No matter how short the drive may be, children under the age of 16 are required to be restrained when in a vehicle. The car seat and seatbelt requirements in Missouri follow the federal guidelines and are different for those who are under four years old and those who are above four years old. These guidelines and regulations were designed to help keep children as safe as possible in the event of a car accident. Understanding these laws is important for anyone driving children in the state.
Seat and Seatbelt Requirements for Under Four Years Old
When a child is under four years old, no matter their weight, they must be in an appropriate car seat or passenger restrain system. This also applies to children who are under 40 pounds, no matter their age. For children who are under four years old or 40 pounds, proper car seats include rear-facing car seats and forward-facing car seats. It is necessary to start with a rear-facing car seat for infants, then move up to a forward-facing car seat once the child is old enough.
Seat and Seatbelt Requirements for Over Four Years Old
When the child reaches four years of age and is over 40 pounds, they must use a booster seat. The booster seat should continue to be used until the child reaches the maximum height for the seat or weighs over 80 pounds. A booster seat is not required if there is no shoulder strap seatbelt in the vehicle, and booster seats must be placed in the back seats of the vehicle. Booster seats can include a back as well as the seat itself, and parents should read the instructions for the booster seat to determine when the back can be removed or when a regular booster seat can be used.
Seatbelt Requirements Over Eight Years Old
Once a child has reached the maximum height for the booster seat, they are no longer required to use one. At this time, the child must wear a seat belt whenever they are in the vehicle. It is important to make sure the seat belt fits properly before removing the booster seat. If the child is not wearing a seat belt in the vehicle or does not have it fastened properly, the driver could receive a ticket.
Where to Place the Car Seat
Car seats should always be placed in the rear seat of the vehicle. Booster seats should be placed in the rear of the vehicle, as well, and children should remain in the rear of the vehicle until they are at least 12 years old. Drivers may not receive a violation for a child younger than 12 riding in the front seat, but this is what is recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
What is an Appropriate Car Seat?
Infants and young children should be in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible or at least until they are one year old. This provides the maximum amount of safety while driving. Once the child has surpassed the weight and height limit for the rear-facing car seat, they can be moved into a front-facing car seat. If possible, the child should remain in a front-facing car seat until they are seven years old, if possible. Children who are younger than eight, weigh between 40 and 80 pounds, and are less than 4 feet nine inches tall should use a booster seat.
Car Seat Violations
If a child is not in a restraint or booster seat, the driver can be fined up to $50. In some cases, it’s possible to have the ticket dismissed by providing evidence that an appropriate child car seat has been purchased and installed. If the child is in an appropriate car seat but is not wearing the seat belt properly, the driver could receive a $10 fine. The fine also applies to children under the age of 16 who no longer need to be in a car seat, but who are not wearing a seat belt properly. There are exemptions to these fines, such as for bus drivers.
Car seat requirements are designed with the safety of children in mind, though they can be confusing to new parents. When anyone has a question about what car seat to buy, how long to use it, or whether it is installed properly, the local police department can help. Often, they will help with installation or do inspections to make sure the car seat is being used properly to help parents and caregivers keep the children safe.