Background information on child vehicle safety in Texas

The safety of children in motor vehicles has a lot to do with their child seats. Texas urges that drivers follow certain guidelines.

Texas recognizes the many safety benefits that car seats confer onto children. For instance, the Texas Department of Transportation offers free car seat safety assessments throughout the state. These inspections are especially important given the sobering fact that out of every four safety seats for children, three are used incorrectly.

General guidelines

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, Texas law says that a child restraint is mandatory if a child is shorter than 57 inches or is younger than 8 years. Fines for violating this law and the others like it start at $25. Furthermore, child passengers on school buses bought after September 2010 must use seat belts.

Safety recommendations

Texas states that children 12 and younger should ride in the back seat whenever feasible, and only when they have become too big for booster seats should they stop using the boosters. An adult seat belt should cross the center of the child's shoulder and the middle of his or her chest. The upper portion of the thighs and the child's hips should accommodate the lower portion of the belt.

Children who are emotionally mature enough and who weigh 40 pounds or more can ride in a booster seat after four years of age. A lap and shoulder belt is required in this scenario.

From the ages of two to four, many children use a safety seat that faces forward. Mature children can move on to booster seats after reaching the age of four or a weight of 40 pounds. However, the top safety practices call for them to stay in this forward-facing seat until 80 pounds.

As for babies, following the proper installation instructions for safety seats is important. After all, many are installed improperly and can lead to injuries in car crashes such as traumatic brain injury. Caregivers should keep very young children in rear-facing seats until weight and/or height limits render it unrealistic for children to remain in the seat.

Open beds of trucks

Children under 18 years old cannot legally ride in open truck beds. A few exceptions do apply. For many families, the most important is if this vehicle is the only one the family has or uses. Other exceptions include if the vehicle is moving farmworkers from one location to another, or if the situation constitutes an emergency. Drivers in such cases should proceed even more cautiously than usual due to the threats posed by distracted drivers, drunk drivers and others.

Adults and children who become injured in Texas motor vehicle accidents may be entitled to compensation. Speaking with an attorney is one way to start the process.