Child Passenger Safety Information

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Misuses of child safety seats is widespread. Studies have found that as many as four out of five car seats are installed or used incorrectly. Partial misuse of a safety seat reduces its effectiveness against severe injuries.

Texas Law mandates that all passengers in your vehicle must be properly restrained. Unless taller than 4 feet 9 inches, children under 8 years old must ride in a child safety seat.

To help prevent injury, follow these general guidelines:

  • Follow the safety seat manufacturer instructions to determine what is an appropriate seat for your child
  • Children ages 12 and under should ride properly restrained in the back seat, even if there is no air bag. In general, the back seat is much safer than the front seat
  • Be careful about thick clothing or padding between the child and the child safety seat or harnesses. Such material could compress in a crash, introducing slack and affecting the child safety seat's protection
  • Read both the child safety seat instructions and the vehicle owner’s manual for correct use and installation of your child safety seat
  • Never buy a used car seat (garage sales, flea markets, etc.) if you do not know its full history, and never use a car seat that has been in a crash. 
  • All car seats have an expiration date. Generally, it is six years, but check the labels on the seat or contact the manufacturer of the seat to find out what the expiration date is for your specific car seat.
  • Do not use any products in the car seat that did not come from the manufacturer. Car seat fabrics meet strict fire safety codes. Add-on toys can injure your child in a crash.

Safety Guidelines by Age

Infants (Birth to 2 Years)

  • Infants should ride rear facing until they are 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat’s manufacturer. Rear-facing car seats reduce the risk of cervical spine injury in the event of a crash.
  • Never use a rear-facing child seat in a seating position with an active frontal air bag. The force of a deploying air bag could result in serious injury or death
  • Route the harness straps according to the manufacturer instructions, generally at or slightly below shoulder level for rear-facing children
  • Adjust the harnesses so they are snug and flat against the child's body and position the harness clip at armpit level.
  • If your child safety seat has a handle, follow the manufacturer instructions for positioning it. Most manufacturers state that handles should be kept in the down position during transport
  • Recline the safety seat at the proper angle. Check the manufacturer instructions to determine the proper position. Use a pool noodle or rolled towel if necessary beneath the safety seat to achieve the correct position.

Toddlers (2 to 4 Years)

  • Use a forward-facing child safety seat with harnesses.
    Note: Most experts agree that children are generally safer facing the rear of the vehicle. If your convertible child safety seat has adequate rear-facing weight and height limits, you may choose to keep him/her facing the rear
  • Place the forward-facing child safety seat in an upright position, according to manufacturer instructions
  • Route the harness straps according to the manufacturer instructions, generally at or slightly above shoulder level, using reinforced slots for forward-facing children.
  • Adjust the harnesses so they are snug and flat against the child's body and position the harness clip at armpit level.

Children (4 to 8 Years)

Adult seat belts do not generally fit children correctly. Using a belt positioning booster helps the seat belt fit your child properly, providing far better protection in a crash.

  • Use a belt positioning booster
  • Child must sit all the way back against the seat (high-back booster shell or vehicle seat, depending on model selected)
  • Both lap and shoulder belts must be used with belt positioning boosters
  • The lap belt should be snug and flat against the upper thighs
  • The shoulder belt should be snug and flat against the chest and collarbone.
    Note: Never let your child put a shoulder belt under his/her arm or behind his/her back. This could result in serious injuries.

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