The Texas seat belt statute
Like every state except for
New Hampshire, Texas has a law on the books requiring the use of safety
restraints for people riding in motor vehicles. In this case, the
relevant law is Sec. 545.413 of the Transportation Code, which details
the circumstances in which seat belt use is required and the fines for
not doing so. Under section A of this statute, it is illegal for
anyone, adult or child, to ride in the front seat of a vehicle that has
seat belts without having their seat belt properly fastened. Section B
states that it is illegal for anyone under the age of 17 to ride in any
part of a motor vehicle without a seat belt if the vehicle is equipped
with them. Therefore, adults can use their discretion when riding in
the back, although you should always wear a seat belt anyway for safety
reasons. Under this statute, the driver is responsible for making sure
all passengers are secured as required by Texas safety restraint
For children young enough and small enough to need a child safety
seat, Sec. 545.412 of the Transportation Code requires that they be
secured, as well.
Fines for not wearing a seat belt
Under Texas seat belt laws, the fines for not wearing a seat belt
depend on the age of the passenger. If the passenger is over 17
and in the front seat of a vehicle without a belt on, the fine can be
anywhere from $25 to $50. If the passenger is under 17 and riding
without a seatbelt, the fine is much higher: $100-200. Of course, there
are also court costs, which can vary depending on where you got
ticketed. A judge may also order you to complete a driving safety
course that focuses on the importance of using a seat belt. Like
regular defensive driving courses, you have the option of going to a
classroom to take the course or of taking it through an alternative
delivery method such as video or CD.
To find a classroom location near you, click here.
However, you also have the option of taking the seatbelt course
online through Driving University. Why waste a beautiful afternoon
stuck inside a classroom, learning about Texas seatbelt laws? With
Driving University’s online course, you can complete your Texas seat
belt course in your spare time, in the comfort of your own home. Once
you complete the course, Driving University will put your certificate
out in the mail immediately!
To learn more about Driving University's Defensive Driving Course,
Who is required to wear a seat belt?
For safety reasons, everyone riding in a vehicle should be bucked up
anytime the vehicle is moving. However, Texas seat belt law only
mandates that drivers and front seat passengers buckle up at all times.
Adults are not required by law to have a seat belt on if they are
riding in the back seat. However, children under 17 must be buckled up
no matter where they sit.
Texas seat belt law does provide for a few exceptions for front seat
passengers, such as for US Postal Service employees, newspaper delivery
people and utility meter readers who have to get in and out of the car
all the time as part of their job duties. Also, if you have a medical
condition that makes it hazardous for you to have a seatbelt on, you
can get a doctor's excuse for it. Additionally, seat belts are not
required on small farm vehicles such as tractors that weigh less than
Child seat info
Under Texas seat belt law, a child safety seat is required for all
children who are both under the age of 5 and less than 36 inches tall.
So, if you have a 4-year-old who is 42 inches tall, your child is not
required to be in safety seat per the state statute. If your child is 6
years old and under 36 inches tall, he or she is also not required to
be in a safety seat. However, experts do recommend for safety reasons
that any child shorter than 4 feet 9 inches tall use a booster seat, no
matter what age group they fall into. Fines for violating the Texas
child safety belt statute can be pretty hefty: anywhere from $100-200.
More important than a fine, however, is the life of your child. If you
do get in an accident, having your child properly secured in a child
safety seat can reduce the risk of death by 71 percent for babies and
54 percent for toddlers, according to the National Highway Traffic
However, it's important to make sure that the child safety seat you
use fits your child correctly and that you have the child secured in
the seat correctly. A safety seat that doesn't fit or that isn't
fastened together correctly greatly increases the risk of injury or
death to your child if there is an accident (although it's still safer
than the child being unsecured). Even when they are restrained by child
seat belts, children are always safer in the back seat. Infants should
be in rear-facing car seats until about age 1, toddlers and small
children should be in forward-facing seats until they are either 4
years old or weigh 40 pounds, and larger children should use booster
Today's child safety seats come in so many shapes and sizes that it
can be difficult for a parent to know how to set them up correctly. To
help, the National Highway Safety Administration offers an Ease of Use
Rating system for child safety seats. They also offer free clinics
where you can bring your car seat to make sure that it is set up
correctly and that it fits your baby correctly. You can find the
nearest inspection station by clicking here.
Reasons for using
Why should you wear a seatbelt? Well, one obvious reason is simply
that Texas seat belt laws require you to. If you get caught breaking
Texas seat belt law, you could face the hassle of a court date and/or a
fairly high fine. However, the best reason to wear your seatbelt is the
fact that if you get in an accident, it could save your life. For
example, in a paper entitled "The Effects of Mandatory Seat Belt Laws
on Driving Behavior and Traffic Fatalities" published in the 2003
edition of The Review of Economics and Statistics, the authors estimate
that for every 1% increase in seatbelt usage, 136 lives are saved.
Also, according to the National Highway Safety Administration, wearing
your seat belt gives you a 45% better chance of surviving a bad wreck.
If you were gambling for money in Las Vegas, you’d do anything to
increase your odds of winning by 45%, wouldn’t you? Why should it be
any different when it’s your life at stake?
With those statistics, why would anyone not wear a seatbelt?
Sometimes, people just forget. However, many people choose not to wear
a seatbelt on purpose, possibly due to one of the following
- Seat belts can trap you in a burning or flooded vehicle, so it's
safer not wear one.
- If I have a car with airbags, I don't need to wear a seat
- I'm strong enough to brace myself against the steering wheel
if there is a crash.
- I'm a good driver. I've never had an accident before, so why
should I worry about a seat belt?
Despite all those nail-bitingly tense movie scenes where the hero or
heroine has to struggle to free themselves from a vehicle as it slowly
fills with water or flame creeps ever closer to the gas tank, only
.005% of crashes actually involve fire or water. In the other 99.995%
of crashes, you are more likely to be tossed into oncoming traffic, get
crushed under your own car, or go right through the windshield. Also,
even if your car has airbags, you should still wear a seat belt. The
seatbelt and the airbag are designed to work together-the airbag is far
less effective without the seat belt, and may even cause injury if you
aren’t properly buckled in.
If you think you’re strong enough to brace yourself for a crash,
here is a quick physics lesson for you: Multiply your weight by the
speed of the vehicle, and that's how many pounds of force you would
have to exert to keep yourself from going through the windshield. Let's
work a sample problem, shall we?
Question: Arnold Schwarzenegger weighs
approximately 235 pounds. If he is in a vehicle going 35 miles per hour
and not wearing a seatbelt, how many pounds of force will he have to
exert to keep his head from smashing into the windshield?
Answer: 235 pounds x 35 miles per hour = 8,225 pounds of force!
Even Arnold Schwarzenegger is not strong enough to brace himself
against the steering wheel in a crash. Are you stronger than Arnold
Finally, even if you are a great driver, you still have to worry
about all of the not-so-great drivers out there. Sure, you may have
been driving for 30 years without being involved in an accident, but
there’s a first time for everything. Stay safe and buckle up!
Types of seat belts
The four most common types of seat belts used in automobiles are the
lap belt, the sash belt, the lap and sash, and the three point harness.
The lap belt is simply a belt that goes across the user’s waist. It was
the most common type of seat belt in older cars, but today it is only
used in the rear middle seats of some vehicles. The sash belt is worn
over the shoulder. Although it was common in older cars, it's easy to
slip out from under it. You’ll never see one in a newer vehicle. The
lap and sash consists of 2 separate belts, one that goes across your
lap and one that goes over your shoulder. Like the sash-only belt,
lap-and-sash belts are generally only found in older cars. The
three-point harness is the type of belt most commonly used today. It
consists of a single belt that goes both across your lap and over your
shoulder. In a collision, three-point harnesses and lap and shoulder
belts help diffuse the force of the impact over the shoulders, chest
and pelvis, greatly reducing the potential for injury.
How to use seat belts with children
Children who no longer need child safety seats may still be too
small to use a regular seat belt safely. If a child is wearing a
regular seat belt that does not fit correctly and there is an accident,
the seat belt can injure the child's neck and internal organs. For
children that are too big for a car seat and too small for just a seat
belt, a booster seat can truly be a lifesaver.
Courtesy of the Texas Department of Public Safety, here is how to
tell if you child needs a booster seat. First, tell your child to sit
down in the car with his or back straight against the seat. Now, buckle
him in and examine the way the child’s seat belt fits. The lap belt
should fit over the top of your child's thighs, and the shoulder belt
should fit across the middle of his chest. If the child’s safety belt
doesn't fit correctly, or if the child's legs are too short for him to
be able to bend his knees naturally when sitting with his back against
the seat, then you need to get a booster seat
Most children don't outgrow the need for a booster seat until they
are 8 years old or 4' 9" tall. However, statistics show many parents
don't use booster seats for as long as they should. For example,
according to the National Highway Safety Association, in 2006 only 1
out of every 5 children between the ages of 4 and 8 used a booster
seat. Yes, booster seats are relatively new and you probably didn’t use
one when you were a child. However, we now know that they do save
lives. According the National Highway Safety Association's Booklet
"2004 Motor Vehicle Occupant Protection Facts," children in a booster
seat were 59% less likely to be injured in a crash. So, don't neglect
the booster seat-it makes a big difference!
Remember, as the driver, it’s your responsibility to make sure all
of your passengers are safe. Make sure they buckle up!