Texas has child safety seat and seat belt requirements that generally apply to all children younger than 17 years old. The type of restraint required varies depending on the age and height of the child and the guidelines of the child seat and vehicle manufacturers.
Child safety seat requirements. Under Texas law, children who are younger than eight years old and no taller than four feet nine inches generally must be secured in a child safety seat or booster seat that meets federal standards. (Federal law sets the safety requirements for all types of child safety seats.) The law also requires that the seat or restraint system be used in a manner that's consistent with the instructions of the manufacturer.
Type of car seat. Generally, there are three types of child safety seats: rear-facing, forward-facing, and boosters. Texas law doesn't specify which type of car seats must be used for child vehicle passengers. Instead, the law requires parents to use safety seats in a manner consistent with the instructions of the safety seat manufacturer. So, in deciding which type of restraint system to use, parents should use manufacturer instructions as the guide.
Texas law generally allows children who are at least eight years old or taller than four feet nine inches to ride in a vehicle with a normal seat belt.
Texas law doesn't explicitly restrict children from being seated in the front seat area of the vehicle. However, the law does require parents to use restraint systems in a manner that's consistent with the manufacturer's instructions. So, in deciding where in the vehicle to seat a child, parents should refer to the seat manufacturer's instructions.
Vehicle exceptions. Child safety seat rules generally apply only to passenger vehicles designed to transport 15 or fewer people. So vehicles like buses are generally exempt from the rules. There's also an exception for many vehicles-for-hire.
Medical exemptions. For medical reasons, a parent can get an exception from the normal seat belt requirements by getting a written statement from a physician.
A child safety seat violation is a misdemeanor and carries a fine of $25 to $250. However, it's possible to get a child safety seat ticket dismissed by providing proof to the court of obtaining an appropriate seat subsequent to the violation.
Seat belt violations involving a child who is younger than 17 years old are misdemeanors and carry a fine of $100 to $200.
For more information about child safety seats, you can go to the Texas Department of Transportation website. Also, recalls are occasionally issued for child safety seats. To find out about recalls, you can register with the NHTSA to receive recall information about the seat you have or search for recalls that have already been issued.