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Texas Car Seat Laws | Child Passengers

In Texas, car seat laws are imposed by the Transportation Code, because buckling up is the single most effective rule you can follow to protect yourself and your child passengers in a car crash. Each year, around 600 children aged 12 years old and younger die in car accidents and trucking accidents, and more than 90,000 are injured. Of the children that lost their lives, around 30% were not buckled up, others were in defective or improperly installed seats.


But, it isn’t always easy to keep up with the latest seat belt safety measures, even when parents are well informed. Did you know that car seats have expiration dates that immediately void the related warranty?


Car seats expire after certain time frames for safety reasons that include changing regulations and safety standards, the risk of product breakdowns due to the plastic parts facing extreme temperature changes, and manufacturer recalls after detected safety hazards. In order to keep children safe, Federal law requires manufacturers to test their car seats, booster seats, and seat belts and publish the results.


As car crash attorneys in Texas that often handle complex and catastrophic accidents, our attorneys see firsthand the difference and safety a reliable car seat provides when installed correctly. On this page we have gathered the latest information and statistics all in one place. As you’re learning about the type of car seat your best for your kids, also check out the latest articles on recent regulations, technology, and scams to avoid.


Most Parents Are Using Child Safety Seats Incorrectly


According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Association, 59% of parents are using car seats incorrectly. The most common installation error is seats being installed without attaching the tether to the top anchor. The tether secures the top of the car seat to the vehicle and keeps forward-facing car seats from falling forward during a forceful motor vehicle accident or rapid stop.


The best way to keep your child safe in your vehicle is to make sure they’re properly secured properly and in the correct type of car seat. Expectant parents can contact a certified passenger safety technician (CPST) so that your child’s first ride from the hospital is safe within your vehicle. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) also offers free car seat inspections throughout the year to ensure the seat you purchased is properly installed. You can schedule a virtual car seat review with a TxDOT Safety Specialist by visiting SaveMeWithaSeat.org and entering your ZIP code to find the nearest TxDOT office.


Texas child car seat laws help

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Parents Not Wearing Seat belts Effects Child Passengers


Here in Texas, in 2019, more than 2,600 people failed to wear their seat belts and were either killed or seriously injured in a car accident. Simply remembering to put on your seat belt increases your chances of surviving a crash by 45%. Unfortunately, a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that when drivers involved in collisions aren’t wearing seat belts, the children up to age 15 are 16 times more likely to also be unrestrained. Child safety seats save lives. Research revealed that child safety seats in passenger cars reduced the risk of death by 71% and by 54% percent for toddlers.


The 2021 Car Seat Trade-in Programs


If you have an expired car seat or just an old seat your child has outgrown, Target and Walmart both offer parents car seat trade-in promotion programs. At these events, retailers accept any car seat, even those expired, in exchange for either coupons or store discounts.


Right now, Walmart is getting ready for its next car seat trade event. At the national retailers prior event, parents were eligible for a $30 gift card with each seat trade-in, and it appears they’ll be similar benefits in 2021. Walmart’s program collected nearly one million car seats through 4,000 participating stores, which Terry Cycle then disassembled and recycled the components, diverting them from landfills. Prior trading events did not accept booster-style car seats for trade-in. Walmart is currently deciding if the event will be held in a virtual format due to pandemic safety concerns. The event normally occurs in September, you can check Walmart's Parent & Baby Page Even Page for details closer to the event.


Target car seat trade in event accepts and recycles all types of car seats, including infant seats, convertible seats, car seat bases, harness or booster car seats. Like Walmart, Target accepts seats in any condition, including seats that are broken, damaged, or expired. Target’s recycling program partners with Waste Management and as of January 1, 2021 estimated that more than 14.4 millions pounds of material have been converted into reusable material.


Experts Warn of Dangerous And Illegal Brands Sold Online


Purchasing car seats through online third party commercial retailers is potentially dangerous as sources such as Amazon have contained listings of fake versions of popular car seat brands. Donna, a car seat and stroller manufacturer popularized by Ivana Trump, was listed on Amazon through 40 separate retailers at a price point $200 dollars cheaper than retail. Parents rushed the “4 in 1” car seat without being aware that it was counterfeit and not constructed to meet basic safety standards.


To make matters worse, the car seat broke into pieces in a 30mph crash test commissioned by CNN, which would have caused serious injuries to any toddler contained.


Top safety experts frequently warn parents of the dangers posed by car seats from unreputable manufacturers. Often sold online, these products are promoted as cheap alternatives to or discounted versions of those sold by more reputable retailers.


One expert from Lifespan Injury Prevention Center stated that she’s inspected ‘car seats’ that are nothing more than a pillow and some straps.


Unless a car seat follows regulations and undergoes rigorous safety testing, it likely won’t do much to protect a child during a car crash.


Expert Karen Beard from Save Kids Worldwide says unfortunate parents are often fooled by the sub-par car seats falsely marketed online.


Parents and caregivers can protect themselves and their children by checking for the following things:

  • Does the car seat have a sturdy buckle? Any car seat sold in the U.S. must have one. However, experts report that knockoff car suits often have concerningly flimsy buckles,

  • Is a customer service number listed on the product?

  • Does the product have labels and cards for registering the product with the manufacturer? Legal car seats have such paperwork included.

The Important Texas Regulation Blocked by Governor Greg Abbott


Governor Abbot vetoes House Bill 448 in the final days of the most recent legislative session.


In his statement, the governor said that the bill “is an unnecessary invasion of parental rights and an unfortunate example of over-criminalization.”


The bill required rear-facing car seats for children under 2, with exceptions for children:

  • Over 40 inches tall

  • Over 40 pounds in weight

  • Who have a medical condition that prevents them from using a rear facing car seat

Texas already requires children under 8 years of age to travel in a secure car seat. Those in favor of the bill argue that it would streamline current regulations.


Proponents of the bill believe that it would help clarify Texas’ confusing car seat regulations. Currently, no legal guidelines exist for children under the age of two.


Even if the bill failed to become a law, however, rear-facing car seats for toddlers and infants are still best practice. Children face much more serious injuries when impacts occur in front-facing seats.


Rear-facing car seats distribute the force of impacts more evenly throughout a child’s delicate body, making them the safest option for children under 2.


Car Seat Rules in Texas


All children must have seat belts buckled in Texas. Failure to comply with the law may incur a traffic ticket, points on a license, or a mandatory Texas seat belt course.


The Texas Department of Public Safety lays out the state regulations in the Child Passenger Safety information portion of their website.


No parent wants to put their child in harm’s way. Following proper child car seat regulations can help keep your kids safe in the event of an auto accident.


The independent non-profit Consumer Reports rated car seats based on effectiveness, user friendliness, and overall fit in their car seat buying guide.


Infants should only ride in the back seat in a rear facing car seat. After children have reached one year in age, they can legally ride in a forward-facing car seat in the rear of the vehicle.


Where Should Kids Ride According To Texas Law?

  • Teens and adults can ride in the front seat with a seat belt.

  • Children over 4 feet 9 inches can safely ride in the back seat without a booster.

  • No child should ever ride in the front seat.

  • Teenagers and adults may ride in the front seat with a seat belt on.

Texas Gives Tickets And Fines For Violators


Undoubtedly, the worst consequence of not wearing a seat belt is serious or even fatal injury. However, state regulations also allow Texas law enforcement to use the following fines to enforce seat belt usage for children, as well as any individual in the front seat:

  • Adults not wearing their seat belt in the front seat of a vehicle can receive up to a $50 fine.

  • Drivers can receive fines of up to $200 for children without proper safety restraints.

  • All children under age 8 must have an appropriate booster or car seat.

  • All children must wear a seat belt, no matter what seat they occupy.

Recommended child safety seats by age:

  1. Infants must ride in a vehicle’s rear seats, in a rear-facing seat.

  2. Children under age two, or between 20 and 40 pounds, should also ride in rear-facing seats.

  3. Around 2 years of age, a child can graduate to a front-facing car seat.

  4. Children between 2 and 4 years old should ride in forward-facing car seats until reaching the upper height and weight limits of the seat.

  5. From 4 -7 years old children should ride in a high-back booster seat.

  6. An 8- to 12-year-old less than 4 feet 9 inches can remain in a booster until they reach the upper height and weight limits of the seat.

  7. Legally, any child over the age of 8 doesn’t need a booster. However, experts recommend that children use booster seats until reaching 4 feet 9 inches.

Not all of this information--for example, the age minimum of 8 years for riding without a car seat--may not be common knowledge. If you want to know more about what’s legal and safe in Texas, visit this resource provided by TxDOT.


Child Seat Law In Texas : School Bus Bill Moves on in Legislation


Sneed|Mitchell LLP will keep you informed about the latest developments in current Texas seat belt law.


For example, near the end of the most recent Texas legislative session the Texas House of Representatives supported a bill which would mandate three-point seat belts on new school buses state-wide.


If passed, Senate Bill 693 would only apply to new buses purchased by schools.

The bill builds on a similar law from 2007 called Ashley and Alicia’s Law, which memorializes two teenage girls killed on the way to a soccer playoff.


However, even backed by good intentions, the law has done little to prevent similar deaths.


Because the statute left the responsibility of applying for state-funding to schools themselves, few followed through. A report from Houston Public Media indicated that almost no school districts applied for state funds, and that most students continue to ride in buses without seat belts.


At the close of the 2017 school year, 1.1 million children cannot buckle up on their way to class.


Injuries Children Commonly Suffer In Collisions


The importance of ensuring your children are safely and properly fasted in the appropriate car seat cannot be understated. Car seats save lives. Even when injuries are non-fatal, it is difficult for doctors to determine the minor experienced whiplash, brain injuries, or even conditions are serious as spinal cord injuries. After a motor vehicle accident, medical specialists recommend having your child examined at a local emergency room facility. Initial x-rays can detect broken bones or crush Injuries, while a follow-up appointment with a pediatrician may prompt an MRI referral. This additional imaging detects variety of conditions including internal bleeding, tendon or ligament tears, rotator cuff injuries, inflammatory conditions, or problems with the blood vessels.


Personal Injury Lawsuits and Texas Law


Does seat belt usage during an accident impact a Texas personal injury case? The short answer: it depends.


If your child suffered an injury during an automobile accident, contact Brit Mitchell today. Brit regularly helps families securing monetary compensation for the injuries and damages your family has suffered as a result of a motor vehicle accident. Oftentimes, the fact that a child was not wearing a seat belt does not prevent their recovery. Our Texas personal injury attorneys have the expertise and the resources to assist you with your insurance claim and your recovery. Call attorney Brit Mitchell today at 866-434-0014 for a free and confidential consultation.