Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed a bill Saturday that would have required children under age 2 to be secured in rear-facing car seats while in a moving vehicle and would have penalized drivers who fail to follow the new guidelines.
House Bill 448, authored by state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, "is an unnecessary invasion of parental rights and an unfortunate example of over-criminalization," Abbott said in a veto statement on the legislation.
Turner had said the legislation would "help clarify Texas' confusing car seat law and put it in line with best practices and Texas Department of Public Safety, Department of Transportation and Department of State Health Services recommendations." The measure would have provided exceptions for babies and toddlers who are taller than 40 inches, weigh more than 40 pounds or have medical conditions that prevent them from sitting in rear-facing car seats.
Texas law already requires children younger than 8 years old or shorter than 57 inches to be secured in a car seat and that the car seat be installed according to the manufacturer's instructions. The current law does not specifically mention car safety guidelines for children under 2 years old.
American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommend children stay in rear-facing car seats for as long as possible.
State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and the Senate sponsor of the bill, said that under the measure, the first time a driver is pulled over for not having a child in a rear-facing car seat, he or she would be given a warning. If a driver violates the law a second time, he or she would be given a citation with a fine between $25 and $250.
"It is not necessary to micromanage the parenting process to such a great extent, much less to criminalize different parenting decisions by Texans," Abbott said in his veto statement.
If the law had passed, Texas would have joined 14 other states that have passed similar car seat regulations.
Critics of the bill said it was unnecessary for the state to regulate how a child sits in a car seat. Terri Hall, a parent who testified against the bill in both Senate and House committee hearings, said the government shouldn’t place “arbitrary” regulations on car seats.
“I feel like the decision needs to be made between myself and my pediatrician about what the best car seat is for my child in the different stages of their life,” Hall said during a hearing of the Senate Transportation Committee.
Julián Aguilar contributed to this report.