Any responsible parent will want to ensure the safety of their child.
And this is why it’s so important to obey the Missouri car seat laws.
But what exactly does the law say?
What type of car seat should you use for infants, toddlers, and children?
We’re here to answer all these questions and more in this guide to Missouri car seat laws. We’ll explain everything — from the law and penalties, to how to properly install one.
On top of that, we’ll also discuss the seat belt law in the state. This way, you can keep both children and adults safe.
So let’s dive right in!
Car Seat Laws in Missouri
Let’s start by breaking down Missouri’s car seat laws. It comes in three parts:
- Children under 4 years old
- Children ages 4 to 7
- Children 8 years old and above
Let’s get into the details.
Part One: Children Under 4 Years Old
First, children under 4 years old or weighing less than 40 pounds must use an appropriate child safety seat. That said, Missouri doesn’t specify whether you should use a rear-facing or forward-facing car seat.
As recommended by experts, it’s usually best to use both types, but you must know when to switch from one to another.
The Rear-Facing Car Seat
Ideally, you start with a rear-facing car seat. Usually, you can use it until your child turns 2.
Now, when using this kind of child restraint system, don’t place it in front of an airbag. If you get into an accident and they deploy, it’ll cause more harm than good.
Also, don’t forget to check the manufacturer’s height and weight limits. It might not provide enough protection for your child if they exceed the limits.
The Front-Facing Car Seat
Once your child outgrows a rear-facing car seat, it’s time to invest in a front-facing one.
Front-facing car seats are best for children between 2 to 4 years old. However, it’s still best to check the limits set by the manufacturer. And remember to use the harness and top tether.
Part Two: Children Ages 4 to 7
The next part of Missouri’s car seat law states that you must use a booster seat if your child is 4 years old and weighs at least 40 pounds.
Typically, you can continue using a booster seat if your child hasn’t turned 8 yet. But besides their age, you also need to be mindful of their height and weight.
Booster seats are most effective if your child is less than 80 pounds or below 4 feet 9 inches. If they outgrow these limits, you can move on to the next phase (even if they are not yet 8 years old).
Part Three: Children 8 Years Old and Above
If you already have an 8-year-old (or your child stands taller than 4’9” or weighs more than 80 pounds), you can stop using a booster seat. However, it’s still essential that you keep them buckled up — this time, however, they can already use your car’s seat belt.
Car Seat Penalties in Missouri
Missouri’s car seat laws have primary enforcement. This means a law enforcement officer can pull you over if they see an unrestrained child in your car.
Unless you’re a bus or for-hire driver, you’ll have to abide by this law. Otherwise, you may have to pay a fine of up to $50, plus spend more on court fees.
However, a Missouri court might dismiss your ticket if you can prove that you’ve purchased and installed a car seat.
How to Properly Install A Car Seat
A car seat or booster seat won’t be as effective if it isn’t installed properly.
Think about that.
To ensure the utmost safety, you need to follow the guidelines in the car seat’s manual. That said, there are some things you must keep in mind.
Installing a Rear-Facing Car Seat
Here is what to keep in mind when installing a rear-facing car seat:
Find a good spot for your car seat. Ideally, it goes in the back seat. Secure it using a locked seat belt or lower anchor attachment. Either one is safe, but don’t attempt to use both simultaneously.
Make sure the recline angle is correct. It’s essential to keep babies who can’t lift their heads breathing. Your car seat’s manual can provide more information about the seat’s recline angle.
Make sure the seat doesn’t move around. Once you’ve installed it, try pushing it from side to side and front to back. It isn’t snug enough if it moves more than an inch in any direction.
Installing a Front-Facing Car Seat
And here is what to keep in mind when installing a front-facing car seat:
Decide whether you want to secure the car seat using your vehicle’s seat belts or LATCH:
- Not all vehicles have anchors (and you need these to use the LATCH method), but you will always have seatbelts.
- You can only use the LATCH method if the car seat and your child’s weight total less than 65 pounds.
Select the best location for the car seat. Look for a top tether anchor because it’s part of the seat installation process. Using the top tether decreases the movement if you get into a crash, making serious injury less likely.
Do the Inch Test. Try moving the seat in all directions after installing it. A snug fit means any movement won’t exceed an inch.
Seat Belt Law in Missouri
Seatbelt usage in Missouri has been on an upward trend (except for a slight decline in 2020). In 2021, the Federal Highway Administration put Missouri’s seatbelt usage at 88%.
Although that’s an impressive number, it’s still lower than the national average of 90.4%.
So are there no seat belt laws in Missouri?
However, it only requires the driver and front-seat passenger to buckle up in a moving vehicle. You must also ensure that any passenger under 16 years old buckles up, regardless of where they’re sitting.
In a nutshell, if you’re 16 and above and sitting in the back seat, you don’t have to wear a seat belt. Of course, although it isn’t illegal to not wear one, it’s always safer to do so.
Seat Belt Penalties in Missouri
Unlike car seat laws, seat belt laws have secondary enforcement in Missouri, except for those 16 years old and younger.
Now, secondary enforcement means that you can only be convicted of this if you are pulled over for another violation, i.e. speeding, illegal turning, etc.
The penalty for not wearing a seatbelt is a $10 fine. It might sound manageable, but remember two things:
- It does not include court fees
- It can quickly add up if you’re a repeat offender
How to Properly Wear A Seat Belt
Your seatbelt provides the most protection when you wear it correctly. Here is how to do that:
- The shoulder belt falls between your neck and your shoulder.
- The lap belt should be below your belly, not on it.
- The lap belt should fit snugly across your hips and pelvis.
- The diagonal strap should fall across your chest and doesn’t have slack. It should not be under your arm or behind your back.
You can also try adjusting your seat to get a better fit on your seat belt.
The Wrap Up
So those were the Missouri car seat and seat belt laws.
Now that you understand the laws, it’s your responsibility to follow them. Sure, buckling up may seem insignificant, but it has saved many lives, so make sure you, your kids, and your passengers wear the proper restraints.