Did you know approximately 20% of all car accidents occur in parking lots? When you think about it, there’s plenty to contend with in a parking lot: twists, turns, low visibility, crowds of distracted shoppers, and many moving vehicles. Whether they’re checking text messages or hunting for a coveted parking space, distracted drivers abound. The hectic holidays only add to the list of potential preoccupations. Stressed out shoppers are in a rush, and parking lot accidents become more and more frequent.
Below we’ve gathered some holiday accident facts and parking lot accident laws, plus tips for staying safe as you navigate a busy parking lot, whether you’re a pedestrian or a driver.
Unfortunately, parking lot accidents can be more than just a “door ding.” Common parking lot accidents include reversing into a perpendicular vehicle, reversing out of a space at the same time as another vehicle, and rear-ending someone at a stop sign or exit. If you’ve been involved in a car accident in a parking lot, you deserve professional help and guidance. Contact a Houston car accident lawyer to get the compensation you’re truly entitled to.
― Get the Facts: Parking Lot Accident Statistics ―
According to research from the National Safety Council, more than 50,000 parking lot accidents occur each year, resulting in over 60,000 injuries and 500 deaths.
Additionally, two thirds of drivers may be distracted when they’re pulling into shopping centers. In another poll conducted by the National Safety Council, 66% of American drivers said they would make a phone call while driving through a parking lot. 63% said they would set up their GPS or map application, and 56% said they would text.
The leading cause of parking lot accidents is distraction or, more specifically, cell phone use. Lulled into a false sense of security by the slow speeds of parking lot navigation, drivers may be tempted to start their engines and pull out while still scrolling on their phones. However, regardless of the setting, the consequences of distracted driving remain potentially deadly.
― Hectic Holidays & Parking Lot Accidents ―
While they can happen at any time, parking lot accident risks rise during the holiday shopping season. In fact, car insurance companies see 34% more accident claims reported on Black Friday than on an average day – and this doesn’t even take into account all of the accidents that go unreported!
― Parking Lot Accident Safety Tips For Pedestrians ―
When it comes to getting hurt in a parking lot accident, there’s plenty shoppers can do to minimize their risk.
Stay alert! Cars and trucks aren’t your only concern. From icy pavement and puddles to errant shopping carts, there are plenty of parking lot hazards to look out for, so don’t get distracted! Eyes ahead. Don’t look down at your phone or shopping list while you are walking through a parking lot.
Use designated crosswalks. Do not cut across a parking lot or walk in an unpredictable path. Always look both ways before entering an intersection or crosswalk.
Leave no one behind. If you are walking with children or elderly relatives, hold on to their hands and escort them to safety.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help. If you have too many bags to safely carry, or if you’re balancing a stack of boxes that might obscure your vision, ask for assistance. Someone can walk your purchases out to your car with you.
Plan ahead. Avoid peak shopping times or last-minute rushes (see our list of busiest shopping days above.) Order what you need online, if possible.
― Parking Lot Accident Safety Tips For Drivers ―
Diligent drivers can prevent parking lot crashes by following these guidelines.
Park further away from the entrance. We know it’s a pain to lug those gift bags all the way back to your car, but hear us out. There will be less competition for these spots, and therefore less traffic around them as you are leaving.
Never assume a space is empty. From certain angles, motorcycles and small compact cars might trick you into thinking a space is empty until you’re too close. Approach with caution.
Back into your parking spot. Backing into a parking space can be tricky, but it’s generally less hazardous than backing out of one. When you’re ready to leave, you can pull forward without fear of hitting another car or shopper.
Always check your mirror and blind spots. When you are backing out of your space, proceed slowly. Check all mirrors and be mindful of your vehicle’s blind spots. Small children may be too short to notice in your rearview mirror, so…
Look out for children. Unwitting children may run out in front of or behind your vehicle in a parking lot.
Eliminate distractions. If you need to fiddle with your phone, look up directions, or choose some tunes, do it before leaving your parking space.
Follow the flow of traffic. Follow the established traffic patterns of the parking lot. Look for arrows on the ground, signage, or security attendants waving people through.
Never speed. Parking lots require patience. Never speed or try to beat someone to a parking space.
Take advantage of technology. Many newer vehicles come equipped with backup cameras or beeping collision avoidance sensors. Parking lots are the perfect place to put them to use! (The National Safety Council determined 9% of pedestrian deaths in parking lotshappen due to backup accidents.)
Resist road rage. We know you may be jockeying for a primo parking spot, but don’t get irritated by the process. Think twice before honking that horn, and remember everyone around you just wants to get home to their families safe and sound.
Secure your cargo. If you’re transporting a large purchase — like a Christmas tree or a piece of furniture — always make sure it is properly secured before you drive off.
Buckle up. Always remember to buckle your seatbelt the moment you enter your vehicle.
― Parking Lot Accident Laws ―
Who has the right of way in a parking lot?
First, you should know there are two types of lanes in a parking lot. The “through lanes” make up the lot’s perimeter, passing by store entrances and connecting out to main roads. The “feeder lanes” extend inward from the perimeter, leading to individual parking spots.
Below are the Texas parking lot right of way rules:
When exiting a feeder lane, you must yield to anyone — driver or pedestrian — in a through lane.
When backing up or pulling out of parking space, you must yield to anyone already moving in a feeder lane.
Before making a turn, you must yield to anyone moving straight.
You must always stop at stop signs and yield signs, regardless of other right of way rules.
If a driver breaks any of these rules and causes a crash that injures you, they will be liable for your damages.
If you’ve been in a parking lot accident, how do you determine fault?
Every claim is different, so we can’t give you a one-size-fits-all answer. However, if a careless, inattentive driver cuts across a lot or ignores arrows on the ground or other signage, they may be at fault. “I never even saw them” is a common excuse, but all drivers have a responsibility to check their blind spots and navigate parking lots at slow, safe speeds.
Drivers are not the only potentially liable parties. In the event of a parking lot with an improper design, poorly-maintained asphalt, or overgrown landscaping, the property owner(s) may be liable.
Nope. It’s a total myth that parking lot accidents are “50/50” – meaning that when a two-car accident happens in a parking lot, both drivers are equally at fault. Parking lot accidents will be treated like any other car accident, with thorough investigation to determine fault. The good news? There are usually plenty of witnesses to a parking lot accident. If one of the drivers has violated a right of way law (see above), they will likely be found at fault.
Liability coverage, the minimum insurance coverage Texas residents must carry, exists to pay for bodily injury and property damage if you hit someone. On the other hand, if someone hit your car while it was parked and empty, their liability insurance will cover your property damage.
Additionally, collision coverage and personal injury protection could help you pay for your expenses after a parking lot car accident. Collision coverage pays for damage to your vehicle from a collision with another vehicle, while personal injury protection, or PIP, pays for your medical expenses regardless of who was at fault in the accident.
If it was a hit-and-run accident*, uninsured motorist property damage coverage may help you pay for the damage.
Parking lot accidents are not a high priority for the police. There is no guarantee that the police will respond to call for a car accident in a parking lot, unless there are serious injuries or safety concerns.
Additionally, parking lots are considered private property. This means even if police respond to the scene, they generally do not write a crash report. This can be good for your driving record if you’re at fault, but bad for your insurance claim if you were an innocent victim.
― What to Do After a Parking Lot Accident ―
If you walk out of a store and see your own car is damaged, call the police, then call your insurance company and file a report right away. Your policy may cover the damage.
Conversely, if you hit a parked car, fess up. If you drive away, you could be charged with leaving the scene of an accident. Don’t have time to wait and face the other vehicle’s owner? Leave your contact information on a note under their windshield wiper.
If both drivers are around:
Move the vehicles out of the way of others.
Check that everyone involved is unharmed. If someone is hurt, call for emergency services immediately.
Exchange information with the other driver.
Take pictures of any damages to any of the vehicles. These photos will be useful when you make a claim with your insurance company or file a report with the police.
Many people don’t think it’s necessary to file a claim for a “minor accident” like a parking lot fender bender. Unfortunately, even low-speed crashes are capable of causing serious injuries to your head, neck, and spine.
If you are involved in any parking lot accident, reach out to an experienced Houston car accident lawyer from our team and get the medical care you need.
― Stay Safe & Get Home for the Holidays! ―
We hope this helped you learn more about how to avoid parking lot accidents during the holiday season!
Unfortunately, even if you follow every tip and take every precaution, your day could still be interrupted by someone else’s rude or reckless behavior.
If you’ve been hurt in a parking lot accident or other wreck caused by someone else’s carelessness, we may be able to help. Reach out now for your fast, free, confidential consultation! We’re available 24/7.
The holidays can be a dangerous time to hit the road. No matter what our country is celebrating, there’s always a spike in car accidents during the holiday season.
This year, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, many families are opting to avoid crowded airports and train stations. Instead, they’ll be taking road trips in their personal vehicles to visit relatives for the holidays. Among Americans with travel plans this year, a whopping 85% say they are most comfortable traveling via their personal automobile (while still avoiding planes, public transit, and rideshare apps.) For many cautious folks, this may be the first time all year they’re mixing households, and driving seems like a good way to continue minimizing contact with strangers.
Unfortunately, more traffic means more chances for wrecks.
Read on below to learn more about how the pandemic is affecting this holiday travel season, the latest facts about Texas holiday car accidents, and how you can keep your family safe through it all.
If you’re in need of a Houston car accident attorney, we’re here for you 24/7. We offer free consultations, 365 days a year.
― COVID-19: Playing it Safe ―
Across the country, coronavirus cases are rising in all age groups. Many families are reacting accordingly: a survey by Morning Consult found that 47% of American respondents were canceling family holiday plans this year. 74% said their gatherings would be smaller than usual, and 49% planned to check out virtual alternatives.
Still, we know many people plan to take the risk and see their families in person. Here in Texas, we’ve seen the potential outcome before: In May, a family’s gathering in Dallas resulted in 18 people contracting COVID-19, three of whom were hospitalized. The following month, a family’s Father’s Day celebration at a Houston restaurant infected seven people and killed one. Elsewhere in Texas, a small dinner party hosted by a couple for their parents resulted in all six of them catching the coronavirus and spreading it to other family members, one of whom died.
The pandemic is undoubtedly adding to everyone’s travel anxiety. However, it’s important to note that years of data show holiday travel also poses risks outside of the pandemic.
― What Holiday Has the Most Car Accidents? ―
2020 has been wild, but no matter what year it is, motorists will still face some holiday hazards.
So why is holiday travel dangerous? What is the most dangerous holiday to drive, and where? To find out more about holiday travel risks, a study by ValuePenguin looked at the Fatality Analysis Reporting System’s fatal car accident data over a span of four years. Some of their findings:
Memorial Day Weekend came in first, with an average of 312 fatal accidents per year. Labor Day weekend and 4th of July weekend followed close behind, with 308 and 307 respectively. (The average number of fatal accidents in a normal/non-holiday 3-day span was 250.)
Houston, San Antonio, and Los Angeles were the most dangerous cities to drive in during holidays.
I-10, which stretches through Texas on its way from California to Florida, is the most dangerous road to drive on during the Thanksgiving/Christmas period.
Overall, the southeastern region of the United States was more likely to have accidents.
Additionally, delivery truck drivers are often on tighter deadlines during the holiday season. When they make poor decisions to try to meet these deadlines, such as speeding or driving while fatigued, they can cause serious truck accidents.
― Drunk Driving & the Holidays ―
With all the revelry of a holiday, there’s also an influx of drunk drivers — and drunk driving accidents — around these days. In Texas, holiday periods see more than a 33% increase in drunk driving crashes, drunk driving incapacitating injuries, and drunk driving accident fatalities.
We’re sure you’ve heard of Black Friday, but what about “Blackout Wednesday?” This questionable unofficial holiday is how some people choose to spend the day before Thanksgiving, kicking off their four-day-weekend by grabbing drinks with their hometown pals.
According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s data for one recent year, 41 Americans died in drunk driving accidents between 6PM on “Blackout Wednesday” and 6AM Thanksgiving morning. That’s an average of almost one death every 15 minutes.
Bartenders aren’t the only ones who prepare for this day. Police are on high alert as well. In fact, many police departments across the nation are extra vigilant during all holidays, on the lookout for drivers under the influence. If you drive drunk, you not only risk getting arrested or having your car impounded, you risk the lives of others. Don’t risk it. We encourage you to appoint a designated driver whenever you and your crew leave home.
― Most Dangerous Holidays to Drive in Texas ―
What holiday has the most car accidents? Are certain holidays more dangerous than others for Texas drivers? To take a closer look, our Houston car accident lawyer team analyzed holiday car accident statistics collected by TxDOT from 2015 to 2019. Here’s what we discovered.
Over the five years we studied, the 4th of July period had the most fatal car accidents in Texas. Thanksgiving came in second. Memorial Day ranked third, although people were more likely to drink on this holiday and the preceding weekend.
Drunk driving was a consistent issue: alcohol contributed to over one-third of all fatal holiday car accidents.
― Safety Tips for Avoiding a Holiday Car Accident ―
Wondering how to reduce your risk of a crash after reading all those holiday car accident statistics? Here are our holiday road trip recommendations for staying safe out there.
Get a tune-up. You should get a car inspection before any big road trip, but especially if you’ll be encountering snowy weather. Replace dull wiper blades, change your oil, and check your brakes, tire pressure, battery life, filters, and fluid levels. Make sure you check your lights so you stay visible to other drivers on the road at night!
Make a plan. Before all else, research your destination and make sure you’ll be allowed in. Some states have travel restrictions — like mandatory quarantines — in place. If you are able to go, you still need a game plan. If you end up running late to a holiday gathering, you may be tempted to speed to make it in time for dinner. Plan ahead to avoid this scenario. Use a map app to estimate how many hours the drive will be, add in more time for snacks and leg stretches, then add in even more time for good measure.
Be prepared for emergencies. A good packing checklist will ensure you don’t forget anything. Pack the following for your trip:
face masks for every passenger
flares or reflectors
spare tire and kit (jack, wrench, etc.)
wet wipes and paper towels
snacks and water
power bank or solar-powered phone charger
Keep your tank full. Get gas, even when you think you don’t need it. Gas stations might be few and far between, so take every opportunity to avoid getting stranded. Wear disposable gloves when pumping gas to protect against germs.
Avoid fatigued driving. Do not drive for more than 8 hours straight. Take turns with other licensed passengers if you can.
Drink responsibly/have a designated driver. That spiked eggnog can sneak up on you. If you’ve partied too hard, do the responsible thing and call an Uber or a cab. On the other hand, if you are hosting a gathering involving alcohol, confirm that every guest is 100% sober or has a designated driver when they depart. If not, don’t be afraid to snatch some keys and inflate some air mattresses!
― Happy Holidays from Houston Car Accident Lawyer ―
When it comes to holiday car accidents, alcohol isn’t the only culprit. Drivers may be frazzled by the general hustle and bustle of the holidays, distracted by unruly kids in the car, or sleepy from gorging on too much turkey. You might even get into a fender bender in a crowded department store parking lot!
This season, take solace in the fact we are all working toward the common goal of avoiding a holiday car accident. By staying cautious this year, you can ensure everyone makes it to their family’s table in the years still to come. Do your part. Plan ahead, and never make the decision to get behind the wheel if you’re fatigued or under the influence.
If you or your family have been injured in a holiday car accident, you deserve the best car accident lawyer. Houston car accident lawyers are here for you.
Our experts are available 24/7, 365 days a year, to provide 100% FREE consultations. Call now to get the answers you need, and the compassion you deserve.
The #1 cause of death for American teens is car accidents. This week — October 18th to 24th — is National Teen Driver Safety Week. The United States Congress established this event in 2007 as a way to raise awareness and seek solutions for a tragically persistent problem.
Did you know? Teen drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are four times more likely to be involved in a fatal car accident than adult drivers. 16-year-olds, specifically, have the highest crash rates of any driver demographic. Risks increase with each additional passenger added to the vehicle.
Thousands of teens lose their lives in motor vehicle crashes every year, leaving behind grieving parents. How can you and your child avoid becoming one of these statistics?
Read on below to learn more about the causes of teen car accidents and what can be done to prevent them.
If you or your teen driver has been involved in an accident, we can help you explore options for compensation. No matter what kind of Houston auto accident you and your family are coping with, we’re here for you. We’ve represented victims in numerous kinds of cases, including bicycle accidents, motorcycle crashes, pedestrian accidents, Uber and Lyft accidents, and more.
Over the last few decades, teen car accident fatalities have decreased considerably – from over 9,000 in 1980 to 2,476 in 2018. (However, it should be noted that male teens have remained twice as likely to die in an accident as female teens.)
Here in Texas, 326 teen drivers were involved in fatal crashes last year. 136 became casualties themselves. Additionally, 7% of all drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes in Texas last year were underaged. Some of the drunk drivers were as young as 14.
Neurological development comes into play, too. According to a study conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, teens diagnosed with ADHD are more likely to engage in risky driving behaviors. They are 62% more likely to crash within their first month of driving, and 37% more likely to crash during the first four years after getting their license, compared to their peers without ADHD. Additionally, nearly 37% of teens with ADHD were issued a traffic violation within their first year of driving, compared to 25% of teen drivers without ADHD.
― Biggest Risks for Teen Drivers ―
It may surprise you to learn that many car accidents involving teens are not caused by reckless driving or thrill-seeking attitudes. Instead, they’re the result of simple errors associated with inexperience.
The most dangerous time period? The first 6 to 12 months after a teen receives a provisional license and starts driving on their own. After they’ve racked up their first 1,500 miles of independent driving, a teen driver’s crash risk drops drastically.
When it comes to the causes of serious car wrecks, studies point to four common-yet-critical errors made by newly-licensed teen drivers:
Speeding: In Texas last year, speeding contributed to over 167,604 crashes, or 30% of all reported crashes. Among male drivers ages 15 to 20 involved in fatal crashes in 2017, 31% were speeding at the time of the accident.
Distracted driving: Drivers under the age of 20 make up the largest percentage of distracted drivers. Research shows thattexting while drivingincreases a teen’s risk of crashing by 23 times. Friends can be distracting, too: chances of being in an auto accident also increase with each teen passenger added to the vehicle.
Slow responses or failure to detect a hazard: Underdeveloped “scanning” skills mean teen drivers won’t notice a hazard in the road until it’s too late. Additionally, applying the wrong amount of pressure to the brakes in response to a hazard can result in teen drivers rear-ending someone, or getting rear-ended themselves. They may also overcorrect their mistakes, leading to erratic swerving and accidents.
Drunk driving: Drunk drivingis a serious threat to teens. Teen drivers are less likely than adults to drink and drive, but when they do, their crash risk is substantially higher. Check out the facts: – A 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey revealed 16.5% of American high school students had recently ridden with a driver who had been drinking alcohol. – Among male drivers ages 15 to 20 involved in fatal crashes in 2017, 20% had been drinking. – Over half of all fatal auto accidents involving teens occur on the weekend. This is undoubtedly linked to partying and underaged drinking.
In summary, the teens with the highest risk of car accident involvement are male, newly-licensed, and keen to give their friends a ride.
― Safety Tips for Parents of Teen Drivers ―
We’ve all heard of the Texas “Click It or Ticket” campaign, and you might remember seeing videos or presentations in school warning against the dangers of drunk driving or showing graphic accident scenes.
But you can’t scare your children into safety.
Focusing on positive habits and transparent communication will help you keep your teen and their friends safe. Consider the following tips:
Lead by example.
Be a good role model and eliminate any of your own bad driving habits: never text and drive while your teen is in the car, and never rush to beat that yellow light. Always buckle up and remind them to do the same, even in taxis or ride-share vehicles.
Talk it out.
Build trust with your teen. It’s important for them to know they have a safe space to discuss their driving anxieties. Encourage them to reach out for help and ask you for a ride if they or a friend are ever intoxicated, fatigued, or otherwise impaired. Emphasize the responsibility each and every driver has when it comes to following traffic laws.
Know the GDL laws.
Graduated Driver Licensing laws vary by state. Here in Texas, teens must stay in phase one with their “learner’s permit” for a minimum of six months. Then, once they have completed all portions of driver’s education and are between 16 and 18 years of age, they are eligible for phase two and a “provisional license.” Provisionally-licensed drivers may not have more than one passenger below the age of 21 with them, and they may not drive between the hours of midnight and 5:00AM. They are also restricted from using any wireless device, even if it is hands-free.
Set clear rules and consequences.
Whether your teen is driving a car, truck, or SUV, whether they’ve just earned their license or have had it for a few years, the rules remain the same, and you must enforce them. Write a contract you can sign as a family, if necessary. Know when to take away the keys and restrict privileges, and don’t back down. You could save a life.
Practice, practice, practice.
While it’ll be a few more years until they have to deal with the dreaded commuter traffic in Houston, you can help your teen driver develop smart habits they’ll carry for the rest of their lives. From the highway to the suburbs, offer your teen ample opportunities for supervised driving practice with you. Accompany them in a variety of weather, lighting, and traffic conditions and help them build their confidence. Even if your teen is enrolled in driver’s ed, supplement this with plenty of one-on-one practice time. Remember to remain calm and patient throughout this process – no holding on for dear life or slamming your foot on the imaginary passenger brake!
The Center for Injury Research and Prevention at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has created an interactive resource to help parents and teens stay safe on the road. The TeenDrivingPlan Practice Guide includes information, specific goals, a YouTube video tutorial playlist, and more.
Tip: It helps to break down each skill into individual steps. For example, “S.M.O.G.” when changing lanes: turn on your signal, check your mirrors, look over your shoulder, and go!
Still feeling nervous? Consider installing a driving monitoring app on your teen’s cell phone or vehicle. These apps are able to track a variety of driving habits, including speed and phone usage. Discuss this monitoring with your teen first so they are aware you’re keeping a close watch on them.
If you are purchasing a new vehicle for your teen, check for advanced safety features like blind spot detection and backup cameras.
― Safety Tips for Teen Drivers ―
Getting your driver’s license is an exciting accomplishment, but it can also trigger some anxiety. This major step in your independence comes with a lot of responsibility.
Driving involves muscle memory you will develop over time, but there are some safe driving habits you should always observe, like the following:
Never drive under the influence.
Driving is a complex task that requires your full attention and fine-tuned reflexes, and drugs and alcohol impair that. Not only is it dangerous, but you will face strict penalties and may lose your license if you are caught driving impaired.
Always wear your seat belt, and make sure all your passengers do, too. Wearing a seat belt reduces your risk of injury in the event of a car accident.
Obey speed limits.
Always be aware of the posted speed limit for your area and never exceed it. Remember those physics lessons: the faster you’re going, the harder it will be to stop in case of emergency!
Distracted driving significantly reduces a driver’s ability to react to a roadway hazard. Keep your eyes on the road, keep your hands on the wheel, and keep your mind on the task at hand. Never eat, drink, text, call, or use mobile apps while driving. Consider using your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” feature. If you must use a GPS/map application, use a proper hands-free car mount. If you receive an emergency phone call, pull over to the side of the road.
No rowdy passengers.
While we’re on the topic of distractions, we should mention the majority of teen passenger deaths occur in vehicles driven by another teenager. Conversations with friends can take your mind off of driving and result in a tragic accident.
Don’t blast music or wear headphones.
You need to be able to hear horns and sirens from other vehicles!
The majority of fatigue-related crashes involve drivers younger than 25. We know it’s tough to juggle a schedule of school, sports, jobs, and homework, and research compiled by SleepFoundation.org found almost 70% of high schoolers slept fewer than seven hours per night, well below the recommended amount of 8 to 10 hours. But you should never get behind the wheel when you’re feeling tired — it may cost you your life. Call a parent for help.
The world of car insurance is probably brand new to you, but you should knowTexas is a comparative fault state. All drivers are required to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance. Talk to your parents to ensure you have the appropriate coverage. (Still confused by car insurance? Check out our car insurance FAQ page for more info.)
If you have a provisional driver’s license, be sure you are aware of the restrictions in your state’s graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws.
― Continuing the Conversation ―
When you hear how many teens die from car accidents, it’s natural to feel afraid and anxious.
But we all have the power to make a difference.
This week – and every week – parents should have frank conversations with their teens about driver safety and the choices they must make when it comes to alcohol, passengers, distracted and drowsy driving, speeding, and other rules of the road.
Together, we can help our teens become responsible drivers for life.
Get peace of mind knowing that if danger ever strikes on the road, we’ve got your back. Our dedicated team of attorneys have helped thousands of families recover from wrecks of all kinds.
If you need help or have questions about a recent car accident, reach out now to speak with a dedicated Houston car accident lawyer. Consultations are always free and confidential.
September is National Child Passenger Safety Month! We’re here to do our part and raise awareness about Texas car seat laws
When it comes to your child’s safety in your vehicle, using the appropriate car seat or booster seat is the top priority. In this post, you’ll find a brief overview of different types of car seats, when and how to use them, Texas car seat laws, and important safety tips.
― Seat Belts & Car Seats Through the Years ―
As the decades pass, new research and new safety devices reshape our standards. How your parents transported you may not be the best way to transport your own children. For example, check out these historical tidbits:
The first safety-conscious child car seat was designed in 1962.
By 1968, auto manufacturers like Ford and GM had their own car seats on the market.
Seat belts were not mandatory features for American cars until 1968!
In 1971, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration set requirements for all child car seats to be secured by belts and include a harness, though no crash testing was required.
America’s first seat belt law was passed in 1984.
By 1985, all 50 states had child passenger safety laws in place.
Now, all car seats and booster seats must meet U.S. federal safety standards before they can be sold.
In Texas, At What Age Can Kids Sit in the Front Seat of a Car?
How old a child has to be to sit in the front passenger seat of a car depends on the child’s height and weight.
Below are some common milestones, associated styles of car seats, and their accompanying safety precautions. (Note: these are approximate suggested heights and weights; always check the specifications on your car seat’s label and follow them strictly.)
Rear-Facing Car Seats:
Birth to 2 years old
Under 40 pounds
Under 3 feet tall
Infants and toddlers should be in rear-facing car seats until they reach the weight and height limits specified by the manufacturer of their first car seat. Most children use a rear-facing car seat until two years of age. Conveniently, many of these seats can double as a baby carrier or lock into compatible strollers.
Rear-facing car seats also provide the most protection in the event of a car accident. Why is a rear-facing car seat safer? The answer lies in physics. During a crash involving the front of your vehicle, a child’s head and neck will be jolted back and forth more in a front-facing car seat than a rear-facing car seat. Check out these car seat crash test dummy videos to get a clearer idea.
Front-Facing Car Seats:
Over 2 years old
Under 65 pounds
Once your child has reached the recommended weight and height limit on their first car seat’s instructions, they can move to a front-facing car seat with a harness for the next few years.
Don’t forget to use the tether! Front-facing seats come with tether straps that attach the top of the car seat to an anchor point in your vehicle. (As of September 2000, all new cars and minivans are required to have tether anchors; consult your owner’s manual if you cannot find yours.) Tethers are important because they provide extra protection and stability in the event of a crash.
4 years old – 8 years old
Over 4 feet tall
Over 65 pounds
When your child reaches four feet in height or exceeds 65 pounds, they can graduate to a booster seat. These simple seats exist to provide additional support for your child in the car. Instead of having additional straps or harnesses, they work with the car’s own seat belts. Children in this age and weight range who use a booster seat are 45% less likely to be injured in a crash than children using a seat belt alone.
No Car Seat:
8 years old – 13 years old
Over 4 feet 9 inches tall
Most children will outgrow booster seats between the ages of 8 and 13. At this point, they can sit in the passenger seat without any assistive devices.
It’s important to realize seat belts were designed for adults weighing around 165 pounds. They can cause injury or even death if they are worn improperly by a small child. Before taking this leap, do a “fit test” to determine whether your child is ready.
To pass the seat belt fit test:
Your child’s knees should bend at the edge of the seat while their back and bottom are flat against the seat and seatback.
Their feet should touch the floor.
The lower part of the seat belt fits snugly across their lap.
The upper part of the seat belt fits across their shoulder and chest and does not irritate their face or neck.
If your child does not meet all of these conditions, continue using a booster seat until they’ve grown.
For extra protection, all children should ride in the back seat until age 13. This is because they could be injured if the front airbags are deployed. If a child must ride in the front seat, the seat should be moved back as far as possible.
As your child grows, be aware of when they hit these milestones and when to change their car seats. Many manufacturers now make all-in-one car seats that can be converted as your child grows, saving you money!
― Car Seat Calculator ―
Still confused? Use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s handy car seat finder to find the perfect seat for your child. Not only will it tell you the proper style, it’ll give you tons of specific brand names and models!
― More Texas Car Seat Laws ―
In Texas, seat belts are legally required for all passengers, and for good reason: wearing a seat belt improves survival rates for front-seat passengers in car accidents by 50%. Additionally, car seats reduce an infant’s risk of fatal injury by 71% and a toddler’s risk by 54%.
Texas Car Seat laws state children aged 8 to 17 – or of a height of at least 57 inches – must be wearing a seat belt if their seat has one. Children under the age of 8 – or shorter than 57 inches – must be secured in a child passenger safety seat system in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Always make sure car seats are properly installed and adjusted to fit your child, with no loose pieces or straps that may pose a hazard.
Violating the Child Passenger Safety Seat Systems section of the Texas Occupant Restraint laws can result in fines of up to $250 or even a child endangerment charge, which is a felony under Texas law.
― Car Seat Safety Tips for Parents ―
1. Register your car seat.
It’s important to register your child’s car seat with the manufacturer. Every new car seat purchase includes a postage-paid registration card you can mail in, or you can register your car seat online. This step will allow you to get help repairing or replacing your car seat. It can also alert you to any safety recalls that may be issued. On that note…
Be extra vigilant about this one if you are using a secondhand car seat. Additionally, did you know car seats have expiration dates? Manufacturers are aware of the ever-changing safety regulations, and they know car seat requirements may change as decades go by. That’s why they may include an expiration date of 6 to 8 years after the product is placed on the market. This date will be on a label on your car seat, or molded into part of the plastic.
3. Ensure proper car seat installation.
Unfortunately, more than half of all car seats are installed improperly. Check out Texas car seat laws for proper installation guide. Check their websites or YouTube for step by step installation tutorials, or have a professional do it for you. You can search for a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician here. Tip: Most cars made after 2002 have a LATCH system, which stands for “Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children.” This feature helps parents install their car seat and provides more security than a simple seat belt would. Also, if a buckle, strap, or other piece breaks, don’t wait. Replace the car seat immediately.
4. Always put the car seat in the back seat.
While you may find it harder to keep an eye on your child, it’s a much safer choice. All children should ride in the back seat until they reach the age of 13.
5. Stay snug and strapped in.
Try the “pinch test” to determine if your child’s car seat harness is snug enough. Buckle and tighten the harness as you normally would, with the chest clip at armpit level. Then, pinch the harness strap at your child’s shoulder. If you are unable to pinch and lift any extra webbing, you’re good to go! The straps should not be tight enough to cause discomfort or leave marks on your child. Also look out for bulky clothing – like coats – that may cause the harness to fit improperly.
6. No accessories.
Although there are plenty of clip-on car seat toys out there available for purchase, they may pose a threat to your child or strike them during a car wreck. “Toy tethers” are cords that are sometimes attached to car seats to keep a child’s favorite plaything within reach, but even if the toy is a soft stuffed animal, the tether can be a strangulation hazard.
7. Avoid the hot seat!
Always check the temperature of the car seat before strapping your child in. Make sure there are no exposed metal pieces that may burn them. Texas heat can be brutal, so you may need to let your car “cool down” a bit before putting your child in it.
8. Be cautious when carpooling.
If your child ever carpools or will be riding in a friend or relative’s vehicle, speak with the driver beforehand to ensure proper car seat safety is being practiced.
9. Buckle up!
Good habits start young! Encourage your child to buckle their own car seat harness or seat belt as soon as they’re safely able to, and set a good example by always wearing yours.
― Car Seats in Car Accidents ―
If a car seat is involved in a car crash, no matter how minor, dispose of it ASAP. Even if it looks “fine,” there could be damage to its structure and it could be ineffective in subsequent crashes.
If you or your child have experienced a car accident, it’s bound to be the most frightening moment of both of your lives. We know you’re feeling helpless and distraught, but we believe you and your child deserve to make a full recovery, both physically and mentally.
In fact, we’ve made it our professional mission to help you bounce back.
We can connect you to the resources you need, and fight for the compensation you deserve. Reach out now or call 713.804.7675 to learn more.