Car Laws & Safety

Mississippi Car Seat Laws | What You Must Know

Car seats drastically increase a child’s chance of surviving an automobile accident. They also reduce the risk of permanent injury. 

Every state implements laws regarding car seat usage to increase car seat compliance. In Mississippi, the laws are meant to encourage proper, safe use rather than punish. Children under 7 years old must be in a child safety restraint.

Unfortunately, Mississippi’s car seat laws do not meet the minimum recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This means that only meeting Mississippi’s laws can leave your child vulnerable to death and injury.

Read on to learn about Mississippi’s laws regarding car seat usage and how to be sure you are using yours correctly. More importantly, review this article to be sure you are following the use recommended by the AAP. 

Car seats save lives, but only when they are used correctly. You can’t count on Mississippi law to help with this, but this article will get you off to a good start.

What are Mississippi’s Car Seat Laws?

Mississippi’s laws regarding child restraints take into account the varying needs for children as they age. Unfortunately, though, the laws are a bit vague. Here is what it says:

  • 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).

In lay terms, this means that every person under 18 must be safely restrained in a car. What that restraint looks like depends on the age and size of the minor.

Kids under 4 years of age must be in a “child passenger restraint device.”

Children over 4 but younger than 7 must be in a booster seat system until they are 65 pounds or more or are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall. Children should remain in the booster seat until the reach the size requirements even if they are already 7 years old.

What is Mississippi’s Law about Car Seats in Taxis?

Mississippi does not have separate or special laws for children in taxis or ride shares. Regardless of which type of car they are in, they must still be properly restrained.

Instead, the laws apply to “every person transporting a child under age 4.”

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Buses and farm tractors are exempt from the safety restraint laws.

When Can a Child Sit in the Front Seat in Mississippi?

Mississippi’s laws regarding child restraints do not impose restrictions whether a child sits in the front or back seat. AAP guidelines require that all children under 13 remain in the back seat regardless of height and weight.

Does Mississippi Require Booster Seats?

Mississippi law does impose the requirement of a booster seat for children between ages 4 and 7. One children are at least 65 pounds or 4 feet 9 inches tall, they no longer need one according to the law.

According to the AAP, children need a booster seat until the regular seat belt fits them properly. The seat belt should go across their chests and laps.

How Are People Supposed to Know About These Laws?

Pursuant to Mississippi law, the state tax commission provides notice of the child safety restraint requirements at the time of issuing a motor vehicle tag. 

In practice, many hospitals send an attendant out to the new parents’ car to ensure there is a car seat before releasing a new born. 

What Happens if You Break the Car Seat Laws?

Mississippi law provides that any law enforcement officer in the state may enforce the child restraint laws. 

This means that if you are pulled over for a traffic violation, for a warrant, or for any other reason, you can receive a citation for the lack of adequate child restraint. 

Of course, people who observe an improperly restrained child may also report it. It will be at the discretion of law enforcement to follow up. 

You may report safety issues to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at 888-327-4236. You can also file an online complaint with the NHTSA.

The purpose of the laws is not to bankrupt poor parents. Rather, it is to ensure compliance for the safety of the children involved. You may be fined up to $25 for each offense. 

What if I Cannot Afford a Car Seat?

Mississippi provides a small number of car seats to low-income residents with small children. To find out more, contact your local public health agency

If you qualify for public benefits, you may qualify for a free or discounted car seat through Medicaid or WIC

How Do I Know Whether I Installed the Seat Properly?

After all this discussion about car seat laws, you may be particularly concerned about installing your car seat properly. While you are unlikely to get in trouble for not having it exactly right, you should for the sake of your child. 

For new parents, the hospital where the baby is born is a convenient, knowledgeable resource. Many offer free checks by a specialist who will look at your car seat in your car. 

It is important to take advantage of opportunities to learn how to best install the car seat. You will probably find yourself moving the seat between cars more than you expect. 

If you have never installed a car seat and had it checked, assume you are doing it wrong. The NHSTA estimates that 72 percent of car seats are not installed properly!

Keep in mind that car seats only reach their maximum effectiveness when they are installed and used properly. Loose straps and improperly placed straps not only make the seat less effective, but can also make it dangerous.

Check the CDC’s diagram of the most common car seat fit mistakes to double-check the fit. 

If your baby isn’t so new anymore, find a car seat technician near you. The NHSTA has a finder tool for this.

Finally, if you are in a pinch, watch the official car seat installation video from NHSTA. 

Are Car Seats Tested?

All car seats sold in the United States are supposed to meet federal safety regulations. However, many car seats sold online do not meet these standards. 

Seats that do meet federal safety regulations will have the following label with this exact wording:

“This restraint system conforms to all applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards. This restraint is certified for use in all motor vehicles and aircraft.” 

This labeling means that the device in questions has been tested to comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213. FMVSS 213 establishes construction and safety criteria. 

The regulation establishes minimum requirements for car seat performance. To do this, child safety seats must demonstrate the protection of test dummies in simulated accidents. 

The simulations test to ensure that the seats prevent children from being ejected from the car, among other things. Special attention is paid to the protection of the head and thorax in accident scenarios. 

If you use a car seat without this testing, it may not adequately protect a child in an accident. If you already have a car seat, be sure to check for the testing label. 

You can find a list of federally approved car seats online at healthychildren.org.

What Type of Car Seat Should I Get?

There are so many car seats available on the market that it can be really challenging to choose only one. It doesn’t help that they are pricey investments, so there is added pressure to get it right the first time. 

The NHTSA has a handy visual chart to help you identify which stage your child is in. 

Some people prefer to get multiple car seats with each one being specialized for the child’s current age. This often works best for people who have multiple children who can use the seats as hand-me-downs.

Alternatively, you can invest in a single, convertible car seat. It has different functions to meet your growing child’s safety needs. These seats are usually more expensive than the single-stage seats. 

Infant Seats

Infants seats are the portable carriers with a handle that you often see parents of newborns using. These seats can be buckled into the back seat of the car or snapped into a stroller as part of a travel system.

These seats are meant to be rear-facing only. They are popular with parents who use out-of-home child care and need an easy way to transfer the baby. 

Many children grow out of these at around age 1.

Convertible Car Seats

These seats are sometimes marketed at Stage 2 seats. They can be either rear or forward facing. 

Keep the seat rear-facing as long as the child meets the seats rear-facing parameters. Then, keep your child in the seat in the forward-facing position until they exceed the weight and height limits. 

Booster Seats

Booster seats become appropriate at around age 4, or when your child surpasses the weight or height limits of the previous seat. They elevate little bodies to make regular seat belts safe. 

All-in-One Seats

Some seats are meant to last a child from birth through the booster seat phase. This is done through inserts that can be removed or adjusted for the different stages.

These seats will have a minimum weight, often 8 pounds. As a result, they may not be appropriate for some babies at the time they leave the hospital.

All-in-one seats are often wider than regular car seats, so be sure it fits in your car before purchasing. 

Can I Buy or Borrow a Used Car Seat?

Safety experts strongly recommend against the use of previously owned car seats. The concern is that the seat may have already been in an accident. 

Like helmets, car seats should be replaced after every accident. The internal protections of the seat may have been compromised even if it looks fine on the outside.

Why Do We Care About Car Seat Usage?

Automobile death and injury of infants and children might not be the first think parents think of when evaluating risks. New parents are notorious worry-warts, but using child restraints is one of the easiest and most effective ways to keep your kids safe.

About one-third of children who die in car accidents were not wearing a restraint at the time of death. Properly used car seats reduce the risk of fatal injury in infants by 71 percent.

What is the Recommended Use of Car Seats?

The proper use of car and booster seats changes as children get older and bigger. Your pediatrician can always give you recommendations specific to your child’s age, size, and development. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics and CDC general recommendations for child safety restraints are as follows:

  • Children should always be in the back seat until at least 13 years of age. 
  • Children under two should always be a rear-facing car seat. They should stay rear-facing as long as their seat permits. Rear-facing is the safest position for car seats.
  • After children grow beyond the rear-facing guidelines for their safety seat, they should then be in a forward-facing car seat. The car seat should still be in the back seat of the car. 
  • Children should be in a forward-facing car seat until they are 5 years old.
  • After outgrowing the car seat, children should remain in the back seat with a booster seat. The booster seat helps the shoulder seat belt fit correctly.

Why Are There Laws about Car Seat Usage?

According to the CDC, child restraint laws and enforcement of those laws are two strategies states can implement to improve usage. Other strategies are distribution of seats, education programs, and incentives like prizes.

States may enact laws concerning the use and operation of motor vehicles. For example, we also have laws regarding adult seat belts, cell phone use, and alcohol consumption while driving.

These laws both improve safety for others on the road as well as passengers in the car. Here, public policy supports the protection of children. 

With these laws have come massive public education campaigns to demonstrate the safety benefit of proper child restraints. The laws provide further motivation for adults not moved to protect children in vehicles.

Final Thoughts Regarding Car Seats in Mississippi

It is always important to know the laws of the state that you are driving in. In this situation, be sure to understand the reasoning behind the car seat laws. 

Rather than trying to only comply with the law, be sure that you are also following the safety recommendations for your child. The most appropriate safety restraint varies as your child gets older and bigger. 

Ultimately, these car seat laws are only in place to ensure that children are properly secured in a car. This gives them the best chance of survival and avoiding serious injury in an accident.

Welcome to my car seat blog! As a mom of 3, I put together with other hard-working moms a highly informative one-stop car seat resource, full with many reviews and buyer guides. I hope you find it invaluable. Thank you for trusting me & my team! - Keren