A mom in North Texas lived through a nightmare accident that claimed the life of her fiancé and severely injured her and her two children under the age of six. Both children were badly injured, but thanks to a community program that she had recently attended, they were both properly restrained and survived the crash. Before seeking guidance from the program, she had no idea her six-year-old still needed a booster seat. Without the booster, it is unlikely her daughter would have survived the crash.

The State of Texas has created laws designed to protect children as passengers in vehicles. All fifty states have implemented laws regarding the restraint of children in a moving vehicle, but Texas has some of the strictest.

Texas Laws on Use of Car and Booster Seats

All drivers and passengers must use a seatbelt restraint when riding in a vehicle. For children under the age of eight or taller than 4’9” must be secured with the proper car seat or booster seat anytime the vehicle is in motion. Texas Transportation Code §545.412 states that the adult operating the vehicle in which children are not adequately restrained can be charged with a misdemeanor and fined no less than $25.00 and no more than $250.00 for the violation.

Proper Restraint by Age

Infants, from birth to two years, should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are two years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer of the car seat. The information about maximum height and weight can be found on the car seat’s label.

  • The chest clip should be placed even with the child’s armpits
  • The harness straps should fit snugly against the baby’s body
  • When using a rear-facing seat, use the harness slot located at or below the child’s shoulder

Children over the age of two, or who have exceeded the maximum height and weight restrictions set by the seat’s manufacturer, can use a forward-facing seat.

  • The child should be secured in the forward-facing seat using the same guidelines recommended above, except
  • You should use the lower anchors or the seatbelt, but not both, to secure the car seat. Attach the tether strap to the corresponding anchor provided your vehicle is equipped with one

Children who are four to eight years old can be restrained in a booster seat. Check the labels for information about height and weight to make sure you are using the booster seat sized for your child.

  • Make sure the lap belt fits across your child’s hips and thighs, not the stomach
  • The shoulder belt must rest against the chest, not the child’s neck.

Children over the age of eight, whose height and weight meet minimum requirements for seatbelts, can use the seatbelts in the car without the aid of a booster seat. They should ride in the backseat until they reach thirteen years of age.

Child Safety Seat Education and Disbursement

Texas has established a program to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities to children who are unrestrained because of low-income status that makes proper child restraint cost-prohibitive. The program is called Safe Riders, and is available in most, but not all, Texas Counties.

Eligibility Requirements to Receive a Seat

  • The family must prove their low-income status
  •  A primary caregiver must attend a one hour instructional class about child passenger safety
  • A household member must have a vehicle

Note, children can still be injured, even when properly restrained in a vehicle

Children Can Suffer Serious Injuries in Texas Car Accidents

The leading cause of death in children under the age of 12 is motor vehicle accidents, according to the CDC. Children in that age group have less developed neck muscles which can lead to whiplash or a brain injury, softer bones, and overall more fragile bodies.

In accidents that result in child fatalities, 35% of the children are unrestrained at the time of the accident. Though personal restraints are essential for all occupants of a vehicle, children cannot endure the violent force of a car accident in the same way adults can.

Parents who have a child injured in a motor vehicle accident deal with a tremendous amount of heartache, worry, stress, and guilt, even if they were not responsible for the accident. Feelings of guilt when a child is injured seem to be a default setting for most parents. 

There can also be a substantial financial burden with medical bills, transportation to and from medical care, and the potential loss of income as a parent misses work to care for their child.

As a parent, it is difficult to see our children hurt or in pain. If your child sustained an injury in a vehicle accident that was not your fault, consult with a compassionate and knowledgeable personal injury attorney to understand your rights under Texas law.