Jim Adler | The Tough, Smart Lawyer
By Jim Adler February 19, 2015

Just this week, a child in Longview was killed when his mother’s vehicle rolled over in an accident after she failed to secure the child properly — and legally.

That’s right: It’s against the law not to secure a child properly in a motor vehicle — and for good reason.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, traffic accidents are the leading cause of death in children. Yet many such deaths can be prevented. In fact, securing a child properly in a car seat can reduce death risk by 71 per cent for infants (aged one year or less) and 54 per cent for kids 1-4 years old.

Texas law requires that children under 8 years old and under 57 inches tall (4 feet, 9 inches) must be secured in a child safety seat. If the child is under 8 but over 57 inches, a safety seat is not required. Children 8 to 17 years old must be secured by an adult-level safety belt, with no car safety seat required.

Here’s where it gets tricky: Choosing a safety seat depends on the child.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, a child who’s under a year old needs a rear-facing safety seat appropriate to the child’s weight and height. This can be locked into a base you install in your car and also is known as an “infant seat.”

For kids 1-4, you need a larger car seat known as a “toddler seat.” Until the child is 2, you’re advised to keep the seat rear-facing, but after that it can be forward-facing.

For children 4-8, you need a “booster seat.” That works in tandem with a car’s seat belts — which are designed for an adult’s body — by giving the child a “boost” in height while sitting down.

Also keep in mind that a child weighing 35 pounds or less must be secured safely in a vehicle’s back seat, not front seat, while sitting in a rear-facing car seat. A child weighing more than 35 pounds should be secured in the back seat in a forward-facing car seat.

When a child is 80 pounds or over 4 years old, a booster seat should be used in tandem with an adult lap safety belt and shoulder safety belt. When a child reaches 100 pounds or 57 inches tall, adult safety belts alone are sufficient, and the child can ride in the front seat.

Another tricky part is that many child safety seats are installed improperly. You may think your child is safe, but that may not be the case. Get help from the store which sold you the safety seat to install it properly.

If you don’t secure your child properly, you can be fined $25 for a first offense and as much as $250 for later offenses. But the biggest reason to obey the law is clear: When it comes to children, safety first.

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