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Texas Carseat Law 2005

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Just this year in Texas, a new, more-restrictive, carseat law took effect. The stringent requirements of this new law are making some parents annoyed enough that they mutter about it loudly at public gatherings, which is how I found out there was a new law! So I looked it up, worried that I might not be complying.

People are complaining about this? I had no idea that law was this lax, and it was even more lax before!

My three children all spend every trip we take anywhere buckled into some sort of contraption, but it turns out that the law requires none of them to actually do so. My youngest child is still four, but he’s more than three feet tall, so he’s clear. The other two are older than four, so they’re clear, too.

That’s it. Kids under five and under three feet tall need to be using car seats or boosters. Five year olds? Nope. Tall four year olds? Nope.

On September 1, 2005, the law changed as a result of Texas H.B. 183, which was ratified by the Texas House and Senate in May.

Here was the old wording (emphasis added):

A person commits an offense if the person operates a passenger vehicle, transports a child who is younger than four years of age or less than 36 inches in height, and does not keep the child secured during the operation of the vehicle in a child passenger safety seat system according to the instructions of the manufacturer of the safety seat system.

Under that wording, a three-year-old is obviously included. And a 32-inch four-year-old? Also included. What about a 35-inch six-year-old? Yes, the “or” means that anyone less than 36 inches tall, no matter their age, needed to be in a car seat. Now OR has become AND, and the ambiguity is resolved.

It turns out that none of my children have needed to use car seats for quite a while now. You know what? I’m not telling them. The State of Texas can set whatever rules they want, but my rules say to sit down and buckle up.

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About pwinn

  • DJRadiohead

    I often get aggravated when “THE STATE” steps in to “MAKE” us do something we should all be doing anyway. Well… all of you should be doing anyway. The wife to whom I am married and I have not children. Good for you and Herself.

    Sit down and buckle up. Rabble Rouser.

  • Eric Olsen

    Texas (snort). I can understand libertarian leanings about a lot of things, but not safety rules as applied to children. Anyone under 10 should have to ride in the backseat in a de-spiked iron maiden as far as I’m concerned.

    Seriously, the NHTSA guidelines should be national law

  • Phillip Winn

    It is worth noting that I had to dig a bit to find the actual legal minimums, as the Texas Department of Public Safety likes to emphasize guidelines which correspond to the NHTSA guidelines.

    The more I think about this, perhaps it’s a reasonable compromise: Publicize strict guidelines, but only legally enforce no-brainer minimums. Certainly the people I heard complaining were talking about children older than four, so they must have gotten things confused. Which is a good thing, in this case!

  • bhw

    Anyone under 10 should have to ride in the backseat in a de-spiked iron maiden as far as I’m concerned.

    lol… Wouldn’t it be great to make them wear their bike helmets, too?

    My husband had the car seats strapped in so tight that I couldn’t get them out if I needed to. Now we’ve moved up to booster seats, so it’s not so bad.

    In MA, kids have to be in a booster seat until they’re 8 years old OR weigh 80 pounds. My daughter is 7 and weighs under 50 pounds. I can’t imagine that she’ll even be tall enough to ride in the car next year with no booster seat. The seatbelt just cuts across her body so high — I’d be worried about her neck getting cut if we stopped short.

    So I’m telling her nothing unless she asks, and then I’m telling her that she needs to stay in the booster until she weighs 80 pounds, which might not happen until she’s 12, at this rate!

    My son is two years younger and weighs OVER 50 pounds. He’s also just an inch shorter than my daughter. It’s like having Clifford the Big Red Dog for a kid — at some point, if his growth rate doesn’t level off, he won’t fit in the car anymore. So for him, the rule will be that he has to stay in the booster until he’s at least 8, since he very well may reach 80 pounds before then.

  • Eric Olsen

    we have a beefy boy and a skinny girl too, although of the older two my son is the skinny one – I think they weigh about the same and he is several inches taller

  • bhw

    Your older daughter must hate that.

  • RedTard

    Just another excuse to write $300 tickets and boost the city coffers. Your letting your liberty be taken away for security one step at a time.

    I think I am some kind of dinosaur because I’m the only person who seems to get irritated whenever the government sticks it’s nose or expands into another new area. (happens quite often)

    Are there any true libertarians out there anymore?

  • Phillip Winn

    I’m a pretty darned consistent libertarian, but when I see very young children climbing loose inside of moving vehicles, and because I know the statistics, I sometimes want to hurt some parents pretty badly.

    It’s worth sticking up for freedom, of course. But the kids aren’t old enough to know better, and don’t have the authority to make decisions on their own, either. They can’t grant their informed consent on any number of levels.

    I know that “do it for the kids” can be overwrought, but the facts are pretty clear when it comes to seatbelts and carseats.

    Though from what I’ve read, putting the kid in the back seat instead of the front is the single most important safety factor.

  • JR

    Though from what I’ve read, putting the kid in the back seat instead of the front is the single most important safety factor.

    I did one better than that when I was a kid – I rode back in the bed of the truck. With the hitchhikers my dad picked up.

    I’m glad I grew up before all this nanny-state bullshit.

  • RedTard


    You know the old saying about the road to hell. I think that applies here. Every single government law, ordinance, tax, etc. has some “good” intention and a bunch of well meaning people behind it. Why shouldn’t we be forced to put kids in seats? The Texas Legislature already controls the types of foods children have available at school. There are serious penalties for giving candy or soda to children at many of them.

    These laws have simply gone too far. We are raising each successive generation to be more dependent on, and more obedient to, the government.

    The left wing fears corporations because they wan’t your money. I fear the government because it seeks absolute power and control over individuals (and their money too).

  • Phillip Winn

    RT, I know what you’re saying. I had a libertarian website up and running something like ten years ago.

    But here’s the deal: I’m no longer an all-or-nothing guy. I’ve learned that there are shades of gray. So laws telling me what I can or cannot do inside my own home, those are bad. That doesn’t mean that all laws are bad.

    Laws that lay down penalties for putting chocolate in a kid’s school lunch are pretty dumb. But laws that ensure that kids are buckled up aren’t, necessarily.

    Then again, when you participate in a government school system, you play by that government school system’s rules, you know? I don’t.

  • Eric Berlin

    I think beyond the safety reasons (valid, says I) for these types of laws, there are financial considerations. When parents too stupid not to strap their kiddies in smash ’em up in an accident, the taxpayers end up paying the hospital bills.

    In any event, if the “fear” of a ticket convinces more people to be safe in the car, so be it!