Texas Car Seat Laws & Safety Tips for Parents

Texas Car Seat Laws & Safety Tips for Parents

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.

car seat saftey inforgraphic

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.

Specifically, Texas law requires children under the age of 8 or under the height of 4’ 9” to be secured in appropriate safety seats.

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.

Mother Securing Son Into Rear Child Seat Before Car ride

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.

Booster Seats:

  • 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.

girl listening music on headphone from digital tablet in car

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.

Two African American Girls riding in a car playing on devices

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…

2.  Regularly check car seat product recalls and expiration dates. 

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.

Stay safe this September – and always!

Texas Road Trip Hidden Gems

Texas Road Trip Hidden Gems

Going your own way in the Lone Star State.

Summer is here, and we’re all revved up for a Texas road trip!

If you and your family want to get out and see some wide open spaces, keep in the mind the best Texas road trip routes might not be the same anymore. Tons of popular destinations like Big Bend National Park and Hamilton Pool Preserve are closed to the public due to COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hit the road to enjoy some fresh air, stunning sights, and quirky finds here in the Lone Star State.

Texas is so much more than bluebonnets and barbecue. Below are some unique photo ops and stops we’d make on the road less traveled in our beloved state. Read on and see what sparks your interest – and your thirst for adventure! Click the destination names for more info, and use our interactive map to take a closer look and plan your Texas road trip route.

Take a road trip to High Island Rookery in TexasHigh Island Rookery
2205 Old Mexico Road, High Island, TX 77623

With free admission and gorgeous views, the Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary on High Island is an unparalleled bird watching destination. Bring a good camera along as you explore nearly 200 acres and see waterbirds like the gorgeous roseate spoonbill. Summertime means the egrets, herons, and spoonbills are building nests and raising their young. The best time to visit? Around sunset, when the birds fly in to settle down for the night. Bring cash; a day pass is $8 per person. Check out a guide to the birds here!

 

Royse City Future House
9573 State Highway 276 W Royse City, Texas, 75189

Tiny homes may be trendy now, but this one was truly ahead of its time. Architect Matti Suuronen, hailing from Finland, produced less than 100 of these sci-fi inspired domiciles in the 1960s. The modular design and fiberglass-and-plastic fabrication meant they could be erected wherever, whenever. Even though this one is in a state of disrepair – with a barren graffiti-coated interior – it’s still an architectural marvel worth checking out on your way through Texas.

 

Alien Gravesite
507 Cemetery Rd Aurora, Texas, 76078

When it comes to Martian conspiracies, there’s more than just Roswell. Aurora was once abuzz with UFO rumors, including a spaceship crash in 1897. Apparently, the body of the alien pilot was recovered and buried beneath a tree in this cemetery. The headstone was stolen, but a historical marker in the cemetery still mentions the little guy. UFO theorists have even asked for the site to be exhumed, but have had no luck.

 

The Leaning Tower of Texas
I-40, Route 66 Groom, Texas, 79039

Our own slice of Pisa! This water tower was purchased, installed, and modified by Ralph Britten to drive traffic to his nearby truck stop and restaurant. Though they’ve since been lost in a fire, the tower still stands as one of the most photographed landmarks in the area. No Texas road trip would be complete without it!

 

Cadillac RanchStop in Amarillo to see Cadillac Ranch on your Texas road trip
I-40 Amarillo, Texas, 79124

Built in 1974 by The Ant Farm art collective and Stanley Marsh (the eccentric millionaire, not the South Park character), this site sports ten Cadillacs wedged into the dirt. Make your mark – visitors are encouraged to add to the graffiti all over the cars! Cadillac Ranch also inspired copycat installations in Texas such as the VW Slug Bug Ranch in Conway and Combine City in Amarillo, plus Carhenge all the way in Nebraska!

 

Mini Prada
Valentine, TX

This aesthetic anachronism was built in 2005 by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, a pair of artists from Berlin. Miuccia Prada gave them her blessing and even helped select the merchandise. To discourage thieves, the windows are heavily reinforced, the handbags have no bottom panels, and none of the shoes come in pairs. Take Route 90 west out of Valentine to find this little Texas road trip gem. While you’re in the area, check out the eerie Marfa Lights viewing station off Highway 67.
Check out the Instagram hashtag: #pradamarfa

 

Tiny Target
US-90, Alpine, TX

In Brewster County, between the towns of Marathon and Alpine in West Texas, sits the tiniest Target storefront you’ll ever see. The structure appeared mysteriously in 2016, and although it is clearly inspired by the Marfa Prada, no one has stepped up to take credit for it.
Check out the Instagram hashtag: #targetmarathon

 

World’s Largest Spur
902 US-281 Lampasas, Texas, 76550

They say everything’s bigger in Texas… and it doesn’t get much more Texan than this! Created in 2016, this 35-foot, 5-ton art piece is made of steel, iron, and copper. It is verified by The Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Largest Spur. Visit at night to see the neon lights at the top!

 

Japanese Tea GardenSan Antonio Japanese Garden
400 N. St. Marys, Suite 101 San Antonio, Texas 78205

Converted from an abandoned limestone rock quarry, the San Antonio Japanese Tea Garden is perhaps the most picturesque stop on our list. Parks Commissioner Ray Lambert consulted Japanese-American artist Eizo Jingu for the design of the garden in the early 1900s. Open daily with free admission, the gorgeous south-central Texas road trip attraction boasts exotic plants, koi fish, lily ponds, and even a waterfall. The pavilion is a popular venue for weddings, and you can grab a snack at the Jingu House Cafe next door. 

 

McKinney Falls
5808 McKinney Falls Parkway Austin, TX 78744

Currently, McKinney Falls State Park is currently open for day visits of groups of fewer than 10 people. Check out the beautiful sights of Onion Creek along the hiking and biking trails. This is the perfect place to flex your photography skills! Kids can download a free Junior Ranger Activity Journal to follow along with, courtesy of Texas Parks & Wildlife.

 

Ms. Pearl the Squirrel Statue
137 Berdoll Loop Cedar Creek, Texas, 78612

Located just outside of Austin in Cedar Creek sits the world’s tallest squirrel statue, if that’s the sort of thing you’re into. The Berdoll Pecan Candy & Gift Company’s mascot is a towering 14-foot-tall squirrel, and boy is she happy to see you. Created in 2011 and christened “Ms. Pearl,” she makes for a great photo op and gives the Buc-ee’s beaver statues a run for their money. While you’re there, check out the Berdoll pecan orchard and gift shop.