We all know that children are safest in the back seat and that babies must ride secured into car seats, but it’s important to note that car seat laws vary slightly from state to state. Before you take your children on the road, it’s important to know the car seat laws in Missouri and ensure that your child is seated safely and you are in compliance with Missouri law.
Statistics on Car Seat Safety
CDC data from 2021 shows that 36% of children killed in car accidents were not properly buckled up. Sadly, statistics show that the proper use of restraints declines as children grow older, with as many as 13% of children between ages eight and twelve unbuckled in a report by observers while less than one percent of infants under one year old were unbuckled. The same study also shows that many parents “graduate” their children into the next stage of car restraints prematurely, increasing the risk of injury in a crash.
Car Seat Laws in Missouri
Missouri’s statutes compel drivers to ensure that all passengers in their vehicle who are under the age of 16 are properly restrained. Although Missouri law doesn’t specifically state that children must ride in the back seat, the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that children under age 13 are safest in the back seat. Front seat passenger airbags may cause serious injuries to young children in an accident.
In Missouri, the following car seat laws apply:
- Children under age two should be properly secured into size-appropriate, rear-facing car seats in the back seat of the vehicle. Car seats should be properly installed and contain five-point harnesses for maximum child safety
- Once a child exceeds the maximum height and/or weight limit of a rear-facing car seat, they may graduate to a forward-facing car seat in the back seat
- Once children reach a weight of 40 pounds and/or are between ages four and eight, they may graduate out of a five-point harness and into a child booster seat. The booster seat lifts the child into the proper position for the car’s seatbelt to rest across the shoulder and chest and the lap belt to secure across the lap rather than the child’s abdomen
Children may graduate out of a booster seat and into a seatbelt once they weigh 80 pounds and have reached a height of at least 4 feet nine inches. Children are not safe without a booster seat until they can sit all the way back against the back seat cushion with their feet flat on the floor while their knees are bent at the edge of the seat.
Penalties for Car Seat Law Violations in Missouri
The only exception to Missouri’s car seat laws is for children who ride school buses. Failure to properly secure a child into age-appropriate restraints while in a moving vehicle is a primary traffic offense in Missouri. A primary offense means law enforcement may pull over a driver for that reason alone, rather than only in conjunction with another offense such as speeding. Penalties for failing to secure a child into a car seat or seatbelt may result in fines of $50 plus additional fees for court costs. Fines may increase for multiple violations.