Booster seats have either high backs or are backless. They help raise up an older child so that the seat belt fits appropriately to reduce the risk of injury in case of an accident. Texas state law addresses age, weight and height requirements regarding the use of booster seats. Besides endangering your child, violations can lead to penalties.
Booster Seat Laws
Texas law requires that all children graduate to a booster seat after they become too big for a front-facing car seat. Once children reach age 4 and weigh at least 40 pounds, they can ride in a booster seat with the adult lap and shoulder belt. However, state law encourages parents to keep children in their current safety seats for as long as possible before graduating them to booster seats. Texas law does not specify that your child ride in a booster seat in the backseat, but it does indicate that you must install a seat according to the manufacturer's instructions, which can indicate that you install it in the backseat. If you are using a backless booster seat, the midpoint of the back of the child’s head cannot be above the vehicle seat back. If your vehicle does not have the approriate head protection in the seating position where you want to place the booster seat – you cannot use a backless booster.
Graduating from the Booster Seat
Children are required to use a the booster seat until they are at least 8 years old or 4-feet- 9-inches tall. Once a child turns 8-years-old, he is no longer legally required to ride in a booster seat, even if he is not yet 4-feet-9-inches tall. Similarly, once a child reaches 4-feet-9-inches tall, he is no longer legally required to ride in a booster seat, even if he is not yet 8-years-old. However, state officials recommend that children ride in the booster seat for as long as possible -- and not make the transition to an adult seat belt before the seat belt fits properly. A seat belt fits properly when your child's legs bend naturally over the edge of the seat, the lap portion of the seat belt fits low on the hips and high on the thighs, and the shoulder portion of the belt rests at the center of the chest. If the seat belt is riding up on the abdomen or neck, serious injuries can occur during a crash.
There are a couple of exceptions to the Texas booster seat laws. If you are operating a vehicle transporting passengers for hire, such as a taxi, child passengers don't have to be in booster seats. If you are transporting a child in a car in which all the seats are occupied, you do not have to use a booster seat. Though you may be able to avoid a booster seat in these situations, it's always best to drive in a car in which your child can ride in a booster seat to ensure his safety.
Safety seat violations are a primary offense in Texas. That means that an officer doesn't need to have another reason to pull you over. Officers may then arrest or issue a citation/notice to appear before a judge for a violation. According to the 2009 Texas Booster Seat law, you will get a $25 fine for the first offense -- and up to a $250 fine for each subsequent offense.