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Feature Article


Car seat safety

Janet Hackert, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension


Baby in rear-facing car safety seatChild safety seats and booster seats may seem like a hassle, but it’s important to know how to use them properly to protect children. Car crashes kill more children 1 to 14 years old than any other cause, so adults need to know which child safety seats to use and how to install them correctly.


Missouri’s Child Restraint Law states the following:


  • Child Safety Seat: Children under 4 years old or weighing less than 40 pounds must be in an appropriate child safety seat.
  • Booster seat with lap and shoulder belt: Children 4 to 7 years old who weigh at least 40 pounds must be in an appropriate child safety seat or booster seat unless they are 80 pounds or 4'9" tall.
  • Lap and shoulder safety belts: Children 8 years and older or weighing at least 80 pounds or at least 4'9" tall are required to be secured by a safety belt or booster seat appropriate for that child.


There are many reasons children need the protection of proper restraint in a vehicle. The bones of young children are soft and their ligaments are looser than those of adults. They need the assistance of the appropriate car seat, booster seat or lap and shoulder belts to be held securely. These tools also protect the child from hitting or being hit by something or someone during a crash. Even during a sudden stop, these devices secure children in place, absorbing the force of such an abrupt movement and spreading that impact out safely.


Installing the car safety seat or booster seat correctly is key to its functioning well. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides a lot of helpful information on their Car Seat Safety website, including a series of videos showing how to install and use various types of devices. The American Academy of Pediatrics also has a helpful guide called Car Seats: Information for Families. This guide has good explanations of what to use for the specific age and size of a child, as well as answers to some frequently asked questions.


A child’s young life is too precious to leave to chance. Use a car safety seat or booster seat as recommended, even on short trips. No one ever knows when an accident will happen — that’s why we call them accidents!


For more information on safely installing a car safety seat or booster seat, and how to properly restrain a child of any age, contact local law enforcement officials or the local Health Department. They will be able to guide you to a certified child passenger safety technician. Another resource is the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Safety website.


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Last Updated 09/18/2017