Texas Living

Avoid Car Seat Chaos With These Tips for Child Travelers

By Valirie Morgan 6.27.16

Sure, it seems like they may not always mind you, or they talk back or cause a ruckus. But your kids mean everything to you, and you’ll do everything you can to keep them safe.

When you strap them into car seats, you want to ensure you’re doing everything right to keep your little ones safe. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that three out of four child safety seats are used or installed incorrectly, and motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death nationwide for children ages 14 and younger. So keep these tips in mind:

Follow Texas Laws

In Texas, all children younger than 8 — unless taller than 4’9” — are required to have an appropriate child safety seat system whenever they ride in a passenger vehicle. When a child turns 8, no matter their height, it’s legal under most circumstances to use just the standard adult seat belt.

Take Safety Precautions

Even though state law only mandates car seats for children under 8, if your child is shorter than 4’9″, keep using a car seat until he or she can properly be protected by a regular seat belt. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ride in the back seat until age 13.

Pick Your Seat Wisely

As kids grow, use a car seat that fits your child’s current size and age — and it needs to properly fit your vehicle. There are three types:

  • Rear-facing — The best type for an infant from birth up to age 2. It has a harness and is designed to cradle and move with the child during a crash, protecting the child’s fragile neck and spine.
  • Forward-facing — Recommended for children from age 2 up to age 5. It has a harness and tether to limit forward movement in a crash.
  • Booster seat — Used once your child has outgrown their forward-facing seat, usually from age 5 until seat belts fit properly. It positions the seat belt over the stronger parts of the child’s body.

Car seats sometimes expire or need to be replaced if involved in a crash. All brands are different, so check the user manual or contact the manufacturer for specific guidelines. If you’re unsure about the safety seat in your vehicle, the Texas Department of Transportation offers free safety inspections at each of its 25 district offices. Many fire departments also will install car seats for free as a public service.

Texas Farm Bureau members are eligible for discounts on car seats and booster seats that meet federal and state guidelines. And once you have the seating arrangement settled, check out Texas Heritage for Living® for the ultimate family road-trip survival guide.