Did you know that over 12,800 car crashes are reported in Texas each year, resulting in almost 16,000 serious injuries? According to the Texas Department of Transportation, these figures represent a real and ever-present risk for Texas drivers.
With children at an increased risk of injury and death if a vehicle accident were to occur, an increased focus has been made on education, compliance and upholding Texas car seat laws in 2021.
As more motorists hit the roadways this year, obeying Texas car seat laws is more important than ever before. As a matter of life and death, every effort should be made to ensure you and your family are safe.
In this guide we explore all of Texas’ car seat laws for 2021, and what you can do to ensure your child or children are properly secured whenever you hit the road.
Children and Car Seat Violations: an increasing concern in Texas
Developing bodies and fragile immune systems make children more susceptible to serious injury or death than their adult counterparts. Yet, many parents have not been adequately educated on how to properly and legally secure their children when hitting the roadways.
According to the CDC, many victims of insufficient or improper seat belt use across the United States were underage children. These children (35%) were either improperly restrained or were wearing no seat belt at all. The result? A 2017 report revealed that failure to adhere to seat belt and car seat laws resulted in 116,000 severe injuries of children.
Another study published by the American Automotive Association (AAA) revealed that motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of child fatalities, and that the proper use of a car seat can reduce the risk of death by more than 25%, and the risk of injury by up to 82%.
The majority of parents are eager to do the right thing and protect their child at any cost. Understanding and adhering to Texas car seat laws in 2021 can help protect your child while also ensuring you avoid costly traffic violations.
The Importance of Proper Insurance
Despite this being a guide about Texas car seat laws in 2021, and despite your best efforts to protect you and your family, accidents do happen.
Those with children should be especially mindful about making sure they have adequate Texas car insurance in the unfortunate event that they are among the thousands of motorists involved in accidents across the state each year.
Texas Car Seat Laws for Infants
Infants are especially susceptible to harm in a vehicle crash. With their tiny skeletons made up of soft cartilage not yet hardened into adult bone, any jarring crash or thrashing can result in serious injury or death.
Because of this, a car seat is always mandatory for any child who either weighs less than 35 lbs, or who is less than 1-year of age. Infants and babies should be restrained in a rear facing car seat, situated at the back of the vehicle, not the front passenger seat.
Why is the Front Seat So Dangerous For Small Children?
Rear-facing car seats are engineered to be placed in the back of the vehicle, facing, you guessed it, backwards. Securing a rear-facing car seat in the front passenger area is not only illegal (in most circumstances), but also potentially deadly. Any child in this position will be subject to both the side and front airbags if deployed. The velocity of airbags has been measured at a force sufficient to cause severe head, neck and face injury, and is enough to kill a small child.
Even in vehicles without airbags, there is an increased risk of the child being thrown against the dashboard or through the windshield.
Texas Car Seat Laws for Toddlers
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, your toddler is required to use a rear-facing seat so long as they fit the criteria set by the manufacturer of that car seat. Every car seat manufacturer will include guidelines regarding the minimum and maximum height, age and weight appropriate for that car seat. As a general rule of thumb, children usually ‘outgrow’ a rear-facing car seat between the ages of 1-2.
Remember, the same rule for infants still applies here. All toddlers must be in a rear-facing car seat until they are over 35lbs in weight or 1-year of age or older.
Texas Car Seat Laws for Booster Seats
This transition usually occurs when your child has reached a weight of 40lbs or greater and is at least 4-years old. At this time, they may be secured in a booster seat in the back, using a lap and shoulder belt.
You will continue to use a booster seat with your child until they reach a height of at least 4’ 9”, weigh between 80-100lbs and are at least 8-years old. Generally speaking, most children qualify to use an adult safety belt between the ages of 8-12.
TIP: Booster seats are always installed in the back of the vehicle.
TIP: Booster seats are equipped with both a lap and shoulder harness. Always use both.
Riding in the Front Seat
Interestingly, the state of Texas does not prescribe a definitive age at which your child is allowed to ride in the front. However, we suggest following the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which states that any child under 13 years of age should be situated in the back seat with proper safety restraints.
Is Your Child Ready to Use an Adult Seat Belt?
Has your child reached the required minimum weight, height and age to use an adult safety belt? If so, as a parent, you may still have concerns about whether or not they are ready to make the transition without the use of a booster seat.
Below are a few tips you can use to help you make that determination:
- A quick and easy test: Have your child sit in your car without the use of a booster seat. Note whether or not their legs naturally bend and hang where the seat ends. If they do, they’re ready. If they don’t (legs stick forward at an angle), they are not ready.
- When placing the seat belt over your child, note whether or not the lap portion of the belt remains low on their hips. If not, they still need a booster seat.
- When strapped in, the shoulder strap of the safety belt should rest comfortably over the collarbone, NOT the shoulder, neck or face.
- Is your child able to maintain proper posture for long durations of time, or are they unable to sit still or wriggle out of the safety belt?
Final Thoughts on Texas Car Seat Laws for 2021
We always want to protect our children, but when it comes to car seat laws in Texas, things can get confusing fast. By following the tips in this guide and keeping up to date with any new rules of the road, you can ensure that you too are following all of the recommended guidelines to keep you and your family safe this year.
Interested in reading more about Texas? Read our Ultimate Guide on How to Sell a Car in Texas.