Guide to Driving Safely When You Have Children of Various Ages on Board

Child safety on Missouri’s roads is a concern. In 2021, the state saw 28 child fatalities between the ages of 0 and 14 in traffic crashes. This number represented 2.8% of the total fatal crashes in the state for all of 2021.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), child restraints can potentially reduce fatalities by 71% for infants under one year and 54% for those aged 1 to 4 in passenger cars.

Familiarizing yourself with Missouri’s child passenger safety laws and practical tips for choosing a car seat can help you protect them on the road. 

Child Seat Safety Laws in Missouri

Ensuring the safety of children in your vehicle is not just about caution; it’s the law in Missouri. The state has specific regulations in place to protect young passengers. According to Missouri’s Child Restraint Law (RSMo 307.179):

  • Children under 4 years old or weighing less than 40 pounds must use an appropriate child safety seat.
  • Children between 4 and 7 years old who weigh at least 40 pounds should be in an appropriate child safety seat or booster seat unless they reach 80 pounds or a height of 4’9”.
  • Children aged 8 and older, or those weighing at least 80 pounds or measuring 4’9” in height, must wear a safety belt or sit in an appropriate booster seat. This includes children up to 16 years old.

How to Choose the Safest Car Seat for Your Younger Children?

Choosing the right car seat for your child helps keep them safe — but it’s also a legal requirement. Missouri’s child seat laws mandate that car seats meet criteria outlined in federal safety standards under 49 Czzzzzzz.F.R. 571.213.

Consider the following tips to help you select an appropriate car seat for your younger child:

  • Consider Age, Weight, and Height

Know your child’s age, weight, and height. Car seats come with specific weight and height limits. For infants, rear-facing seats are the safest choice as they provide crucial support for their developing neck and spine.

As your child grows, transition to forward-facing seats and eventually booster seats when they reach the recommended size and age per manufacturer guidelines.

  • Check for Compliance

Ensure your selected car seat complies with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 213. This standard guarantees that the seat has undergone rigorous safety tests and meets federal safety regulations. Look for a label on the car seat that confirms this compliance.

Typically, it appears as a label with a white background and red text, stating it is certified for vehicle use.

  • 5-Point Harness System

Opt for car seats equipped with a 5-point harness system. This system secures your child at the shoulders, hips, and between the legs, providing optimal protection by distributing crash forces across the strongest parts of their bodies. Always check the car seat label to ensure your child is the right height and weight for the harness.

  • Read the Manuals

Take the time to thoroughly read and understand the car seat and vehicle owner manuals. These manuals contain vital information regarding proper installation, compatibility, and usage. Following the manufacturer’s instructions ensures your child’s safety.

Tips for Keeping Your Kids Occupied While in the Car

Keeping your children entertained in the car is vital to ensuring that you, as a driver, can remain focused on the road. Engaging activities and distractions for kids of all ages can make journeys smoother and safer for everyone involved.

Here are some ideas to keep your little passengers occupied, no matter their age:

  • Babies and toddlers: Use rear-facing car seats with built-in toys or mirrors for a safe journey with your baby. Play soothing lullabies, hang reachable soft toys, and talk or sing to them for comfort and engagement.
  • Preschoolers: For preschoolers, pack a bag with toys, crayons, or books. Play child-friendly audiobooks and offer healthy snacks to keep them content and entertained.
  • School-age children: When traveling with elementary or middle school-aged kids, bring their favorite books, comics, or handheld games to keep them engaged. Consider creating a car-friendly activity kit with coloring books and colored pencils.
  • Teens: When traveling with teens, let them listen to their favorite music or podcasts with headphones. Choose family-friendly audiobooks, such as the Harry Potter series, for collective listening. You can also encourage them to use their phones responsibly with hands-free options.

Keep Your Children Safe When Traveling

Ensuring the safety and comfort of your children while traveling is a top priority. However, even with the best precautions, accidents can happen. If you or your child suffer injuries in an accident, talk with our auto collision lawyers at Cofman Townsley.

We can offer your family legal guidance and support and help you seek compensation from a negligent driver. Contact us today for a free consultation to learn your legal rights after a collision.