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Are you a proud resident of the Show-Me State? Whether you’ve lived in Missouri your whole life or recently relocated here, it’s important to understand the rules and regulations designed to keep you safe behind the wheel. While you may already know to wear a seatbelt and keep your phone safely tucked away while driving, have you considered how transportation laws apply to the pint-sized passengers in your vehicle?
Missouri car seat laws are set in place to keep children safe as they ride in a car, truck, or van. Failing to acknowledge and follow them could put your precious cargo at risk, so it’s important to review them carefully. Today, we’re sharing the ultimate Missouri car seat laws guide so you don’t have to second-guess any rule. With this information close by, you can always rest assured that you’re in line with the most recent mandates.
Table of Contents
- 1 Bottom Line Up Front
- 2 Key Definitions to Know
- 3 Rear-Facing Car Seat Laws
- 4 Forward-Facing Car Seat Laws
- 5 Booster Seat Laws
- 6 Seat Belt Laws
- 7 Guidelines on Riding in the Back
- 8 Missouri Laws on Riding in Pickup Cargo Areas
- 9 Key Legal Exceptions to Note
- 10 Car Seat Recommendations
- 10.1 Best Rear-Facing Infant Car Seat: Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat and Base
- 10.2 Best Convertible Car Seat: Britax Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat
- 10.3 Best All-in-One Car Seat: Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat
- 10.4 Best Booster Seat: Evenflo Maestro Sport Harness Highback Booster Car Seat
- 11 FAQs
- 11.1 Question: What Will Happen If I’m Found Guilty of Breaking a Car Seat Law in Missouri?
- 11.2 Question: Where Can I Find the Age, Weight, and Height Metrics For My Car Seat System?
- 11.3 Question: Are There Legal Consequences for Leaving a Child in a Car in Missouri?
- 11.4 Question: When Should I Replace My Missouri Car Seat?
- 11.5 Question: When Can My Child Stop Riding in a Car Seat in Missouri?
- 12 Missouri Car Seat Laws Guide: Final Thoughts
Bottom Line Up Front
If you’re transporting a child under the age of four or any child who weighs fewer than 40 pounds, Missouri state laws require that child to be in an appropriate car seat. If the child is four to seven years old and weighs at least 40 pounds, then they must be in a child safety seat or booster seat.
They will remain in that booster seat until they reach 80 pounds or bypass the height requirement of 4’9″. Once they reach either of those requirements and turn eight years old, they can be transferred to a larger booster seat. Alternatively, they can be secured by a safety belt once they meet those requirements.
Key Definitions to Know
- Child booster seat
- Child passenger restraint system
At first glance, these two systems might sound similar. However, there are a few important differences to note. A child booster seat is a special type of seating system that meets requirements set forth by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). These standards are issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA.
The booster seat is designed to elevate a child so that they can comfortably and properly sit in a federally-approved safety belt system. Without such a booster, the safety belt would not protect the child in the appropriate areas. For instance, it could lie across their neck instead of their chest due to their height.
On the other hand, a child passenger restraint system is what’s more commonly known as a standard car seat. This seating system also meets FMVSS requirements. You can find ones that are either permanently affixed to your vehicle or ones that affix via a safety belt or universal attachment system.
As we discuss the specific car seat laws in Missouri, you’ll need to be able to distinguish between these two terms, so keep the definitions close.
Rear-Facing Car Seat Laws
The NHTSA recognizes that rear-facing car seats are best for young children to use. Most are designed with three-point harnesses that cushion and move with your child in the event of an accident. In 2020, legislation passed in the Missouri House (HB43, HB1055) that would require all children to ride in a rear-facing position until their second birthday. A similar law was also passed in the Senate (SB 493).
The only caveat would be if your child reached the height or weight requirements for switching to forward-facing before they turned two years old. Each car seat manufacturer will clearly define these guidelines in the user manual for each car seat model.
Why is it best to keep your child rear-facing until they’re two years old? The level of support they provide can reduce the impact on your child’s neck and spinal cord if an impact occurs. There are a few different types of rear-facing car seats to consider, including:
- Rear-facing infant car seats
- Convertible car seats
- All-in-one car seats
Let’s take a look at each one in greater detail.
Rear-Facing Infant Car Seats
As their name implies, these types of car seats are meant strictly for newborns or very small babies. These seats are small and portable and are only meant to be used in a rear-facing position. Most models include a base that anchors the seat in place. This base detaches from the seat itself and remains in the car.
For this reason, many parents choose to purchase multiple bases, but only one rear-facing infant car seat. This way, multiple different family members can use the seat and transport the infant with ease. In addition, you can also find strollers and travel systems designed to interlock with an infant car seat, usually with all pieces sold under the same brand.
Though your infant might look tiny in the seat at first, you’ll soon find that they’ll quickly outgrow it! In fact, most children are ready to graduate from their rear-facing infant car seat before they turn one.
Convertible Car Seats
Convertible car seats are meant to grow with your child.
Though these might come at a higher price point at first, they’ll last for years. While your child is little, you can install their convertible seat in a rear-facing position. Then, when they’re ready to transition into a forward-facing position, you can adjust the placement of the harness and tether to accommodate that change.
All-in-One Car Seats
When convertible car seats first came on the market, they changed the game. Suddenly, parents weren’t required to buy a new (expensive) seat every time their child grew a few inches!
However, all-in-one car seats took that ingenuity to an entirely new level. Not only do these systems transition seamlessly from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing one, but they also include a built-in booster seat! This is truly a one-time investment that addresses all of your family’s needs.
Note that both convertible and all-in-one car seats come with higher height and weight limits than infant-only seats. As such, they allow a child to remain rear-facing for a longer period of time.
Forward-Facing Car Seat Laws
Once your child reaches their second birthday or they bypass the size metrics of their rear-facing car seat, they’re ready to transition into a forward-facing car seat.
These types of restraint systems use a harness and tether to keep children securely in place as they ride in a vehicle. Again, each manufacturer will have their own guidelines on how tall or heavy your child can be and still use the seat safely and as intended.
Once your child surpasses those limits, you may be able to transition to a booster seat only. However, they should still remain in the back seat. Most children will remain in their rear-facing car seat until the age of two or three. Then, they will remain in their forward-facing seat from the ages of three to seven.
According to Missouri law, children must remain in a child safety seat (not a booster) as long as they meet either of these requirements:
- Younger than four years old
- Weighing fewer than 40 pounds
In other words, a three-year-old who weighs 45 pounds will still remain in a child safety seat, even if they meet the weight requirement. In the same vein, a five-year-old who only weighs 38 pounds should stay in the safety seat even if they’re older than the age limit.
Note that not every child restraint system is designed to be used with every type of vehicle. Before you invest in one, make sure that you can use it appropriately.
Booster Seat Laws
Once your child outgrows their forward-facing car seat and becomes old enough to move into a booster seat, they will remain in that seat until they’re old enough to safely use a seat belt in the correct position.
By correct position, we mean that the lap belt is lying snugly across your child’s upper thighs. It should not be resting on their stomach. Likewise, the shoulder strap should fit securely across their shoulder and chest and should never cross in front of their face or neck. A booster seat bridges the gap between a convertible and a seat belt.
Missouri law requires children to be in a booster seat or an appropriate child safety seat if they meet both of these requirements:
- Between the ages of four and seven
- Weighing at least 40 pounds
The only exceptions are made for children who fit the criteria above but also weigh at least 80 pounds or stand at least 4’9″ tall. When your child crosses that threshold, they can safely move into a seat belt. Booster seats can either be backless or feature extra-tall backs to accommodate your child’s growing height.
Note that for a booster seat to be functional, it must be installed onto the seat using the vehicle’s combination lap and shoulder belt. Most vehicles include these belts, though this isn’t always the case.
Missouri law explains that children who would otherwise be secured in a booster seat may ride in the back seat of a vehicle using only a lap belt if the vehicle in question is not equipped with the requisite lap and shoulder belts. The law also explains that booster seats should never be used with only a lap belt, as this could negatively affect their performance and reliability.
Seat Belt Laws
If your child weighs at least 80 pounds or measures at least 4’9″ tall, then Missouri state laws dictate that they must be secured by either a booster seat or a seat belt.
In addition, all children ages eight and over must move to a seat belt or booster seat by their eighth birthday. According to Missouri law, all children aged eight through 15 must wear a safety belt at all times.
Guidelines on Riding in the Back
With each new car seat or booster seat, your child will undoubtedly be excited and ready to go for a ride! In their enthusiasm, they may even request to ride shotgun next to you. While it’s an innocent and seemingly harmless question, the answer should be no. Children are safest riding in the back, as this area of a vehicle doesn’t feel the brunt of an impact as much as the front area.
Missouri Laws on Riding in Pickup Cargo Areas
Does your child beg to ride in the cargo area of your pickup truck? Though this might sound like a fun time, it can pose a significant safety risk. It’s also against the law. If a law enforcement officer sees any children riding in a pickup cargo space, then they can stop the vehicle and issue a subsequent citation. This is the case even if you’re not doing anything else that goes against the law.
In addition, any type of offense regarding an occupant restraint system for a child under age 16 is regarded as a primary enforcement offense. This applies to children riding in both the front and rear seats.
Key Legal Exceptions to Note
If it seems like these Missouri car seat laws are a little challenging to follow, then it might help to know that the state does make a few exceptions.
The booster seat offense exception mentioned earlier is one example. Drivers can’t be held legally responsible for securing a child in a lap belt (not a booster seat) if there isn’t a lap and shoulder belt combination available. In addition, there’s also another critical exception to know, especially if you have a large immediate family.
If there are more children in your family than adequate seating positions in your vehicle, then you may have children who are unable to be protected by a child safety restraint system. In that case, the children who cannot be restrained should always sit in the back seat. There would only be an exception if the vehicle does not have a back seat.
Other people who are exempt from complying with Missouri laws on car seats include:
- Taxi-cab drivers, bus drivers, and any other public transportation managers
- Students who are at least four years old, riding in on a school bus designed to hold at least 11 passengers
Note that for a school bus to qualify for the above exception, it must have been manufactured and equipped in accordance with the regulations defined by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s School Bus Standards.
Car Seat Recommendations
With so many different car seats on the market, it can be difficult to know which ones are the best for you and your little ones. Let’s take a look at a few of the top-rated ones in each of the three main categories: infant car seats, convertible car seats, all-in-one car seats, and booster seats.
Best Rear-Facing Infant Car Seat: Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat and Base
The Chicco brand is a trusted and top-performing brand, creating easy-to-use car seats and travel systems that parents adore. The Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat and Base gets our top pick for the best infant car seat for a few different reasons.
First, it’s a cinch to install and adjust. The seat comes equipped with two bubble-level indicators that help you achieve the perfect recline angle, every time. There’s also a spring-loaded leveler on the base so that angle is right, too. When it’s time to secure the seat and base to your vehicle, LATCH connectors make the process a snap.
If you’ve ever wrangled with complicated restraint systems, you know this usability is a big deal. We also love that the seat can go from the car to a compatible Chicco stroller with ease. This makes quick trips to the park or grocery store that much easier. Other features we love about this stroller include:
- Removable infant insert to cradle even the tiniest newborns
- Adjustable shade canopy
- Washable seat pad
- Variety of neutral colors
This system is designed for babies between four and 30 pounds, and up to 30 inches tall. While it comes with a bevy of great features, keep in mind that at 9.5 pounds, the seat itself is a little heavier than some comparable models.
This car seat is currently available on Amazon for $219.99
Best Convertible Car Seat: Britax Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat
Britax travel systems are some of the plushest and most comfortable on the market, and the Britax Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat is no exception.
Thanks to the brand’s patented ClickTight technology, installing this car seat is as easy as buckling a seat belt. You can install it both rear-facing and forward-facing, and it comes with a range of features designed to keep your child safe and comfortable as they grow, including:
- 14-position easy-adjust harness
- Seven recline positions
- Two buckle positions
- Foam pad lining
Rear-facing size limits are five to 40 pounds and forward-facing limits are 20 to 60 pounds. A few cons to note include the heavy weight of the seat, as well as the fact that there’s no booster seat included. Still, it’s a great buy and available for only $319.99 on Amazon.
Best All-in-One Car Seat: Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat
Want a car seat that will deliver up to a decade of use? The Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat fits the bill. Though it has the word “convertible” in its product name, this is more correctly categorized as an all-in-one seat.
This do-all restraint system will see your child through four distinct stages, including:
- Rear-facing harness car seat (four to 40 pounds, head at least one inch below the handle)
- Forward-facing harness car seat (22 to 65 pounds, 22 to 27 inches)
- High-back belt-positioning booster seat (40 to 100 pounds, up to 52 inches)
- Backless belt-positioning booster seat (40 to 120 pounds, up to 57 inches)
Other features that stand out about this convertible car seat include:
- Quick installation
- Adjustable five-point harness system that grows as your child does
- Six-position recline
- 10-position headrest
- Built-in cup holders
- Steel-reinforced frame
- Graco Protect Plus engineering to protect in frontal, side, rear, and rollover crashes
Though this one is the best on the market, there are a few drawbacks to note. First, this system is a little bulky, and can be difficult to maneuver into and out of smaller vehicles. It’s also heavier than some models. Still, if you don’t mind a little extra legwork, it’s worth the price for a one-time investment!
This car seat is currently available on Amazon for $299.99.
Best Booster Seat: Evenflo Maestro Sport Harness Highback Booster Car Seat
The Evenflo Maestro Sport Harness Highback Booster Car Seat is actually two seats in one. It can start out as a forward-facing harness and once your child exceeds the designated weight and height limits, it seamlessly transitions into a belt-positioning booster seat.
Used as a forward-facing seat, it can accommodate children 28 to 50 inches tall and 22 to 50 pounds. Used as a booster, those limits expand to 44 to 57 inches tall and 40 to 110 pounds. Some of this seat’s most important features to note include:
- Easy-adjust, five-point front harness
- Automatic shoulder belt positioning to ensure correct fit
- Dual cup holders
- Removable, machine-washable seat pad
Note that some users do find the latches a little difficult to tighten, and others mention that without a base, the bottom of the seat can be a little tough on leather seats. Otherwise, it’s a solid booster by a well-known and reliable brand. At only $89.99 on Amazon, it’s a smart buy.
Question: What Will Happen If I’m Found Guilty of Breaking a Car Seat Law in Missouri?
Answer: The first three subsections of the Missouri car seat law dictate the age, height, and weight requirements that adults drivers should consider when installing a car seat system in their car. If an officer pulls you over and finds that your child is in a car seat that’s ill-sized for their needs (e.g. too small or too tall), then they could find you guilty of an infraction.
If you are convicted, then you may be required to pay a fine of no more than $50, as well as associated court costs. The good news? This charge, along with any costs you’ve paid, could be dropped and dismissed if you can prove to the court that you have purchased the appropriate restraint system.
The exception to this rule is any driver who violates subsection four of the Missouri car seat law. This is the subsection explaining that any child who weighs at least 80 pounds or stands at least 4’9″ tall should use a booster seat or vehicle safety belt that’s appropriately sized.
If you’re found guilty of violating this law, then the offense is considered an infraction. You may be required to pay a fine, but it will not exceed $10. You’re unable to reverse this ruling, though the fee is minimal compared to a violation of subsection 1-3.
Question: Where Can I Find the Age, Weight, and Height Metrics For My Car Seat System?
Answer: Any car seat system you purchase should come with a detailed guidebook. This is true whether you bought an infant rear-facing car seat for your newborn, or a booster seat for your 10-year-old. Here, you can find exact specifications on when it’s safe to transition your child into and out of the system based on their physical characteristics.
If you can’t find the information you’re looking for there, then hop online and search the manufacturer’s website. If you’re still coming up short, then reach out to their customer service team for help. Local Missouri communities may also host drive-up car seat inspection stations, where licensed professionals can review your current setup and recommend adjustments or upgrades.
Question: Are There Legal Consequences for Leaving a Child in a Car in Missouri?
Answer: As of right now, Missouri law only persecutes drivers if they leave a child alone in a vehicle, and that abandonment injures the child or causes their death. Specifically, the act is classified as a Class A misdemeanor if the unattended child is 10 years old or younger and experiences an injury while in the vehicle alone. If that injury is fatal, then the court will upgrade the offense to a Class C felony.
It’s never smart to leave a child in a car for any period of time. The most prominent concerns are extreme temperatures. If the car’s cabin gets too hot and your child is restrained, then they could suffer a heatstroke. They could also become injured by being exposed to frigid temperatures for too long.
Simply cracking your window isn’t enough. The cabin can still become uncomfortable and unsafe, so always remember to check your back seat before you leave your vehicle!
Question: When Should I Replace My Missouri Car Seat?
Answer: There isn’t a specific Missouri law that dictates when you need to replace your existing car seat with a newer, better model. According to the NHTSA, you should always replace a car seat after a mild to severe crash. This is because you want to make sure that the system can still offer ample crash protection to its tiny passengers, and if any of those materials are compromised, it could render the seat unsafe.
If your vehicle is involved in a minor crash, then you don’t necessarily need to replace your car seat automatically. Still, it’s a good idea to take it to a car seat specialist in your area who can assess its overall condition. The NHTSA defines a minor crash as one in which:
• You can drive the vehicle away from the crash site
• The door nearest to the car seat was not damaged
• The airbags (if available) did not deploy
• The car seat does not appear visibly damaged
• No one involved in the crash was injured
Even if you aren’t involved in a crash, it’s still smart to replace your car seat within six years of its manufacture date. Newer models will feature advanced, upgraded features that can keep your little passengers safe.
Question: When Can My Child Stop Riding in a Car Seat in Missouri?
Answer: Got a tween itching to get out of their restraint system? According to Missouri law, any passenger age 16 or younger must be secured in an appropriate car seat system. If you are found in contempt of any of these laws, then you could be held legally and financially responsible.
Missouri Car Seat Laws Guide: Final Thoughts
It’s no secret that car seat laws can be confusing. There are many different calculations to remember and measurements to take, which can be complicated, especially with little ones underfoot!
That’s why we’ve decided to set the record straight and make it simple. With our Missouri Car Seat Laws Guide close by, you’ll have a quick reference to check any time you have a question. It can also help if you’re wondering whether your child is ready to move into a different system.
These regulations are in place to keep your tiny backseat drivers as safe as possible on the road. By following them, you can help protect the most precious and vulnerable members of your family.
Looking for more baby advice you can trust? We have lots of other informative guides on our blog. Heading to the Prarie State or Buckeye State soon and want to make sure you’re complying with their state car seat laws? Be sure to check out our other posts on Illinois Car Seat Laws and Ohio Car Seat Laws!