There are many who do not know the exact state laws when it comes to car seats nor the importance of following these specific guidelines for their children. Others may not believe that their child needs a car seat after a certain age. The following information is presented with the hopes of promoting safety for children and educating parents on the importance of safety seats.
What is a Child Safety Seat?
“Child safety seat” is more commonly known as a car seat. There are several different types of car seats which include infant seats, convertible seats, and booster seats. Each of these is designed for a specific age, height, and weight restrictions, and each must be installed in a particular way. The law in Texas requires all children up to their 8th birthday, regardless of their weight, to ride in a child safety seat (car seat or booster seat). Children over 4’9” in height no longer need a safety seat regardless of age. Failure to follow these rules can result in fines up to $250.
What Type of Seat does my Child Need?
Rear-Facing Child Safety Seat
Younger children have tiny, flexible bodies with heavy heads that they cannot yet support. Facing the back of a car, truck, or van in a rear-facing car seat has been found to be safer than facing forward. This is because the child safety seat supports the child's head and neck and evenly spreads energy across the entire back and body in case of an accident.
By law, all children must remain rear facing until they are at least 1 year of age and 35 pounds. Studies have found, however, that children between the ages of one and two are five times less likely to be hurt in a car accident when their car seat is rear-facing versus to forward facing.
It is recommended that children should stay rear-facing as long as they are within the weight or height limit of their rear-facing car seat.
Forward-Facing Child Safety Seat
As children grow, they are still in need extra of protection while in the car. The seatbelt on a forward-facing car safety seat are adjustable and are designed to spread the energy created in a car accident across the strongest areas of their body which include their shoulders, chest, and hips
Children should ride in a forward-facing child safety seat with a harness between the ages of one to four years or until they reach the height or weight limits of the seat – generally up to 40 pounds, however there are models designed to support 60 or more pounds.
Many parents incorrectly believe that once their child is starting kindergarten that they no longer require a car seat. Despite their age, older children still are not fully protected by seat belts as they do not fit properly. A seatbelt needs to cover the strong and ‘bony’ parts of a child (i.e. not their stomach or neck), and it should never be placed behind their back or under their arm, even if they think it is more comfortable
A booster seat also raises a child higher in the car, allowing the lap and shoulder belts to fit correctly. This proper positioning helps prevent injuries and makes also makes the child comfortable.
Children should ride in a booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits correctly. Booster seats must be used with both lap and shoulder belts; they should never be used with just a lap belt alone.
Many parents struggle when it comes to using a booster seat. Are they too big for one, or too small? Can’t they just ride in the car without one? How do you know if the adult seat belt fits your child properly? If your child is not using a booster seat, try this quick five-step test:
- Does the child sit all the way back against the vehicle seat?
- Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the vehicle seat?
- Is the lap belt below the tummy, touching the thighs?
- Is the shoulder belt centered on the shoulder and chest?
- Can the child stay seated like this for the entire trip?
If you answered "no" to any of these questions, your child needs a booster seat to ride more safely in the car.
Children who have outgrown child safety seats and booster seats should use the lap and shoulder belts in cars, trucks, and vans.
To see if a belt fits correctly, have the child sit all the way back against the vehicle’s seat and then buckle their belt. Their knees should bend naturally over the seat edge, the lap belt should stay snug across the upper thighs or hip bones, and the shoulder belt should stay against the chest and shoulder. If these requirements are not met, then your child needs to continue riding in a booster seat.
Which Child Safety Seat is the Best?
We do not recommend or condemn any specific brand or model of child safety seat sold in the United States, unless it has been recalled. The best child safety seat is different for every parent. Pick one that best fits your child, your vehicle - but the most important thing for any car safety seat you choose is to make sure that your install it properly and use it consistently and correctly.
Make sure that the car seat you purchase has no recalls (more information on recalls found below). It should also feature labels indicating that it meets all required federal standards. Never use a child safety seat that has been altered, is missing parts, or has been involved in a moderate to severe crash. This is especially important if you are buying a used car seat.
What is the Law in Texas?
Each state has their own guidelines for car seat requirements. The following information is taken online from the Texas DMV:
“You must secure any child under 8 years old in a federally approved child car seat while operating the vehicle, unless the child is more than 4'9" tall.
Use the following guidelines when buying a car seat for your child:
Birth – 1 year old and up to 35 pounds:
- Use a rear-facing seat suitable for your child’s height and weight.
- Make sure you check the height and weight capacity of your car seat and follow the installation and operating instructions carefully.
1 year old–4 years old and 20 pounds–40 pounds:
- Use a forward-facing seat for as long as is recommended by the manufacturer.
4 years old–8 years old and over 40 pounds:
- Use a booster seat
Failure to secure your child in an appropriate child car seat in Texas can result in a fine of up to $25 for the first offense and up to $250 for subsequent offenses.”
Why Should I Properly Restrain My Child?
Crashes are violent and often tragic events. When a vehicle suddenly stops in a crash, everyone and everything inside continues to move. Child safety seats and seat belts help manage that moving energy so our bodies don't need to.
Car accidents are still the leading cause of unintentional deaths and severe injuries in the United States and unintentional injuries are the leading cause of childhood deaths. Many of these deaths and injuries are predictable, and preventable.
For every injury-related death, there are 45 children hospitalized, and many more who require medical care. Child safety seats are 71% effective when it comes to reducing deaths for infants in vehicles, 54% effective in reducing deaths for children between the ages of one to four, and they reduce the need for hospital stays by 69%.
It is tough for anyone to argue the importance of child safety seats when it comes to statistics such as these.
Source: National Highway Transportation Safety Administration National Standardized Child Passenger Safety Training Program Curriculum
What are Ease-of-Use Ratings?
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has developed a set of ratings for child safety seats based on their ease-of-use. Each seat is given an Ease-of-Use Rating at the A, B, or C level. Letter grades are also given in five categories:
- Pre-assembled vs. assembly required
- Clarity of labeling on child safety seat
- Clarity of written instruction manual
- Ease of securing child in safety seat
- Ease of installing child safety seat in vehicle
For all ratings, visit this website.
How Can I Know if My Child's Safety Seat has Been Recalled?
Taking the time the fill out and mail in the registration card (or do it online if possible) that comes with your car seat is more important than you might think. Doing so allows the manufacturer of the car seat to notify you of any possible recalls associated with your particular seat.
If you did not register your seat, or have moved, you can still visit the manufacturer’s web site and easily look up any possible recall information. Simply look for a "Product Registration" or "Recall" page on their site, then enter the seat’s model number and date of manufacture. This information is located on the hard plastic portion of the seat, usually on a sticker on the back or bottom of the seat.
There are also several comprehensive recall lists online put together by reputable children’s advocacy organizations. You will still need the model number and date of manufacture in order to look up recall information for your child’s safety seat. The following sites provide recall information:
Placing your infant or toddler in a car seat is a no-brainer, but as the child gets older, many parents stop using a child safety seat before the child is ready. Yes, they might argue and fuss about sitting in a booster seat, but your job is to protect your child no matter what. Make yourself aware of the rules and requirements for your state, and follow them.
If you are unsure how to properly install your child’s car safety seat, many fire stations and local police departments are more than happy to assist you. You can drive up with your car seat and they can install it and teach you the proper way to secure your child for travel.
As always, we are here to help you as well. Should you have any questions, please give us a call at 877-IGOTHIT. We are here to serve our community and we desire that everyone on the road is safe.