Texas’s Child Safety Seat and Seatbelt Laws

Texas’s car seat laws and the penalties of a violation.

Texas requires all vehicle passengers under the age of eight to use a proper child safety seat. The child’s weight, height, and age will determine what constitutes a proper seat. This article outlines when a safety seat is required and the penalties for a violation.

Texas's Child Seat and Seatbelt Requirements

Texas’s child restraint laws apply to all passenger vehicles designed to carry less than 15 passengers. This requirement excludes for-hire vehicles, school buses, and emergency response vehicles. There are also exemptions for children riding on a hayride or in a farm field.

Less than eight. All children under eight years old must be properly secured in a child passenger safety system. This requirement can sometimes be met with a harness or booster seat depending on the seat manufacturer’s instructions. Here are some of the general age ranges for different car seats.

Birth

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13+

Rear-facing

Forward-facing

Booster

Belt

Younger than 17. Passengers at least eight but less than 17 years old must wear a proper safety belt.

Penalties. Failure to properly secure a child younger than eight years old is a misdemeanor and will result in a $25 to $250 fine for the driver. The fine is $100 to $200 if the child was eight to 17 years old.

Defenses. Violators can avoid a child restraint conviction by obtaining and installing a proper child seat. However, this option is available only for drivers with no prior child restraint violations. A judge also has the option of deferring the sentence (meaning the driver won’t have to pay the fine) and requiring the driver to take a four-hour driving safety course.

Recommendations

While not passed into law, the Texas Department of Public Safety has issued a four-phase child passenger safety recommendation.

  • Rear-facing restraints. Children younger than one year old should be in a rear-facing seat. Children should remain rear-facing until they exceed the height or weight limits of the seat.
  • Forward-facing restraints. Children who can no longer be in a rear-facing seat should use a forward-facing seat until the size limits of that seat are exceeded.
  • Booster seats. A booster seat should be used once children outgrow their car seats and are mature enough to sit properly. Children should remain in booster seats until they can safely use an adult seatbelt.
  • Adult belts. An adult belt may be used once the lap belt crosses the thighs and hips, the child’s knees bend over the edge of the seat, and the shoulder strap crosses the chest—not neck—of the child.

More Information and Resources

For more information about child restraint systems, check the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control. It’s also a good idea to register your car seat to be notified regarding recalls.

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