How Old Do Kids Have to Be to Sit in the Front Seat in Texas?

How Old Do Kids Have to Be to Sit in the Front Seat in Texas?

Where small children sit in a motor vehicle matters in terms of their vulnerability to serious injury in the event of a car accident. Many states, including Texas, have enacted laws regarding where children must be seated in a vehicle, as well as which safety devices must be used to ensure their safety as much as possible.

At What Age Can a Child Ride in the Front Passenger Seat? 

According to Texas Transportation Code Section 545.412, a child who is under the age of eight years old or less than a height of 4’9” must be properly secured in the appropriate child safety seat system when riding in a passenger vehicle. The safety system must be installed according to the manufacturer’s directions. Failure to obey this law is a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine of $25 to $250. 

While there is not a specific law that sets a minimum age limit on riding in the front seat in Texas, all drivers are required to adhere to a child safety seat manufacturer’s instructions for installation. All rear-facing car seats are prohibited from being used in the front seat of a vehicle if the passenger side airbag is on. Some manufacturers also prohibit the use of their products in the front seat of certain vehicles.

The front seat of a motor vehicle is not designed to protect children in an automobile accident. Airbags, which provide an important safety system for adult vehicle occupants, can deploy with such velocity that it can harm and even kill small children. For this reason, children should remain in the back seat for as long as possible, as is recommended by child safety seat manufacturing companies. 

Exceptions to the Rule

There are a few exceptions to Texas’s front seat laws. Certain types of vehicles for hire do not have to secure children in safety seats, such as taxis, Uber and Lyft vehicles, limousines, and public transit buses. In addition, if all other seating positions in a motor vehicle are occupied by other child passengers, a child may sit in the front seat. However, the child must be secured in the appropriate child safety system and the airbag should be set to the “off” position.

Child Safety Seat Laws in Texas 

If a child is not yet eight years old or is still less than 4’9” tall, he or she must be strapped into the correct child safety restraint system at all times while riding in a passenger vehicle. What is “correct” depends on the age of the child and the manufacturer’s instructions.

General child safety seat guidelines are:

  • 0 to 2 years old: rear-facing car seat until age 2 or until the child reaches the maximum weight or height limit allowed by the seat’s manufacturer.
  • 2 to 4 years old: forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the manufacturer’s weight or height limit. 
  • 4 to 8 years old: booster seat with a seat belt for all children who have exceeded the limits for a forward-facing car seat.

Children must remain in booster seats until they reach the age of eight or the required height to properly use a seat belt in Texas. After this point, they must use seat belts with a lap and shoulder harness. Only after a child has graduated from a booster seat and can safely use a seat belt may he or she ride in the front seat of a car. However, the back seat is still viewed as safest for children in the event of a San Antonio car accident.

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