In the Minnesota car seat laws, all children over the age of 8 and taller than 4’9” have to be secured in some type of child-restraint system. This can include a car seat or booster seat, depending on the child’s age and size, and it applies to all types of vehicles, including sedans, pickup trucks, minivans, and SUVs. All car seats must be federally approved and new or nearly new, and they must include a 5-point harness system for the most safety.
In Minnesota, all drivers are responsible for all of the passengers in the vehicle as long as it is moving, whether those people are residents of the state or not. In addition, Minnesota is one of the many states where the authorities can stop you simply for not being buckled up properly; they do not need to wait until you are in violation of another law to stop you for seat belt infractions.
There are, however, exceptions to these rules, as they do not apply to vehicles such as emergency medical vehicles, taxicabs, airport limos or buses, school buses, and certain large passenger vans. In addition, if the child has a legitimate medical reason for not riding in a car seat or seat belt, this is acceptable as long as the driver is always in possession of documentation to that effect signed by a physician.
Laws for Rear-Facing Car Seats
In Minnesota, any child ages 0 to 1 and who weighs 20 pounds or less must be in a rear-facing car seat in the rear seat of the vehicle, and the child must remain there as long as the vehicle is moving. Although this is the basic recommendation, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently made adjustments to their recommendations and now suggest that children up to age 2 should be in a rear-facing car seat.
If the user’s manual for your car seat has different recommendations than these, you can follow its guidelines instead, provided you are using a federally approved car seat that has a 5-point harness system. If unsure, always keep the child in the recommended seat until he or she reaches the maximum age or weight limit mentioned in the manual.
Laws for Front-Facing Car Seats
Children ages 2 to 4 can be placed in a front-facing car seat as long as they weigh at least 20 pounds. Always pay attention to the maximum weight limits recommended by either the state or the car seat manufacturer and keep children in the correct car seat as long as possible before moving them to the next type of car seat.
Children should be kept in front-facing car seats until the age of 4, when they can be placed in some type of car booster seat.
Laws for Booster Seats
Once a child reaches the age of 4, he or she can be placed in a standard car booster seat as long as the seat is able to be secured with a standard seat belt. In the state of Minnesota, children must remain in a booster seat until the age of 8 or until they have reached a height of 4’9”. In addition, the booster seat has to be one of the following two types of booster seats:
- Backless booster seats: these seats should be used only if your vehicle has the proper headrests. Children’s necks and shoulders must be protected in the event of a crash, and this can only happen with proper headrests or with a booster seat that is full-sized and includes head protection.
- Booster seats with headrests: if your vehicle has no headrests or if the headrests are not safe for some reason, your child has to be in a full-sized booster seat that includes headrests. Children can suffer severe injuries if their head and neck aren’t well-protected in an accident.
Children must also have the maturity level to sit in a standard position with their feet touching the ground and their backs against the seat, plus be able to sit like this for as long as the vehicle is moving, to remain in the booster seat. Otherwise, it is best to put the child back into a front-facing car seat until he or she is ready in all ways to be in a booster seat.
Height and Weight Requirements
There are few actual height and weight requirements in the Minnesota car seat laws, but the ones that exist are broken down like this:
- Ages 0-1 and less than 20 pounds: rear-facing car seat
- Ages 1-4: front-facing car seat
- Ages 4-8 and less than 4’9” in height: car booster seat with standard seat belt system
- Ages 9 and over and at least 4’9” in height: standard seat belt system
If there are any concerns or you aren’t sure if your child is ready for the next step in the car seat process, it is best to leave him or her in the current setup. Furthermore, as long as the child has reached the maximum height and weight suggested by the manufacturer of the car seat, it is appropriate to move him or her up to the next kind of car seat.
Laws for Seat Belts
In Minnesota, the authorities can stop you simply for not wearing a seat belt, so you don’t have to be in violation of another law to get stopped. The driver of the vehicle is responsible for making sure all passengers in the car are buckled up properly, and the fines for this infraction can cost you a minimum of $25 and possibly more than $100 once you count the fees they may impose.
If you are driving and someone in the vehicle who is 14 or under is not wearing a seat belt or restrained in a car seat, you will receive the fine. However, by law everyone 15 years of age or older can receive this ticket if the police stop you and you are not wearing some type of restraint system. You should also make sure you wear the seat belt properly, which means utilizing both the lap belt and shoulder belt, and you should apply these rules every time you are driving a vehicle or riding in one while the vehicle is moving.