One of the things we do most often with our children is drive them around from place to place. If you’re like most parents, you’ve invested in a child restraint system to help protect your child in the event of a motor vehicle accident. While that is a good beginning, however, a key question to ask is, are you using the proper child’s safety restraint system – that is, one that’s appropriate to your child’s size and age?
Under Texas law, any child who is under the age of eight, unless he or she is taller than four feet, nine inches, must be secured in a child passenger safety seat system. This means a child who is eight or older, or is more than four feet, nine inches tall, can legally use an adult seat belt, but all children under the age of eight, if they’re not taller than four feet, nine inches, must be secured in a child restraint system when they’re riding in a car.
There’s no question that child safety restraints save lives. It’s very important, however, that the child safety system you use be appropriate to your child’s height, weight and age, even if that means going beyond the minimum mandated by the law. The Texas Department of Public Safety advises parents to follow these national best practice recommendations when choosing an appropriate child safety restraint system.
- Infants to age 2+. Children this age require a rear-facing infant seat or a rear-facing convertible safety seat, and they should remain in these rear-facing seats until they reach the rear-facing weight and height limits, which will be set out in the manufacturer’s manual. The seat should also be installed according to the manufacturer’s manual.
- Age 2 to 4+. Once they have outgrown their rear-facing seats, children should be placed in a forward-facing safety seat. Again, they should ride in such seats for as long as possible, until they have reached the upper weight and height limits of the seat. Note that a child shouldn’t be placed in a forward-facing seat until he or she has reached all of the age, weight and height requirements set by the car seat manufacturer. The car seat should also be properly installed in the back seat.
- Age 4+, 40+ pounds. Once children reach the age of four and weigh at least forty pounds, they can use a booster seat in combination with an adult lap and shoulder belt. Children should stay in a booster seat until they reach four feet, nine-inches tall, at which time an adult seat belt will fit them properly.
- Age 10 to 12 years. Children will have outgrown their booster seat when they reach four feet, nine inches in height, which generally happens when they get to around ten to 12 years in age. At this time, they can use the adult lap and shoulder belt, provided it fits them properly. In a properly fitting adult seat belt system, the lap belt will lie across the child’s upper thighs rather than the stomach while the shoulder belt lies across the chest rather than the neck.
Additionally, it’s recommended that children stay in the suggested safety restraint system up to the maximum height, weight and age limits. Further, parents are advised to have all children under the age of 13 ride, properly restrained, in the back seat.