As technology has developed, modern vehicles have become a lot safer than they used to be. Crumple zones, front and side-curtain airbags, and other safety features have done a lot to make accidents more survivable, and so have seat belts. However, many of these features only function or work best for passengers that are adult-sized. For children, the number one safety feature is still a child car seat.
Child Seat Laws in Texas
Child seats are such an important safety feature that the state of Texas has mandated their use. Drivers must secure their children up to the age of eight in an approved restraint system, unless the child has reached 4’9” or taller.
What kind of car seat or restraint system you use is up to you, as long as it is age-appropriate and used in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions. Front-seat and rear-seat child seats are available, depending on the type of vehicle that you have. The back seat is generally considered a safer option for all children under the age of 1, so if you have rear seats, that may be the best option to choose. It’s especially important to not use a rear-facing child seat in a front seat with a passenger-side airbag unless that airbag can be disabled while the car seat is present, as the airbag can cause catastrophic injury with this kind of seat.
If you’re unsure about how your car seat works you can get assistance, often for free, by finding a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) near you, so take advantage of this program if you need help.
Child Car Seat Recommendations
While the state law provides some overall guidance for what’s legal, it really only defines a minimum safety standard. To fully protect your child, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has developed some guidelines on car seat and restraint use for children from birth to age 13. These guidelines have been divided into four age phases, and are as follows:
- Phase 1: 0-2 years old. From birth to approximately age 2 or up to 35 pounds, recommendations suggest rear-facing infant or convertible child seats in the back seat for as long as possible, until the height or weight limits of the seat have been reached.
- Phase 2: 2-4 years old. After outgrowing a rear-facing seat, it is recommended to move to a front-facing child seat in the back seat, until reaching the height or weight limit of the seat, usually from 40-80 pounds.
- Phase 3: 4-12 years old. Once the child has outgrown the front-facing seat and has the ability to behave appropriately outside of a car seat, moving to a booster seat with the adult lap and chest belt is recommended.
- Phase 4: 12-13+ years old. By this age, children have usually reached a height and weight that exceeds the booster seat and can fit an adult-sized safety belt appropriately, with the shoulder belt crossing over the shoulder and across the center of the chest, and the lap belt low and snug on the hips. You may choose to have the child ride in the front seat at this point, but the back seat is still generally safer.
All children grow differently, so the age suggestions are only guidelines. Height and weight are the most important criteria to consider. The longer a child stays in one phase, the better he or she is protected in case of an accident, so don’t feel like there’s a rush to move through the phases.
Car Seat Safety After an Accident
If you are involved in a car accident while your child is in a car seat, it is likely that you will need to replace the car seat afterward. The manufacturer’s instruction manual should have directions on the durability of the seat and whether you need to replace it after a crash. Failure to do so means that your seat may not only fail to be compliant with the law, it may be unsafe to use at all—meaning that if another accident happens it could fail, causing serious injuries or worse to your child.
Get Legal Help Today
After a car accident you should make sure that you and your passengers, including any children, see a doctor right away. Even if you think everybody is okay, some very dangerous or painful injuries can be invisible until hours or even days after the crash. Starting a medical record sooner rather than later can help you establish that the accident was the cause of the injuries, so that you can seek compensation from the person who caused the crash. This is especially important for children, as the effects of a serious injury during development can cause permanent effects throughout his or her life.
If you and your child have been involved in a car accident, an experienced personal injury attorney can help you recover financially from the crash. The attorneys at Wayne Wright LLP have decades of legal experience representing those who have been injured in car accidents, and we would like to help you and your family begin the recovery process today. To arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with us, call us by phone today, use our online contact form to send an email, or click the live chat box on our website now.