This year, Texas passed a new law intended to make sure the state’s youngest travelers stay safe on the road.
The law requires that children younger than 8 years of age, unless taller than 4 feet, 9 inches, ride in a child passenger safety system used according to manufacturer’s instructions.
The new child passenger safety law went into effect Sept. 1, 2009. Officers will be handing out warnings to drivers who don’t properly secure children that fall under the new law until June 1, 2010, at which time citations will be issued.
“Booster seats protect children who’ve outgrown child safety seats but are still too small for a seat belt alone. A child placed in a seat belt too soon is at risk for severe head, spinal and abdominal injuries. This new law matches with national best-practice standards for transporting children safely and will make Texas roads a safer place for children,” said Terry Pence, TxDOT’s traffic safety director. TxDOT is taking advantage of National Child Passenger Safety Week, Sept. 12-18, 2009, as a chance to spread the word about the new law, as well as other tips for protecting young passengers.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), children age 12 and under are safest when buckled in the back seat of a vehicle.
It’s also vital to carefully follow manufacturers’ instructions for child safety seats, otherwise serious injury could occur.
Seat Check Saturday will kick off National Child Passenger Safety Week on Sept. 12. Free safety seat check-ups are being held throughout Texas, offering a chance for parents and caregivers to learn about the proper safety seat for their child and the correct way to install it. Call Safe Riders at the Texas Department of State Health Services at 1-800-252-8255 for details or visit www.dshs.state.tx.us/saferiders for a list of statewide car seat check opportunities. There is also a link on this website to the full text of Texas’ child occupant protection laws.
The following four-step guidelines can help determine which restraint system is best suited to protect children based on their age and size:
1. Keep infants in the back seat, in rear-facing child safety seats, as long as possible up to the height or weight limit of the particular seat. At a minimum, keep infants rear-facing until at least age 1 and at least 20 pounds.
2. When children outgrow their rear-facing seats, they should ride in forward-facing child safety seats, in the back seat, until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the particular seat (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds).
3. Once children outgrow their forward-facing seats, they should ride in booster seats, in the back seat, until they are age eight or taller than 4’9”.
4. At age 8 or taller than 4’9”, children can use the adult seat belts in the back seat. The lap belt should fit low and snug, across the hips/upper thighs.
Violations can result in a fine of up to $250.
For more information contact Penny Mason in TxDOT’s Public Information Office at (512) 463-2406