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Protecting children in vehicles starts with finding the right car seat that fits a child based on the child's weight and height.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol joins the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Safety Council, Safe Kids Worldwide and other safety advocates to commemorate National Child Passenger Safety Week, Wednesday through Tuesday, Sept. 15 to 21.

The primary goal of this program is to remind all parents and other adults responsible for children traveling in motor vehicles of the importance of child safety seats and seat belts, states a highway patrol release.

"Every year, children suffer needless injuries. In 2020, 11 children under the age of 8 were killed in traffic crashes and another 1,438 were injured," according to the release. 

Troopers issued citations to 1,040 drivers who failed to secure children younger than 8 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 over 4-foot-9 in a seat belt in 2020.

"Troopers investigate traffic crashes every day. Nothing is more disturbing than a traffic crash that includes a child being hurt or killed. The Missouri State Highway Patrol encourages every driver to make sure child passengers in their vehicles are restrained properly," states the patrol release.

Missouri law states:

• Children less than 4 years old are required to 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 to 8 who weigh at least 40 pounds, but less than 80 pounds and are under 4-foot-9, must be secured in a child passenger restraint system or booster seat appropriate for that child.

• Children ages 8 through 15 must wear seat belts regardless of the type of vehicle they are riding or where they are seated in the vehicle. A driver can be pulled over by law enforcement for noncompliance.

• No person under age 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 and 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 under the age of 16 are buckled up safely. Those 16 and over are responsible for themselves.

There are many styles of child safety seats from which parents may choose. Infant seats are designed for children 22 to 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.

"It is important to remember 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. Airbag or not, the back seat is the safest place for a child," states the release.

Most convertible child safety seats are designed for children from 5 pounds and up, depending on the manufacturer. Like all seats, they have manufacturer’s labels on the side indicating the maximum height and weight of the seat. They recline and face rearward 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 or 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," states the release.

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-foot-9 or 80 or more pounds.

"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," states the release.

For safety reasons, the Missouri State Highway Patrol 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.

"There is no one 'safest' child safety seat. Use the one that fits your child, fits in your vehicles correctly, and one that you will use correctly every trip, every time," states the release.

For more information, visit seatcheck.org.

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