How to keep youngest passengers safe every ride
By Lauren Macias-Cervantes
EL PASO - Parents and caregivers do everything they can to protect their children from harm, and TxDOT helps parents take the same precautions before heading out on the road.
In 2022, 72 children younger than 8 years old died in traffic crashes in Texas, and 16 of those were unrestrained at the time of the crash.
Unfortunately, Lt. Oscar Villarreal with the Texas Department of Public Safety in Dallas has responded to multiple disturbing scenes in his 25 years in law enforcement.
“One of the most heartbreaking things is when you walk up to that crash, and it looks a little worse than a fender bender and you see people walking out of the car and there’s a child in there and they were not in a safety restraint system or in a seatbelt or they weren’t restrained at all and the medics are doing everything they can,” Villarreal said. “That’s one of the most heartbreaking things when if we had just taken the time to do the right thing.”
Texas law requires all children under 8 — or shorter than 4 feet, 9 inches — to be in a car seat whenever they ride in a passenger vehicle. Failure to properly restrain a child can result in a ticket of up to $250.
“A lot of people don’t know that a specific seat should be used for their children depending on their age, height, and weight. A lot of people also don’t know how to properly restrain their child in a car seat or that car seats expire. Unfortunately, nationally, nearly 50% of the car seats we do see have some type of misuse,” shared Monica O’Kane, project coordinator with TxDOT’s Behavioral Traffic Safety Section.
Selecting the right car seat and installing it correctly is important to make sure it does its job during a crash, which is why TxDOT offers free car seat safety checks year-round. Parents can schedule a free car seat check by visiting savemewithaseat.org and entering their zip code to find the nearest TxDOT Traffic Safety Specialist.
TxDOT encourages participants to show up early as Child Passenger Seat (CPS) technicians at events will assist attendees on a first come, first served basis. Caregivers/parents must bring their child and/or children along with the car seat or booster seat the child is currently using. In addition, parents/caregivers must bring their Texas ID, TX Driver’s License or Military ID.
“If you’ve never been to one of these events please come out, look for them online, there are so many events and resources. Caregivers are going to learn things they didn’t know and help ensure their children will travel safely and prevent tragedy,” said Villarreal.
TxDOT has more information on its website, SaveMeWithaSeat.org.
Visit the Safe Riders inspection station website for a list of CPS Week checkup events.