Texas seat belt laws outline proper usage for both adults and children riding in cars. Texas car seat laws are in place to help protect children when they’re riding in a vehicle. Texas strictly enforces laws, and it’s essential for adults living in Texas or traveling in Texas to know what those laws are and ensure they comply.
If you live in the state and you’re issued a citation for a child safety seat violation, points are deducted from your license, along with potential fines and other penalties.
General Texas Seat Belt Laws
Texas law requires any child under the age of 8 years old to ride in a safety or booster seat unless they’re over 4′ 9″ tall. There are a few different safety and booster seats, each designed for a specific age group or weight.
It’s essential to understand which type of seat your child needs and ensure the seat is installed in the vehicle correctly to avoid other potential injuries from the seat or impact with the car. Avoid allowing the seat to come loose, or the child could be ejected by force from not being adequately secured in place. The fine for not complying with child safety seat laws is a $25 fine.
Proper Installation of Safety and Booster Seats
Follow the guidelines on an official Texas.gov or Texas Department of Transportation website for specific Texas car seat laws and recommended installation in usage. The following information is an essential guide to help you understand which seat options are on the market, along with the proper age and weight range for a child.
Guidelines for Infant Rear-Facing Seats
Rear-facing seats are designed for infants and babies from birth up to 35 pounds. They offer the best protection for infants without control over their neck muscles and usually come with inserts to hold their heads gently but firmly in place in a reclined position.
Place the rear-facing car seat in the center of the back seat facing the rear window. To install the car seat correctly, you can either use the car seat’s anchor hook attachments or the seatbelt pathway. If you use the anchor hooks, don’t use the seat belt. Only use one method of restraint.
The anchors will fit around the anchor loops or metal fittings protruding from the rear seat near the seat belt anchors. You may need to feel in between the seats or free them to connect them properly. Make sure the anchors and the metal loops are firmly connected and locked in place.
Securing Your Child
Place the infant or baby in the car seat with their head inserted into the head restraint and place their arm through the seat straps. The straps should be on either side of the neck and then close the harness clip until it clicks and slide it up to armpit height. Connect the harness belt lock into the belt anchor between the infant’s legs at the car seat base.
Pull the safety seat straps at the base of the seat to secure the infant or baby. The seat straps should be comfortable but without any slack. Comfortably insert two fingers between the straps and the child to ensure a good fit. Pulling the straps too tight can cause injury, so be sure to check before you’re finished.
Guidelines for Front-Facing Safety Seats
Once your child has reached 35 pounds or one year of age, you can use the front-facing seat. Ideally, you should still place the seat in the back seat center, but that may not always be possible. These seats are somewhat different from rear-facing seats and don’t have a head prop, and they don’t recline in the same manner as the rear-facing safety seat for infants and babies.
Installation for the front-facing seat is similar to the rear-facing seat because the anchors attach the same way and the seat belt method uses the seat belt path marked on the safety seat. Pull the straps or seatbelt tight to ensure the seat secures in place without slack.
Securing Your Child
Make sure your child’s shoulders fit comfortably in the seat harness. If the child needs more room, the shoulder height can be adjusted. See the owner’s manual for specific instructions. Ensure the harness is on either side of the neck and slide the harness clip up to armpit height and ensure it is connected. Lock the harness into the anchor at the bottom of the car seat.
Guidelines for Convertible Safety Seats
Convertible safety seats work in the same way as the front and rear-facing seats. They’re used a couple of ways, and the base is attached to the seatbelt or the anchors. You can click the seat into the base or release it with a lever.
They also offer additional flexibility as the child grows, which is ideal. Always ensure the base is in the correct position and firmly secured into place. When you attach the seat, make sure it clicks into place and pulls to ensure it is connected. The instructions for securing your child are the same as above.
Guidelines for Booster Seats
The booster seat laws Texas has in place state that your child must be secured in a booster seat if they are under the age of eight years or under 4′ 9″. Children are usually ready for a booster seat at age four until around age eight. Booster seat requirements Texas also states the child needs both a shoulder and belt harness.
The booster seat is easy to install and has a simple mechanism. Ensure the shoulder strap goes through the seat belt guide by the child’s head and crosses the body. The lap restraint should be snug and across their legs and hip white the seat belt locking into the anchor securely. Pull the slack out of the seatbelt to secure the child.
Before children graduate to stage 4, seatbelts, make sure they are ready by checking the following:
- Does the child weigh over 65 pounds?
- Does the child fit appropriately in the seatbelt without a booster with the straps fitting over the shoulder securely?
- Can the child see over the dashboard?
- Is the child over eight years of age?
Don’t rush the process of graduating to a regular adult seat belt. It’s better to be cautious and allow them to progress naturally to protect them from potential injury.
Q & A
Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions regarding texas car seat laws.
No, children using a rear-facing seat are at risk for injury or death caused by the airbags in the front seat. Always use a rear-facing car seat in the back seat and preferably in the middle.
Children under 35 pounds should ride in either a rear-facing or a front-facing seat rather than a booster seat.
If a medical emergency or a seat isn’t available during an emergency, the authorities will usually not cite the driver for not using a seat. A child’s immediate well-being comes first before seat belt safety. However, consider if not being in a safety belt could further endanger the child.