By Abbie Engelhardt, R.N. for Lee’s Summit Physicians Group
Our children are our greatest blessings, so we need to keep them safe. Car seat safety is a great place to start.
Specifications for your car seat and state car seat laws are thing every parent must know. Laws, like anything else, do change over time, so it’s important that you’re up-to-date on the current laws in the state of Missouri.
Current Missouri Car Seat Laws
- Children under the age of 4 or that weigh less than 40 pounds must be placed in an appropriate child safety seat.
- Children ages 4-7, or that weigh less than 80 pounds, must sit in an appropriate safety or booster seat unless they are taller than 4’9” or over the weight limit.
- All children over the age of 8, that weigh at least 80 pounds, and are at least 4’9” tall must be secured with a safety belt at all times.
Types of Acceptable Restraints for Children in Missouri
- Rear-facing seats – This type of child safety seat has the child restrained and turned to face the rear of the car. This type of safety seat provides head, neck, and back support. This will also reduce stress to the infant’s body in the event of a crash. These are often “infant-only” seats. These are used for children that are less than a year old and weighing less than 20 pounds.
- Forward-facing seats – As the name implies, these safety seats have the child facing towards the front of the car. They are designed for toddlers that are at least 1 year old and 20 pounds.
- Convertible seats – This is a type of safety seat that can be converted from a rear-facing seat for infants to a forward-facing seat for older or larger children. You change the type of seat when the child reaches a year old and over 20 pounds.
- Booster seats – This type of seat, as the name implies, gives the child a boost so that they can be in the right position to wear a seat belt. The booster seat must be low enough to allow for the seat belt to fit snugly across the hips, shoulders, and chest, without resting against the face or neck, which can be dangerous. These are for children that are between 40-80 pounds and under 4’9”.
- Safety belts – this is what older children and adults must rely on for car safety. Missouri has strict seat belt laws to help ensure that both children and adults are securely held in their seats. This type of restraint is used for children that weigh more than 80 pounds and are above 4’9” tall. Children 12 and under should always be buckled into the back seat of the car.
These laws are in place to help ensure the safety and security of children riding in motor vehicles. Failure to properly restrain your child can have negative legal consequences. In Missouri, parents can face fines of $50 for failure to properly comply with car seat laws. In many cases, charges will be dropped if the parent shows that they have obtained a proper car seat for the child.
Proper Safety Seat Usage
Proper use of the safety seat is imperative for it to do its job properly. You need to make sure the safety seat is NOT placed in front of an airbag. And you need to make sure the car seat is tightly secured and anchored in place. The child must ALWAYS be buckled into the car seat.
Make sure you use the proper safety seat for the age, height, and weight of your child. One common mistake is putting a child that is too small in a front-facing seat or putting a child who is too big into a car seat that is meant for a smaller or younger child.
Infants should never ride in a forward-facing seat.
Bulky outerwear and blankets can prevent harness straps from snugly securing your child. Buckle the harness, and then place a coat or blanket over the harness to keep your baby warm. Only use aftermarket covers, essentially fitted blankets, designed to give additional warmth that are approved by the car seat manufacturer for your specific car seat. Such covers have been tested with the seat and won’t compromise your child’s safety.
For a bigger child, after securing him or her into the car seat, turn the coat around and put it on backward (with the arms through the armholes), so the back of the coat serves as a blanket resting on the top of the harness.
If you’re considering a used car seat for your child, make sure it comes with instructions and a label showing the manufacture date and model number. Make sure it hasn’t been recalled, isn’t expired or more than 6 years old and has no visible damage or missing parts. Confirm that it has never been in a moderate or severe crash. If you don’t know the history of the seat, don’t use it.