All Questions

February 9, 2023 | Gary Burger

What Are Missouri's Seat Belt Laws?

What Are Missouri's Seat Belt Laws? Seat belt laws are intended to keep ourselves and others on the road safe. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2017 seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives nationwide. At Burger Law, our car accident lawyers are experts in all things related to car safety and car accident laws. If you were injured by a negligent driver anywhere in Missouri or Illinois, discuss your case with an attorney for free at (314) 500-HURT or contact us online. Otherwise, read on below to learn more about Missouri's seat belt laws.

Seatbelt laws are in place for a good reason. According to the Missouri Traffic Safety Compendium, in 2022, drivers and passengers who did not use a seat belt or other restraint accounted for:

  • 35 percent of all "disabling injuries"
  • 21 percent of all "evident injuries"
  • 62 percent of all fatal injuries
  • 66 percent of all people partially or totally ejected from a vehicle

Missouri's Seat Belt Laws

The state's seat belt laws can be found in Missouri Revised Statute §301.178 and Missouri Revised Statute §301.179, and they mostly concern children. In general, they are:

  • Everyone riding in the front seat of a vehicle weighing less than 12,000 pounds (so, a passenger car) must wear a seatbelt that meets National Highway, Transportation and Safety Act requirements. An exception exists for vehicles manufactured before January 1, 1968.
  • Exceptions may also apply to people who have medical reasons not to wear a seatbelt (with a doctor's note).
  • Anyone under the age 18 operating or riding in a truck must wear a seatbelt.
  • Driver's transporting children under the age of 16 must ensure that they are all wearing a seatbelt, and that:
    • Any child under two years old should be secured in a rear-facing child safety seat.
    • Any child under the age of four must be secured in an approved child safety seat.
    • Any child less than 40 pounds, regardless of age, must be secured in an approved child safety seat.
    • Children between the ages of four and eight, weighing between 40 and 80 pounds and who are less than 4 foot 9 inches, must be in a child booster seat.
  • Police cannot pull you over only to ensure you're wearing a seat belt, and it's not probable cause for any other crime.
  • "Public carriers," like taxis or buses, are exempt from seatbelt laws. Children also do not have to wear seat belts on school buses designed to carry 11 passengers or more.
  • Post office drivers and drivers of agricultural vehicles are also exempt.

What Are the Penalties for Violating Missouri's Seat Belt Laws

It's the driver's responsibility to ensure everyone in their vehicle is following the law. If a driver or a passenger is not wearing or using their seat belt correctly, the driver may have to pay a fine between $10 and $50 and additional court costs. If the violation was for not having a child in an appropriate child safety seat, you can avoid the conviction by showing the court that the problem has been remedied since you got ticket.

Drivers of vehicles with unsecured children may face criminal negligence charges if the child is injured or killed. And there's good reason for that. In Missouri in 2017, of the 79 children killed in car accident, 55 were not wearing a restraint during the time of the crash.

Can I Still Get Compensation in a Missouri Car Accident If I Wasn't Wearing a Seatbelt?

Yes, you can still make a financial recovery if you were not wearing a seatbelt when you were injured by a negligent driver. Missouri is one of 15 states that allow a seat belt defense in personal injury cases, with two stipulations:

  1. The defense must present an expert witness who can testify that your failure to wear a seat belt contributed to your injuries.
  2. Your compensation can't be reduced by more than one percent of your total damages.

Missouri is a comparative negligence state, meaning you only receive compensation for that percentage of the accident that wasn't your fault. In the above case, say your damages amount to $100,000. If you weren't wearing a seat belt, you would still have a right to $99,000 in damages.

Missouri and Illinois Car Accident Lawyers | Burger Law

If you or a loved one were hurt by a negligent driver, you deserve full compensation. Burger Law's elite auto accident law firm can ensure you get it. Call us today at (314) 500-HURT or fill out our online form for a free consultation.