By Dallas Car Accident Injury Attorney, Tim O’Hare
Research suggests that as many as 95 percent of families fail to install their infant’s car seat correctly. Nearly 75 percent f parents face their child’s seat the wrong way, and many older children aren’t using booster seats when doing so is necessary for their safety.
Sadly, a recent study of data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration by The Journal of Pediatrics indicates that a devastating 43 percent of kids killed in car crashes are either unrestrained or improperly restrained.
Are you doing enough to protect your children? Let’s take a look at Texas laws regarding child safety seats and what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends to ensure your child’s safety.
Texas law states that all children under eight years of age, unless taller than 57 inches, are required to be in an appropriate child safety seat system whenever they ride in a passenger vehicle. The safety seat must be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Although not required by law, Texas recommends rear-facing seats for all children until they either turn two years old or reach 35 pounds.
All rear-facing seats are prohibited from use in the front seat of a vehicle if there is a passenger airbag. Manually turning the airbag off is the only way a rear-facing seat may safely and legally be used in the front seat. Do not rely on “smart” airbags, as these are designed to deactivate based on the weight of the passenger, but are not designed to accommodate child safety seats.
While these are the laws regarding child safety seats in Texas, the Texas Department of Public Safety strongly encourages parents and caregivers to follow the new American Academy of Pediatrics Guidelines when transporting children in a passenger vehicle. These recommendations are as follows:
Rear-Facing Seats: Rear-facing seats are recommended for infants birth to 35+ pounds and 2+ years old. The AAP recommends rear-facing seats as long as possible, until the child outgrows the rear-facing height and/or weight limit of the seat. Rear-facing seats should be properly installed in the back seat according to instructions in the owner’s manual.
Forward-Facing Seats: When a child outgrows the rear-facing safety seat (minimum 2+ years), they should ride in a forward-facing seat with a five-point harness as long as possible, up to the upper height, weight or age limit of the harness (usually 4+ years and 40 to 80 pounds). Forward-facing seats should be properly installed in the back seat. Never turn a child forward-facing until he or she meets all the age/height/weight requirements set by the safety seat manufacturer.
Booster Seats: Once a child reaches four years of age and 40+ pounds, he or she may ride in a booster seat with the adult lap and shoulder belt until the adult safety belt will fit them properly (usually when the child is 10 to 12 years old). A lap/shoulder belt is required for a booster seat.
Adult Safety Belt: Once the child outgrows his or her booster seat (around 10 to 12 years of age), he or she may use the adult lap/shoulder belt if it fits them properly. The lap portion should sit low over the hips/thighs and the shoulder belt should cross the center of the shoulder and center of the chest.
If you are unsure whether or not your child’s seat is properly installed in your vehicle, schedule an appointment for a free safety seat check-up at one of the 25 Texas Department of Transportation district offices. Many local police stations and fire stations also have staff certified to inspect your child’s safety seat.
Don’t assume your child is safe. If you are unsure, or have never had your child’s seat inspected, don’t wait. It could mean life or death for your child.
If you or your child has been injured in a car accident, contact one of the best personal injury lawyers in Dallas, Tim O’Hare, today.
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