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Missouri Seat Belt Law

Missouri State Law Statute

Missouri State Statute 307.178 mandates that a driver and all front seat passengers, unless they are exempt for medical reasons, must use a seat belt when traveling in a motor vehicle.  The driver is responsible for ensuring that all children under 16 years of age, no matter where they are seated in the vehicle, are properly restrained by a seat belt or car seat, and any persons traveling with a driver who has a permit must also use a seat belt no matter where they are seated in the vehicle.  


Missouri imposes a fine of $10.00 for violation of the Missouri seat belt law if the violation is noted after being pulled-over for another violation.  Missouri drivers cannot be pulled over specifically for not wearing a seat belt.
Missouri State Statute 307.179 mandates that all children under a specific age/weight requirement must be restrained in a car seat or booster seat based on the following specifications:

  • Children less than four years of age, regardless of weight, shall be secured in a child passenger restraint system appropriate for that child
  • Children weighing less than forty pounds, regardless of age, shall be secured in a child passenger restraint system appropriate for that child
  • Children at least four years of age but less than eight years of age, or children weighing at least forty pounds but less than eighty pounds, or children less than four feet, nine inches tall shall be secured in a child passenger restraint or booster seat appropriate for that child
  • Children at least eighty pounds, children more than four feet, nine inches in height, or children eight years of age or older shall be secured by a vehicle safety belt

 

Fines for Not Wearing a Seat Belt

The fine imposed for not wearing a seat belt will not exceed $10.00 but will be issued for each person violating the Missouri seat belt law.  The fine imposed for not properly securing a child in a car seat or booster seat shall not exceed $50.00. These fines are in addition to any other fines incurred at the time of the traffic stop by law enforcement officials.  Violation of the Missouri seat belt law is not a primary offense, meaning that you cannot be pulled over and cited for violation of the Missouri seat belt law.  A seat belt fine will be secondary to the traffic violation that prompted law enforcement officials to pull you over.  Violation of the Missouri seat belt law does not result in points on your Missouri Driving Record.

 

Who is Required to Wear a Seat Belt?

All front seat passengers and the driver are required to wear their seat belt in Missouri.  Passengers under 16 years of age, regardless of where they are seated in the vehicle, must wear a seat belt or be properly restrained in a car seat at all times.  Those drivers or passengers who have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a seat belt and pregnant women are exempt.


Children who have not yet met the age/height/weight requirements must be secured in a car seat or booster based on the guidelines outlined in the next section.

 

Missouri Car Seat Information

Missouri employs the following car seat guidelines for height/weight/age requirements:

  • Children less than four years of age, regardless of weight, shall be secured in a child passenger safety restraint system appropriate for that child
  • Children weighing less than forty pounds, regardless of age, shall be secured in a child passenger safety restraint system appropriate for that child
  • Children at least four years of age but less than eight years of age, or children weighing at least forty pounds but less than eighty pounds, or children less than four feet, nine inches tall shall be secured in a child passenger safety restraint or booster seat appropriate for that child
  • Children at least eighty pounds, children more than four feet, nine inches in height, or children eight years of age or older shall be secured by a vehicle safety belt

 

There are 3 types of car seats/restraints:

  • Rear Facing car seats are to be secured in the backseat only and are for children from birth to 1 year old and at least 20 pound
  • Front Facing car seats are for children from 1 year to about 4 years old and at least 20
  • Booster Seats can be used for children from about 4 years to about 8 years old and at least 4 feet 9 inches in height and 40 pounds in weight
  • Seat Belts can be used for children who are 8 years or older and children who weigh at least 80 pounds and are at least 4 feet 10 inches in height

 

No matter which car seat/safety restraint system you use, it must be secured to the seat using a safety belt or LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children).  There should be no more than 1 inch of play side-to-side or forward.  

 

Reasons for Using Seat Belts and Car Seats

When a driver or passenger is not safely restrained in a moving vehicle motor vehicle, their chance of being injured in a motor vehicle accident significantly increases. Statistics show that 1 in 3 people in Missouri will be injured in a motor vehicle accident if they are not wearing their seat belt; however, only 1 in 8 people will be injured in a motor vehicle accident if they are wearing a seat belt.  You are more 5 times more likely to die in a motor vehicle accident if you are not properly restrained when compared to those who are.  The numbers do not lie.


When you are not properly restrained in a motor vehicle and the car stops abruptly, you will continue to move forward at the speed at which the car was moving before impact until you make impact with a hard surface.  This hard surface will likely be the dashboard or the windshield, which will cause serious injury.  If an airbag is deployed, the injuries you sustain may be of a lesser degree; however, without curtain-side airbags, you can still be thrown through a driver or passenger side window.  


In the event a motor vehicle accident causes your vehicle to overturn, you will be at the mercy of gravity.  If you are not properly restrained, you will be tossed around the inside of the vehicle, again sustaining serious injury.  A child who is not properly restrained or, even worse, is not restrained at all will likely suffer more extensive injuries to their developing bodies and brains. The risk is too great and the solution is simple – buckle up and insist that your passengers do, too.

 

Types of Seat Belts

There are several types of seat belts that you will see installed in motor vehicles, depending on the age of the vehicle.  Car manufacturers have long been experimenting with the safest seat belt system and continue to make improvements.  If you are in an older vehicle that is not equipped with industry-standard safety restraints, it is highly recommended that you contact the car manufacture for an upgrade.  


Typically, you will see 5 types of seat belt systems in a vehicle:

  • A Lap Belt is a strap that fits across your hips but, by itself, it is almost nonexistent.  You may, however, still find lap belts located in the rear-center seat of a vehicle.
  • A Sash is the strap that rests across the chest/breastbone and, again, is almost nonexistent as a sole safety restraint.
  • The Lap and Sash combination is a seat belt system that has been recently modified and updated.  This seat belt system is now referred to as the Three-Point seatbelt and is found in the front driver and passenger seats, primarily.  In 2007, however, all new motor vehicles were required to be equipped with the Three-Point System in the center rear seat, also.
  • The Belt-in-Seat (BIS) is a Three-Point system that is secured directly to the backrest of the seat
  • A Five-point harnesses seat belt system is a more restrictive seatbelt system and is often found in car seats.  2-shoulder belts connected to a lap belt that secures between the legs comprise the Five-Point system.

 

How to Use With Children

Please remember that a child is not to be restrained using a seat belt system if they are less than 8 years old, less than 4.10 inches in height or less than 80 pounds in weight.  


When determining whether or not a child can be safely restrained in a seat belt system, the following factors should be assessed:

  • Is the child tall enough to sit without slouching and keep their back against the seat?
  • Can the child keep his or her knees completely bent over the edge of the seat?
  • Can the child keep his or her feet flat on the floor?
  • Does the lap belt fit low and across the upper thighs?

 

Does the sash belt fit snugly and comfortably across the center of their shoulder and through the center of the chest?


If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, then your child is not ready to be promoted from booster or car seat to seat belt restraints.  It is your responsibility to protect all children in your vehicle who are under 16 years of age, so please strictly adhere to the seat belt guidelines.  Your child’s life just may depend on it!

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