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Texas has many safety laws in place to ensure that both drivers and pedestrians minimize accidents and injuries on the road. Safety laws cover everything from child car seats, seat belts, helmets, texting while driving and driving while intoxicated.
Make sure you follow the rules to keep yourself and others safe, and protect yourself from receiving a heavy fine, license suspension, or even jail time.
You must secure any child under 8 years old in a federally approved child car seat while operating the vehicle, unless the child is more than 4 feet 9 inches tall.
Use the following guidelines when buying a car seat for your child:
- Birth – 1 year old and up to 35 pounds:
- Use a rear-facing seat suitable for your child’s height and weight.
- Make sure you check the height and weight capacity of your car seat and follow the installation and operating instructions carefully.
- 1 year old–4 years old and 20 pounds–40 pounds:
- Use a forward-facing seat for as long as is recommended by the manufacturer.
- 4 years old–8 years old and over 40 pounds:
- Use a booster seat.
Failure to secure your child in an appropriate child car seat in Texas can result in a fine of up to $25 for the first offense and up to $250 for subsequent offenses.
To learn more about the types of child car seats available, visit our guide on How To Buy a Child Safety Seat.
All passengers and the driver of an operating vehicle in Texas must use a seat belt, if available. Failure to do so can result in fines for both the passenger and driver. These fines include:
- Driving a vehicle without a seat belt: Up to $250.
- Passengers over 15 years old riding without a seat belt: $25–$50.
- Passengers under 17 years old riding without a seat belt: $100–$200 (fine assessed to driver).
- Children under 18 years old riding in an open-bed pickup or open flatbed truck: $25–$200 (fine assessed to driver).
If you have a motorcycle license, you are not required by Texas law to wear a helmet if you:
- Are over 21 years old.
- Have a health insurance plan that covers injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.
- Have successfully completed a motorcycle operator training and safety course.
If you forego a helmet without meeting these requirements, there is a high likelihood that you will be ticketed and fined.
While Texas law does not require wearing a motorcycle helmet, it is highly recommended that you do so to prevent any serious head injuries if you are in an accident. To read more about motorcycle helmets, visit our guide on How To Buy the Right Helmet.
Depending on your city or county, you may be required by law to wear a helmet while riding your bicycle. Contact your local law enforcement for more information about helmet requirements and related fines.
Texas law prohibits the use of cell phones while driving if you:
- Have had a learner’s permit for six months or less.
- Are under 18 years old.
- Operate a school bus when children are present.
- Are in a school crossing zone.
Depending on your city or county, there may be further rules on cell phone use while driving. Contact your local law enforcement for more information on laws on cell phone usage while driving and related fines.
DWIs and DUIs in Texas
There are penalties for driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI), including driver license suspension, fines and jail time.
If you are intoxicated, your mental and physical abilities are impaired due to alcohol consumption or drug use. The state of Texas uses your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to determine whether you are driving while intoxicated.
If you are under 21 years old, it is illegal to have any amount of drugs or alcohol in your system while driving. DWI charges for minors include fines, community service, license suspension and attendance at alcohol awareness classes.
If you are 21 years old or older, you can face the following DWI charges:
- A fine of up to $2,000.
- 3 days–180 days imprisonment.
- Loss of your driver’s license for up to 1 year.
- A fee of up to $2,000 per year for 3 years to keep your driver’s license.
Subsequent offenses can result in further charges including longer jail time and loss of your driver’s license.
For more details on Texas DWIs and DUIs, visit our guide on DUI's in Texas.
Identifying and Reporting Drunk Drivers
Call the toll free Motorists Helpline at (800) 525-5555 if you suspect someone is driving drunk or dangerously. Try to provide the vehicle’s license plate, make, model, location and driving direction.
Use the following as a guide to assess whether someone is driving while intoxicated.
Problems maintaining proper lane position:
- Weaving and swerving across lanes.
- Problems with staying in the lane.
- Drifting off the road or into other cars.
Speed and braking problems:
- Braking too late or too early.
- Accelerating or slowing down for no reason.
- Driving noticeably slower than the speed limit.
- Driving in the wrong lane.
- Delayed or no reaction to traffic signals.
- Failure to use headlights at night.
- Inability to signal properly.
Poor judgment and unusual behavior:
- Driving too closely to other vehicles.
- Making unsafe lane changes.
- Unusual or loud behavior such as yelling and throwing items.
It is illegal in Texas to leave a child under 7 years old unattended in a vehicle for any period of time. Children under 7 years old must be accompanied by an individual who is over 14 years old, or you risk being fined up to $500 and investigated by Child Protective Services.
To read more about keeping children and pets safe in cars, read our article on Safety Laws for Children, Pets, and Vehicles.
All motor vehicles must have 2 working headlights that shine white in color. Do not install any features that may obstruct the headlight such as a cover or grill.
Turn on your headlights from 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise, or anytime when visibility is less than 1,000 feet.
- Motorcyclists: Turn on your headlights during the daytime to increase your visibility to cars and trucks.
- Bicyclists: Use a light on the front of your bike and a red light or reflector on the back at night.
For general tips on driving safely at night, visit our page on Night Driving. Make sure you always follow your state-specific night driving laws where they may differ from any general recommendations.Other Topics in This Section
- Traffic Alerts
- 511 Traffic Systems
- Tire Recalls
- Safety Laws
- How Emotions Affect Driving
- Driving in Hazardous Conditions
- Teen Drivers: A Beginner's Guide
- Seniors: When To Turn Over The Car Keys
- Packing Your First-Aid Kit
- Seven Senior Safety Suggestions
- Wildlife on the Road
- When to Call Wildlife Rescue
- Taking A Mature Driver Course
- Medications & Driving
- Night Driving
- Hallucinations on the Road
- How To Drive Distraction Free
- Treating Motion Sickness
- Road Rage: How To Deal With It
- Werner Herzog’s Texting-and-Driving Documentary Slated to Hit Hard
- Say Hello to Tougher Texting-While-Driving Penalties, New York!
- New Study: Voice Texting and Traditional Texting Equally Distracting
- California Bans Use of Cell Phone GPS While Driving
- Teen Driver Safety: Seat Belt Use
- Headlight Laws Vary Little Throughout the Nation
- Birth – 1 year old and up to 35 pounds: