every day in 2019. Of the 36,560 total traffic accident fatalities documented in 2018, children 14 and younger accounted for 1,038 deaths.

Closer to home, the Texas Department of Transportation found that 656 passengers died in Texas car accidents in 2020, and 119 of those deaths were children aged 14 or younger. This means that 18 percent of all passenger fatalities on Texas roads in 2020 were children 14 years old or younger.

Child Car Seats and Accidents in Texas

While vehicle accidents are a known danger for children in Texas, another safety concern is not using child safety seats. Some parents do install a car seat but pick the wrong type of seat for their child’s age and size. A recent story in the Dallas Morning News reports that there was a 16 percent increase in the number of unrestrained motorists who died on Texas roadways in 2021. Pickup truck drivers and passengers accounted for almost half of these unrestrained motorist fatalities. Many of these deaths were the result of children not wearing proper safety restraints.

There are many tragic examples of Texas drivers and their children not using the correct safety restraints. The San Antonio Express News reported that two people were recently indicted on charges of assault, aggravated assault, and manslaughter after allegedly causing a crash that left one person dead and a 2-year-old paralyzed. According to Express News, the child was not restrained properly at the time of the collision.

Texas Child Car Seat Laws and Guidelines

Texas law requires that young children use proper safety equipment when riding in motor vehicles to protect them in the event of an accident. Nearly 60 percent of children are not buckled up correctly.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, the laws states:father putting his baby boy on a safety child car seat

  • Children must be secured in a car or booster seat appropriate to their age and size.
  • Children should ride in a rear-facing car seat until age 2 or until they reach the height and weight limits set by the car seat’s manufacturer.
  • From roughly ages 2 to 4, children who have outgrown a rear-facing car seat should use a front-facing seat that incorporates a harness. They should ride in this car seat until they reach age 4 or hit the height and weight limit set by the car seat’s manufacturer.
  • Starting at age 4, or whenever a child exceeds the height and weight limits for a forward-facing seat with a harness, children should use a belt-positioning booster seat when riding in a vehicle. They should continue to use a belt-positioning booster seat until they are tall enough to wear a standard seat and shoulder belt. Anyone who is 4 feet 9 inches or taller can use a seat belt. Children usually reach that height between the ages of 8 and 12.

TXDOT sets the following guidelines for anyone wearing a standard seat belt, regardless of their age:

  • All drivers and passengers must wear a seat belt whenever they are in a motor vehicle.
  • The seat belt should fit snugly across the hips of the driver and passengers, not over the stomach.
  • For maximum safety, the seat belt’s shoulder belt should extend across the center of the chest and over the shoulder.
  • Drivers and passengers should never tuck the shoulder belt behind their backs or underneath their arms.

Failure to wear a seatbelt as an adult could result in a ticket and $200 in court costs and fines, under the Texas “click it or ticket” policy. Parents and other drivers can face fines of $250 plus court costs for allowing children to be unrestrained in a vehicle.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most common questions we get about car accidents and child safety seats in Texas:

Child Car Seat Safety

What are the recommended four stages of child passenger safety?

The four recommended stages for child safety restraints are:

  • Ages 0-2: Place children in a rear-facing safety seat in the back of the vehicle.
  • Ages 2-4: Place children in a front-facing safety seat that includes a harness.
  • Ages 4-8: Place children in a booster seat.
  • Age 8 and older: Children can use standard seat belts, assuming the belt fits properly.

When should a child use a booster seat?

Manufacturers design booster seats for children who have outgrown rear-facing and forward-facing cars seats. They are the final external safety device before a child can use a vehicle’s standard safety belt. Therefore, children between the ages of 4 and 8 generally use booster seats. They can also be used for persons who aren’t tall or heavy enough for a normal safety belt.

Is it legal to allow a child to ride in the front seat?

The safest place for children to ride is in the back seat of a vehicle, where they will be better protected in the event of a crash. Texas law does not require children to ride in the back seat of a vehicle, but it does require that all car seats be used according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Since most children’s car seats are designed for use in the back of a vehicle, children generally must ride in the back seat. Rear-facing seats are especially dangerous if they’re installed in the front seat, where they can be struck by an airbag in the event of a crash.

How can I tell if my child’s car safety seat is safe?

The easiest way to determine if your child’s car safety seat meets recommended standards is to have it examined by a professional. There are numerous agencies and locations that offer free car seat safety checks, and you can find a list of providers here. Another way to verify the safety features of a car seat is to make sure it meets federal standards, which a sticker on the seat should indicate. You can read more about the NHTSA’s car seat safety standards here.

How do I correctly install my child’s car safety seat?

Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when installing a car seat. If you have any questions or concerns about installing your child’s safety seat, get help from a professional. TXDOT offers free child safety seat checks at its 25 district offices across the state. A poorly installed car safety seat can be just as dangerous as no safety seat at all. Protect your child. Be sure the safety seat or booster seat is installed properly and your child is secure before driving with them.

What type of car safety seat should I use?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to children and car safety seats. The best car seat is the one that fits your child securely and keeps them safe. Broadly speaking, that means using a rear-facing seat from age 0 to 2, a forward-facing seat from age 2 to 4, and a booster seat from age 4 to age 8 or when they reach 4’9”.

All children’s safety seat manufacturers set height and weight limits for their devices, so your child may require a different seat when they exceed those limits. Refer to the guidelines listed on your car seat or get help from a professional.

Contact a Texas Car Accident Attorney Today

If you or your child has been injured in a car accident, you need help from an experienced Texas car accident lawyer. The attorneys at Kraft and Associates, P.C., can work with you to build a strong case for compensation from the at-fault driver while you focus on your child’s health.

We’ll apply our experience and determination to give you the best possible chance of pursuing full compensation to cover your medical bills, lost income, and other crash-related expenses. Get a free, no-obligation consultation today by calling (214) 999-9999, talking with an online agent, or filling out our contact form.