Security and Safety

Car Seat and Booster Safety 101

By Abi Grise Morgan 11.23.20

Texas parents who prioritize their family’s safety know to buckle up on the road. But when it comes to car seats, where do you start? Shopping for car seats and booster seats can be stressful: There is an overload of options, and instructions and guidelines can be confusing. It’s no wonder almost half of child car seats in Texas are used incorrectly.

To that, we say, “Not anymore!” Use this guide to learn the ins and outs of car seat styles, legal requirements, and best practices to keep your child safe.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, child car seats reduce the risk of fatal injury for infants in a crash by 71%. For toddlers, a booster seat reduces the risk of fatal injury by 54%. Finding and installing the correct car seat or booster seat takes a little work up front but will keep your children secure and comfortable on the road for miles and miles.

Here is a general overview of car-seat recommendations based on your child’s size and age. Texas law states that you must follow the manufacturer’s height and weight limits for your car seat, which vary by make and model.

Types of Car Seats

Infant: For newborns to children up to about 22 pounds and/or 3 years old, depending on the model.
Per safety standards, infant car seats should always be rear-facing. They have two main components: a base that stays buckled into your vehicle and a carrier with a canopy and a handle to tote your baby on the go.

Convertible: For newborns to children about 7 years old and/or 40-65 pounds, depending on the model.
These car seats begin with the newborn-friendly, rear-facing construction and later convert to a forward-facing seat as your child becomes a toddler.

Booster seats: For children approximately 4 to 12 years old or 4’9″ tall, depending on the model.
Booster seats are the last stop until your child is ready for a seat belt alone. Boosters either include their own harness and buckles or make use of the seat belt in your car.

3-in-1: For newborns to children approximately 12 years old or 4’9″ tall, depending on the model.
This style grows with your child. It converts from rear-facing to forward-facing to booster seat. Many parents like this option because it’s a one-time purchase.

How to Select a Model

Size: Bigger isn’t always better. Make sure your new car seat will fit through your car door. When it’s installed, it should preserve enough space for your little one and other family members to fit comfortably together in the car.

Number: Depending on your daily schedules, you and your partner may opt for one car seat per vehicle, or one car seat to move between vehicles. If you choose one car seat, pick a model that is easy to install and uninstall. For infant car seats, you could opt to buy multiple bases and one seat.

Portability: Car seats can weigh upward of 30 pounds, and that’s without your baby inside. If you intend to switch your car seat between cars or strollers, a lightweight design with an ergonomic handle may save you a backache.

Stroller Compatibility: You can find great deals on car seat-stroller packages designed to fit together. However, you can also search for adapters if you have your heart set on different products.

Texas Car Seat Safety Laws

Make sure you adhere to the important car seat standards set by the Texas Department of Public Services.

  • Age: All children younger than 8 years old (unless taller than 4’9″) are required to be in the appropriate child safety seat on the road. Fines for unrestrained children can reach $250, plus court costs.
  • Placement: Rear-facing infant car seats are prohibited from being placed in the front seat of a car if there is a passenger airbag.
  • Installation: Texas law requires child-safety systems to be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Expiry: Child safety-seat systems do expire. Most seats have the expiration date printed on the back.
  • Certification: Texans are encouraged to make an appointment to have their car seat or booster seat checked by a certified child passenger safety technician.

Tips for Sitting Pretty

  • Install early: Install your car seat three to four weeks before your baby’s due date.
  • Go by height and weight: Always abide by the manufacturer’s height and weight guidelines. Children grow at different rates, so age is not always a reliable metric.
  • Keep up with your kid: Babies grow fast. Make sure your car seat system keeps up! Add car-seat check reminders to your calendar to ensure your child is always riding in an appropriate seat.
  • Replace if damaged: Car seats, like helmets, are one-time-use items. Once your car seat has been in even the smallest wreck, replace it right away.
  • Don’t wash harness straps: You could wash away the fire-retardant chemicals or weaken the material. If the straps need cleaning, wipe them with a damp washcloth.
  • Don’t bundle up: Bulky winter clothing could create too much space between the harness and your child’s body. Remove any unnecessary layers before buckling up your little one.
  • Don’t leave them asleep: If your child falls asleep during a car ride, transfer them to a crib or bassinet once indoors. Car seats are not intended for extensive sleep.

Texas Farm Bureau members can buy a child’s car seat for only $35.50 and booster seats for only $25.50 through the Child-Saver Program.

Coverage and discounts are subject to qualifications and policy terms and may vary by situation. © 2020 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance