As parents or caregivers of small children, knowing about Texas car seat laws can help us better protect our precious cargo when they’re in the vehicle with us.

The Texas Department of Public Safety website offers an easy-to-understand primer about the Texas car seat laws. We’ve summarized them here briefly. In the state of Texas, there are four phases of child passenger safety seat best practice recommendations:

  1. Rear-facing seats – Applies to infants from birth to 35 pounds. Use a rear-facing infant or rear-facing convertible safety seat as long as possible, up to the rear-facing height or weight limit of the seat. Be sure to install the rear-facing car seat properly in the back seat.
  2. Forward-facing seats – Once children outgrow their rear-facing car seat, they should ride in a forward-facing safety seat as long as possible, up to the upper height or weight limit (from 40 to 80 pounds) of the car seat harnesses. This is usually at age four and older. Be sure the forward-facing car seat is properly installed in the back seat. Never use a forward-facing car safety seat before the age of one AND 20-22 pounds.
  3. Booster seats – After children are age four and weigh 40 or more pounds, they can ride in a booster seat with the adult lap and shoulder belt until the adult safety belt fits them properly. This is usually when the child reaches four feet nine inches tall. Note that the vehicle must have a lap/shoulder belt in order to use a booster seat.
  4. Adult safety belt – When children outgrow their booster seat, usually when they reach four feet nine inches and 100 pounds, they can use the adult safety belt – if it fits them properly. The lap portion should fit low over the hips and tops of thighs and the shoulder belt should cross the center of the shoulder and the center of the chest.

The Texas Department of Public Safety reminds parents and other caregivers that children are better protected the longer they stay in each phase of child passenger safety seats. That’s why it’s important to keep children in each seat up to the maximum of the age, weight and height limits before moving on to the next phase.

Violations of Texas Car Seat Laws

Under Texas law, a person commits an offense against the Texas child passenger safety seat systems statute if they operate a passenger vehicle, transport a child under the age of eight – unless the child is taller than four feet nine inches – and does not keep the child secured in a child passenger safety seat system according to the instructions of the manufacturer of the car seat system.

An offense under this section of Texas law is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $25 for the first offense and not more than $250 for a second or subsequent offense. Court costs and other fines are also levied.

A defense for violation of Texas car seat laws is when a person was operating a vehicle in an emergency or for a law enforcement purpose. The law does not apply when the driver is transporting a child in a vehicle in which all seating positions equipped with child passenger safety seat systems or safety belts are occupied.

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