Texas Car Seat Laws in 2021

A child under eight years old and not taller than 4’9” must be secured in a child passenger safety seat system when transported in a passenger vehicle. A child between eight and sixteen years old or taller than 4’9” must wear a safety belt when transported in a passenger vehicle or passenger van. A child between fifteen and seventeen years old must wear his or her safety belt when riding in a passenger vehicle.

The NHTSA evaluates 5 criteria in establishing a safety rating to many of the booster, infant and convertible car seats used in the USA.

Babies and Children Up to Seven Years Old and Not Taller Than 4’9”

A child under eight years old and not taller than 4’9” must be secured in a child passenger safety seat system according to manufacturer’s instructions while being transported in a passenger vehicle in operation.

A child passenger safety seat system is an infant or child passenger restraint system meeting National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standards for crash-tested restraint systems. A passenger vehicle is a passenger car; light truck; sport utility vehicle; passenger van designed to transport no more than fifteen passengers including the driver; truck; or truck tractor.

Children Between Eight and Sixteen Years Old or Taller Than 4’9”

A child between eight and sixteen years old or taller than 4’9” must be secured by a safety belt when occupying a seat equipped with a safety belt and being transported in a passenger vehicle or a passenger van designed to transport no more than fifteen passengers, including the driver, equipped with safety belts.

A safety belt is a lap belt and any shoulder straps included as original equipment on or added to a vehicle. Secured means using the lap belt and any shoulder straps according to the vehicle manufacturer’s instructions, if the safety belt is original equipment, or the safety belt manufacturer’s instructions, if the safety belt has been added to the vehicle.

Children Between Fifteen and Seventeen Years Old

A child between fifteen and seventeen years old must secure himself or herself by a safety belt when occupying a seat equipped with a safety belt and riding in a passenger vehicle while it is being operated.

Penalties for Violations

A violation of Texas’ Child Passenger Safety Seat Systems law involving a child under eight years old and not taller than 4’9” tall is a misdemeanor. You may be fined between $25.00 and $250.00. Your charges may be dismissed if you provide satisfactory evidence to the court that you were not arrested or cited for another offense or involved in an accident at the time of the offense; you did not have a child passenger safety seat system in the vehicle at the time of the offense; and you have obtained an appropriate child passenger safety seat system for each child required to be secured in a child passenger safety seat system since the offense.

A violation of Texas’ Safety Belts law involving a child between eight and sixteen years old is a misdemeanor. You may be fined between $100.00 and more than $200.00.

For a violation of Texas’ Child Passenger Safety Seat Systems or Safety Belts laws, the judge may place you on probation, defer further proceedings, and require you to attend and present proof of successful completion of a specialized driving safety course approved by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. The course includes four hours of instruction encouraging the use of child passenger safety seat systems and seat belts.

A violation of Texas’ Safety Belts law involving a child between fifteen and seventeen who fails to secure himself or herself in a safety belt is a misdemeanor. Your child may be fined between $25.00 and $50.00.

Exemptions

Your child may be exempt from Texas’ Child Passenger Safety Seat Systems law if he or she was being transported in a vehicle in an emergency or for a law enforcement purpose.

Your child may be exempt from Texas’ Child Passenger Safety Seat Systems law if he or she was being transported in a vehicle transporting passengers for hire which was not a third-party service providing non-emergency Medicaid transportation.

Your child may be exempt from Texas’ Child Passenger Safety Seat Systems law if he or she was being transported in a vehicle in which all seating positions equipped with child passenger safety seat systems or safety belts were occupied.

Your child may be exempt from Texas’ Safety Belts law if you possess, or present to the court within ten days of the offense, a written statement from a licensed physician stating that your child should not wear a safety belt for a medical reason.

Your child may be exempt from Texas’ Safety Belts law if he or she is delivering newspapers from a vehicle or operating a commercial vehicle registered as a farm vehicle with a gross weight, registered weight, or gross weight rating under 48,000 pounds.

* Ms. Blake is licensed in the state of Maryland. The information provided in this article does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.


Attorney Denise A. Blake*

Denise practices family law at Blake Law, LLC in Westminster, Maryland. She holds a Juris Doctor with an emphasis in Family Law from the University of Baltimore School of Law.