Seat Belt Laws & About Evidence of Seatbelt Non-Use in Car Accidents
The Centers for Disease Control lists that car accidents were responsible for nearly 24,000 deaths throughout the United States last year. Over half the adults and teens who were killed in those crashes were not wearing their seat belts at the time of the collision.
The State of Texas observes primary seat belt laws, which means all drivers and passengers aged eight and older, or younger than seven who are 57” or taller, must be restrained by a seat belt. If they are not securely seat belted during travel, they can be stopped and ticketed for the infraction on sight. The officer does not have to have an additional reason for stopping the vehicle — the lack of seat belt use is enough to warrant being pulled over and ticketed.
Our Houston auto accident attorney knows that getting a seat belt ticket is not the worst that can happen to those who drive or ride in a vehicle unrestrained, which is why we would like to keep everyone on our Harris County safe with a few tips on obeying car seat, booster seat, and seat belt laws throughout the state.
Houston Car Seat Laws & Best Practices for Keeping Traveling Kids Safe
According to the City of Houston, all children under 17 years old must be secured in a safety belt or child safety seat, whether they are riding in the front or back seats.
Children who are under the age of five, and less than 36” tall, must be securely fastened in a car seat that:
- Is appropriately sized to fit the child’s weight and height
- Fits inside the vehicle properly
What Type of Car Seat Should I Use for My Child?
There are hundreds of car seats on the market, ranging in sizes, prices, and quality, which can make choosing the right one for your child a confusing task.
Here are a few tips on getting the right fit for your small children.
Children who are one year old or under, weighing less than 20 pounds should be securely placed in a rear-facing car seat:
- Placed ONLY in the backseat, never in the front seat with an airbag
- Seated at a 45-degree angle, or based on the specific instructions supplied with the car seat to keep the head from drooping or their airway becoming restricted
Children who are one year old or under, weighing less than 30 pounds should be securely placed in a rear-facing convertible car seat:
- Placed ONLY in the backseat, never in the front seat with an airbag
- Seated at a 45-degree angle, or based on the specific instructions supplied with the car seat to avoid their heads drooping or their airways becoming restricted
As they begin to grow:
- Children who are at least one year old, weighing 20 to 40 pounds should be secured in a convertible car seat, facing forward or backward
- Children who are at least one year old and 30 to 40 pounds should be secured in a booster seat with a harness
- Children who weigh over 40 pounds, and are less than 4’9”, should be secured in a booster seat using a lap/shoulder seat belt instead of the harness straps
- Children over 4’9” tall must be restrained using a lap/shoulder seat belt
- Children 13 years old or younger should never ride in the front seat of vehicles with active passenger airbags
Properly restraining your child can mean the difference between life and death during a car accident.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation:
- In children over the age of one year old, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of serious injury or death
- Each day throughout the U.S., an unrestrained child under the age of five years old is killed in a traffic collision
The safest place for a child in a car is in a rear seat, properly buckled into a child safety seat or a booster seat.
For adult drivers and their passengers in the front seat, wearing a safety belt improves survival by 50% during a crash. As an extra safety precaution, ensuring your airbags are functioning properly at all times is the most effective way to survive a serious collision.
While we hope you will never need our Houston personal injury lawyer, Charles J. Argento & Associates, our law firm knows that negligence can happen anywhere at any time on our roadways, causing serious injuries to even those who are properly using each safety feature available in their vehicle.
Texas Court Ruling Allows Evidence of Seatbelt Non-Use in Car Accidents
A recent decision of the Texas Supreme Court may impact the outcome of car accident litigation, potentially reducing the number of damages that an injured plaintiff can claim.
For more than 4 decades, evidence of the use or non-use of seatbelts was not admissible in car accident cases. Back then, it was thought that seatbelts did not cause accidents so their introduction as evidence in court was prohibited by Texas statute. This statutory prohibition was later repealed followed by another major change in personal injury law. The change allows proof of the contributory negligence of the plaintiff to mitigate the award of damages against the erring motor vehicle driver.
Reversal of the Award of Damages
The Supreme Court also stated that car seatbelts are fitted in all new vehicles nowadays and their use is currently a legal requirement.
The latest decision reversed the lower court’s $2.5 million awards to the family of a deceased car accident victim.
A car accident can have catastrophic effects, particularly when the other vehicle is a truck, semi-truck, or trailer-truck carrying heavy loads. In North Texas recently, a young mother and her 2 sons aged 5 and 2 years old, lost their lives in a car accident after an alleged drunk driver crashed his truck into her car. The driver was traveling in the wrong direction along US Highway 67 in Alvarado. Another child who was also in the car was injured and taken to a hospital for immediate treatment.
If the defendant driver and his employer can present evidence of the victims’ non-use of seatbelts at the time of the accident, legal responsibility for damages arising from the crash may be apportioned among the victim’s family and the defendant driver and trucking company.
Representing Residents of Houston, Texas
If you or a loved one is involved in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation.
In Houston, Texas, the law firm of Charles J. Argento & Associates has over 3 decades of experience in car accident cases, earning the prestigious AV-rating in Legal Ability and Ethical Standards in the practice of law. We can assess your situation and pursue a strategy to obtain the value of compensation that you legally deserve.
We also handle other types of personal injury cases such as defective products, construction accidents, explosion accidents, burns, and refinery or oilfield accidents.
If you have been hurt in a motor vehicle collision, contact our Houston car accident attorney today at (713) 225-5050 to learn more about your legal options in holding the negligent party who caused your crash financially responsible for your recovery.