Being a responsible driver goes beyond recognizing traffic rules and knowing how to navigate various road conditions…
It also means keeping you and your passengers safe.
And one way to do that is to buckle up.
But is it required to wear a seatbelt in Minnesota?
What about children? Do they need car seats?
We’re here to tell you all there is to know about Minnesota car seat laws, as well as seat belt laws. We’ll discuss the law in detail, tell you the penalties, and many more.
So without further ado, let’s dive right in!
Car Seat Laws in Minnesota
We all know that wearing a seatbelt when driving or riding a car is essential. However, if you have children with you, using a seatbelt may not be the best option.
Remember, manufacturers designed seat belts for adults, so it’s not as effective on children. This is why the State of Minnesota requires you to use car seats.
Now, when it comes to car seats, one size does not fit all. Depending on your child’s age, height, or weight, the type of car seat you use changes.
Here’s a rundown of the different car seat types and when it’s best to use them.
Rear-Facing Car Seats
Use a rear-facing child safety restraint system until your child is a year old and weighs at least 20 pounds. That said, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends this car seat until the child is two years old.
Front-Facing Car Seats
You can use a forward-facing, high-back car seat once your child outgrows the rear-facing one.
Its harness straps must be at or above shoulder level. Your child can probably use front-facing car seats until their weight reaches 40 to 60 pounds. However, it’s best to check the manufacturer’s instructions to know how long your child can use it.
Booster seats are for children who outgrew their front-facing car seats. Your child will have to use it until he turns 9 or reaches a height of 4 feet and 9 inches.
Remember, a booster seat works hand in hand with your car’s seat belts. It means securing your child using the lap and shoulder straps.
Of course, you also need to ensure that the seat belt fits them well. For example, the shoulder belt should be snug across your child’s chest and shoulder.
When your child turns 9 or stands at 4’9″, they can begin using adult seatbelts.
Now, Minnesota does not have a rule stating when your child can sit in the front seat. You’ll have to use your best judgment. But the rule of thumb is that the safest place for children under 13 is in the backseat.
Car Seat Penalties in Minnesota
Getting pulled over by a law enforcement officer for not having your child in a car seat may result in a petty misdemeanor. It’s not cheap either — a first offense may cost you $50.
Fortunately, there’s a way to get around this penalty. Minnesota courts may waive the fine if you provide proof that you purchased a car seat within 14 days of receiving your ticket.
Also, you must get the right car seat depending on your child’s age, height, and weight.
Other Child Passenger Guidelines in Minnesota
Besides being familiar with the different car seats you may need to use, it’s crucial to keep the following things in mind:
- Don’t make your child use a seatbelt once it’s been in a collision.
- Car seats typically expire after six years. Make sure to check the manufacturer’s sticker because they might follow a different timeline.
- Don’t place a rear-facing car seat in front of an active airbag.
- Don’t hold your child on your lap while driving.
- Children should be in the back seat of your vehicle, not the cargo area.
If you’re running errands while driving with your child, NEVER leave them in the car unattended. It also applies if one of your passengers is a vulnerable adult.
The following might happen if you’re not careful:
- They could touch the controls, cause the vehicle to move, and cause an accident
- Your car’s internal temperature may reach extreme levels (either too hot or too cold) and cause injury or even death.
- Someone might steal your car with your child or passenger still inside
- Someone might abduct your passengers or harm them while you’re away
Seat Belt Law in Minnesota
Automotive technology has come a long way, and many of these advancements focus on keeping drivers and their passengers safe while on the road. However, the one safety feature that has withstood the test of time is the seatbelt.
It saves you from sustaining grave injuries (or worse) after a crash.
In Minnesota, there were 1,265 vehicle occupant fatalities between 2016 to 2020. Studies show that 49% weren’t wearing their seatbelts when the accident happened.
This is why, today, wearing a seatbelt is mandatory in Minnesota. As the law states…
“All drivers and passengers must wear a seatbelt, regardless of where they sit, at the front or back.”
Remember, Minnesota’s seatbelt law has primary enforcement. This means that a police officer can pull you over if they see you not wearing a seatbelt.
Seat Belt Exemptions in Minnesota
Despite Minnesota’s existing seatbelt law, it isn’t as all-encompassing as you might think.
Here are several situations wherein you are not required to wear a seatbelt:
- When you are driving a car in reverse.
- When you’re in a sedan and all the seatbelts are used by the other passengers.
- You have a medical condition that prohibits you from wearing a seatbelt (you must present a medical certificate).
- Your work involves getting in and out of your vehicle frequently. However, you can only do this if you drive at 25 mph or slower.
- You work as a rural mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service.
- You operate or ride in a pickup while doing farm work.
- Your vehicle’s manufactured date is before January 1, 1965
Seat Belt Penalties in Minnesota
As we mentioned, law enforcement officers won’t need another reason to pull you over besides seeing you driving without your seatbelt.
If caught, a ticket only costs $25. But don’t think that’s the only thing you’ll pay for — you’ll easily spend $100 with all the associated fees.
Wearing your seatbelt is a cost-effective option. Not only can it save your life, but it also saves you money.
Why Wear a Seat Belt
Why is there so much emphasis on wearing a seatbelt?
Well, there are many reasons why you should always buckle up. Here are some of them:
- It saves you from paying fines. A citation for driving without a seatbelt costs $25. Having an unrestrained child in your car is $50. Plus, these amounts don’t include fees — you may pay more than $100 per incident.
- It enhances airbags’ effectiveness. Some drivers feel seatbelts aren’t necessary because the car has airbags. Most people don’t realize that manufacturers designed airbags to work with seatbelts. Airbags may cause more harm than good if they open and you’re unrestrained.
- It saves you from expensive medical bills. Studies have shown that passengers involved in a collision pay 50% less for treatments if they were wearing a seatbelt.
- It keeps you in your seat. The impact you experience in a collision can be significant. You can get thrown (or even ejected from the car) if you aren’t wearing your seatbelt.
The Wrap Up
And there you have it — all the things you must know about buckling up in Minnesota.
Remember, the required car seat for children changes as they get older. And knowing all types is the best way to ensure you install the correct one.
Also, no matter where you sit in a vehicle, you must wear your seatbelt. Otherwise, you might face some consequences.
Always be safe and responsible!