There is no doubt. Car seats, seat belts, and other safety mechanisms save lives.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 325 children under the age of five are saved each year by proper car seat usage. Additionally, Consumer Reports research shows that children up to 23 months old are about 75 percent less likely to die or sustain serious injury in a rear-facing car seat than a forward-facing one. According to the publication, this is because a rear-facing seat spreads the crash force more evenly across the back of the car seat and the child’s body; it also limits movement of the head, reducing the potential for some serious injuries.
Though using these mechanisms is an important part of keeping your family safe, you may be surprised to find out that car seat laws vary by state and are not a part of federal laws. Each state has its own rules of the road, including laws about seat belt and car seat usage. Most states require seat belts, and all fifty require car seats for children, but they can vary in age and weight requirements.
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Texas Law About Rear-Facing Car Seats
The Texas Department of Transportation provides an overview of car seat and seat belt laws, which must be followed by anyone traveling on Texas roads. In Texas, all children must be secured in the appropriate car seat or booster seat. Texas car seat laws require drivers to use only car seats that meet the federal standards for crash-tested restraint systems as set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
All infants and toddlers in Texas should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are two years old, or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their safety seat’s manufacturer. After that, they should use a forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat’s manufacturer. Children whose weight or height exceeds the limit for a forward-facing car seat should switch to a belt-positioning booster seat, and they should remain in a booster seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly, typically when they reach 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between eight and twelve years of age.
The Texas Department of Public Safety urges parents to follow the requirements of the manufacturer of their child’s safety seats before deciding to turn their child from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing one. Upon reaching the upper weight or height limit of their infant seat, the next seat for a child should be a convertible safety seat that is installed rear-facing. This seat will have a deeper seat area to allow children to ride rear-facing for a longer period of time.
Complying with the Law
To comply with the Texas rear-facing car seat laws, you’ll need to make sure your rear-facing car seat is installed properly. A study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that an estimated 44 percent of rear-facing car seats are installed incorrectly.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation, there are five common mistakes people make when installing car seats, causing the seats to be installed incorrectly:
- Putting the harness straps through incorrect slots
- Positioning the chest clip incorrectly
- Leaving the harness too loose
- Using the wrong seat belt path
- Installing the safety seat too loosely
Installing the correct car seat appropriately isn’t just a suggestion: it is the law. Non-compliance with the law can mean stiff penalties of up to $250 for each violation.
More importantly, an improperly installed rear-facing car seat can mean all the difference between your child suffering serious injuries in an accident. Accidents are common, and a child is involved in a car crash every 33 seconds. Fortunately, rear-facing car seats are up to five times more effective than forward-facing car seats in protecting and preventing injury for children up to 23 months. In fact, they have been shown to reduce the risk of fatal injury by 71 percent for infants under 1 year old and 54 percent for toddlers ages 1 to 4.
To be sure your child’s seat is installed correctly, you can turn to the experts for help; the Texas DoT offers free car seat checks at 25 different locations across the state.
FVF Can Help
FVF has handled hundreds of traffic accidents, of all types and magnitudes. We have helped resolve minor traffic accidents involving thousands of dollars, catastrophic traffic accidents involving millions of dollars, and everything in between. Regardless of how your traffic accident occurred, our team is on standby to help ensure you understand your rights and options so you can make educated decisions when they count. Contact us today to learn more.