Finding the appropriate car seat for your child can be as challenging as buckling them in.
In an effort to demystify what makes the correct child passenger restraint system, Missouri will be observing Child Passenger Safety Week starting Wednesday.
The Missouri Highway Patrol will join the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the National Safety Council, Safe Kids Worldwide and other safety advocates to commemorate National Child Passenger Safety Week, which will end Sept. 21.
In 2020 in Missouri, 11 children younger than 8 years old were killed in traffic crashes, and another 1,438 were injured. Troopers issued citations to 1,040 drivers who failed to secure children younger than 8 years old in a child restraint/booster seat in 2020. Troopers issued citations to an additional 141 drivers who failed to secure a child 80 pounds or more or more than 4'9" in a seat belt in 2020.
Under Missouri law:
Children younger than 4 years old must use an appropriate child passenger restraint system.
Children less than 40 pounds, regardless of age, must be secured in a child passenger restraint system appropriate for the child.
Children ages 4-8 years old who weigh at least 40 pounds, but less than 80 pounds, and are under 4'9" tall, must be secured in a child passenger restraint system or booster seat appropriate for that child.
Children ages 8-15 must wear seat belts regardless of the type of vehicle in which they are riding or where they are seated (front or back). Like the child restraint law, this is a primary law, meaning you can be pulled over by law enforcement for noncompliance.
People younger than 18 years old operating or riding in trucks (regardless of gross weight for which licensed) must wear seat belts.
No person younger than 18 is allowed to ride in the unenclosed bed of a truck with a licensed gross weight of less than 12,000 pounds on lettered highways, federal, state-maintained highways and within city limits. There are exemptions for agricultural purposes, special events and parades.
It is the driver's responsibility to ensure passengers younger than 16 are buckled up safely. Those 16 and older are responsible for themselves.
MHP officials said infant seats are designed for children up to 22-30 pounds depending on the seat manufacturer. This type of seat should be placed into a vehicle so the infant faces rearward in a semi-reclined position. They also said rear-facing infant seats should not be used in a front passenger seat equipped with an active air bag. If deployed, an air bag could hit the infant seat and injure or kill the baby. Troopers said airbag or not, the back seat is the safest place for a child.
Most convertible child safety seats are designed for children from 5 pounds up to 40-80 pounds, depending on the manufacturer, according to the MHP. Like all seats, they have manufacturer's labels on the side indicating the maximum height and weight of the seat. They recline and face the rear of the vehicle in an infant position and convert to sit upright and face forward for the toddler position. Most newer convertible seats can hold children who weigh up to 35-40 pounds in the rear-facing position. NHTSA recommends keeping children rear facing until they reach the maximum height and weight for the car seat. The child can then be turned around forward facing.
Booster seats are designed for children who have outgrown other safety seats and must be used with an adult lap and shoulder belt. Lap/shoulder belts are designed for children who are at least 4' 9" tall or 80 pounds or more. MHP officials said when using a booster seat, make sure the lap belt stays low and snug across the lower hip/upper thigh area, and the shoulder belt does not cross the face or the neck.
For safety reasons, the MHP discourages the purchase of child safety seats at a garage sale or other secondhand outlets. Also, a safety seat that has been in a vehicle during a traffic crash should be replaced.
For more information about the proper use of child restraint systems or to schedule a child safety seat inspection, contact the MHP Troop F headquarters in Jefferson City at 751-1000, and ask for the public information and education officer, or visit www.seatcheck.org.