Mississippi law mandates that all children under four must be buckled up in a car seat. And children between four and seven, under 65 pounds, and shorter than 4’9″ must use a booster seat complying with federal safety standards.
According to the Mississippi Department of Health, one out of every three children killed in automobile accidents in the state was not wearing a seat belt or secured correctly in the car seat. It’s an appalling statistic and one that can be easily avoided.
As adults, we are responsible for complying with the laws and keeping our little ones safe while riding in the car. So let’s take a closer look at Mississippi car seat laws and understand the proper protocol for buckling up the kids.
Mississippi’s Car Seat Laws
Before going into details, let’s first see precisely what the law states about car seats and booster seats in Mississippi.
- Every operator, every passenger, and every child under 18, regardless of the seat the child occupies, must wear a properly fastened safety belt system. Miss. Code Ann. § 63-2-1.
- Every person transporting a child under age 4 shall provide for the protection of the child by using a child passenger restraint device. Miss. Code Ann. § 63-7-301(1).
- Every person transporting a child between ages 4 and 7 who is less than 65 pounds and 4 feet 9 inches tall shall provide for the safety of a child by using a belt position booster seat system. Miss. Code Ann. § 63-7-301(1).
A few other Mississippi Safety Seat Belt Laws clauses talk about exceptions to the buses and farm vehicles, possible fines, and the nature of the penalty.
While the state has done a decent job of outlining the rules and regulations, there is a lot of ambiguity as compared to laws from many other states. There are no clear guidelines on the type of car seat, where it should be placed, or how it should be secured. So only following the basic laws may not be enough to guarantee your child’s safety.
Car Seat Recommendations
To make up for the lack of clarity, the MDH provides some recommendations for additional safety measures in accordance with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Remember that most of these points are just recommendations and not strictly binding by law.
Rear-Facing Car Seats:
Rear-facing seats are considered the most secure and safest position for young children up to two years of age.
The AAP recommends using a rear-facing car seat until your child is at least 2 years old or they reach the weight or height limit of the seat.
There are two types of rear-facing seats:
1- Infant-Rear Facing Car Seat:
- Appropriate for babies as young as 4 pounds and up to 30 pounds.
- The height limit is usually around 30 inches.
- It can only be used in the rear-facing position.
- Compact, lightweight, and portable.
2- Convertible Rear facing Car Seat:
- Accommodates infants as small as 4 pounds to toddlers up to 40 pounds.
- The height limit is usually around 49 inches.
- It can be converted to a front-facing position once your child meets the minimum requirements.
- Bulky and heavier than infant-only car seats may not be a good option for smaller cars.
Front-Facing Car Seats:
Once your child outgrows the rear-facing seat, they should be moved to a forward-facing car seat with a safety harness. Generally, these seats are used for children between 40 to 65 pounds, which usually range from 4 to 7 years of age.
Forward-facing car seats are effective, but an alarming number of users fail to use them correctly. A study by NHTSA found that 61% of forward-facing car seats are misused. So follow the instructions and always double-check the safety belts while strapping your child in.
Booster seats lift the child so that the regular seat belt fits across their body correctly. Mississippi law has some specific codes for booster seat usage.
- Over 4 years of age
- Less than 7 years of age
- Less than 65 pounds
- Under 4’9 inches tall.
The seat can be either high-back or backless. In both cases, the lap belt should fit the child snugly across their upper thighs, and the shoulder belt should fit securely across their chest.
Car Seat Belt:
Once your child is 4’9″ tall and weighs over 65 pounds, they can use the regular seat belt. However, for added safety and protection, it is advisable to keep your child in a booster seat until they are 8-12 years old, depending on their size.
When they start using the seat belt, make sure it fits properly. The lap belt should fit across the upper thighs, not the stomach, and the shoulder belt should fit across the chest.
This handy visual guide by NHTSA should further help you select the right car seat for your child.
Mississippi Car Seat Law for Front Seat
The state of Mississippi has no specific laws that restrict the usage of the front seat for children. However, according to AAP recommendations, you should keep your child in the back seat until they turn 13.
But if you have to put your child in the front seat, use an appropriate car seat and make sure the passenger airbags are turned off. And keep the seat as far back from the dashboard as possible.
Mississippi Car Seat Law for Taxis and Ride-Sharing Services
Mississippi doesn’t have any specific laws concerning the provision of car seats in taxis and ride-sharing services (Uber & Lyft).
However, the law states that every person transporting a child in a motor vehicle shall provide the appropriate car seat/booster per the state law § 63-7-301(1). But again, there is no clarity on who must provide the seat, who has to secure the child in the seat, and who is responsible for any fines if found violating the law.
So, it is advisable to bring your car seat while traveling in a taxi or ride-sharing service and ensure your child is correctly secured in it.
Fines & Penalties on Violation of Mississippi Car Seat Law
The Mississippi car seat law violation is considered a misdemeanor and carries a penalty of $25. It applies to every person inside the car failing to secure a child in an appropriate car seat/booster. § 63-2-7(1)
Any duly sworn law enforcement officer or other safety personnel can stop the vehicle and issue a citation to the driver/parent when found violating the law. You can also report any suspected violation of law to your public safety office or NHTSA.
However, it’s important to note that the failure to comply with the law isn’t automatically considered child neglect by the driver/parent.
Proper Installation & Usage of Car Seats
According to a survey by NHTSA, 46% of car seats are either incorrectly installed or misused. So, it is crucial to follow the instructions and use a car seat/booster correctly.
You can also get help from certified technicians in your area to install the car seat. Or go to any nearby fire station; they usually provide installation assistance. Most hospitals also have staff to guide new parents on using car seats.
Here’s a small checklist to help you get things right:
- Choose the right type and size of car seat/booster for your child.
- Buy recommended car seats from manufacturers with proper federal safety certification.
- Read your vehicle’s owner manual to learn where and how to install the car seat.
- Follow the instruction manual that comes with your car seat.
- Secure the car seat tightly with the vehicle’s seat belt or the lower anchors and tethers for children (LATCH) system—it shouldn’t move more than one inch side-to-side or front-to-back.
- Adjust the harness straps and headrest to fit your child.
- Position the chest clip at the armpit level and center it on the chest. It should be snug enough that you cannot pinch any excess material at the shoulder.
- And lastly, always supervise your child while they’re in the car seat.
The CDC has a diagrammatic representation of common car seat mistakes and how to avoid them. You can refer to it for more information. Also, watch this car seat installation video provided by NHTSA for a better understanding.
Every kid under 4 years old in Mississippi must be secured in an appropriate children restraining device or car seat. Kids between 4 and 7 years of age, weighing less than 65 lbs. and shorter than 4’9 must travel in a booster seat.
All drivers/parents are responsible for having the right child safety equipment and properly securing a child in the car seat/booster. And failure to comply can result in fines. So, make sure you use and install the child safety device properly.
While Mississippi has laws in place, remember that these are a bare minimum, and you must take extra measures to ensure your child’s safety. Follow the American Academy of Pediatrics and Health Department guidelines for best practices.
What If You Cannot Afford a Car Seat?
The Mississippi Department of Health, in partnership with Safe Kids Mississippi, provides car seats to families meeting eligibility criteria and who cannot afford one. Contact the nearest office to seek more details.
Do Car Seats Expire?
Yes, car seats do expire. Many manufacturers specify the expiration date on a sticker or printed label at the back of a seat. Always check for the expiration date.
If the car seat does not have an expiration date, it’s recommended to replace the seat after 6 years of use or if there is any visible damage or wear and tear.
Should You Replace a Car Seat After an Accident?
The NHTSA recommends replacing the seat after a moderate or severe crash. However, you do not have to replace it after a minor hit, which means if the car has no visible damage, no airbag deployed, or your vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site.
In such cases, you should inspect the car seat for any visible signs of damage and read the manufacturer’s instructions for inspection. If you are still unsure, contact the car seat manufacturer.