Minnesota car seat laws are important to know for any person living or driving through Minnesota.
Using a car seat is one of the best ways to protect your child while he or she is riding in a car.
Car crashes are one of the top causes of death or injuries for children.
Using a car seat can save lives, and so this is the main reason that there are car seat laws for each state.
Minnesota Car Seat Laws
According to the Minnesota Child Passenger Restraint Law, it says that any person that transports a child in a motor vehicle on a street, highway, or roadway in Minnesota is responsible for making sure that the child is properly restrained in their seat at all times.
The term “motor vehicle” includes:
- Pickup Trucks
- Sport Utility Vehicles
- Rented Vehicle
- Leased Vehicle
- Borrowed Vehicle
Passenger Safety Seat Requirements
Each year, there are thousands of children killed or injured in car crashes. Using a car seat properly can help to make sure that your child is safe.
Figuring out which car seat is right for your child can be frustrating because there are so many different seats on the market.
If you are a parent or caregiver, it is important to learn how to install a car seat the right way and to make sure that you are always using the right type of car seat that your child needs.
The type of car seat that your child needs is based on age, size, and needs. Below are the different types of car seats and the requirements to use them correctly.
Rear Facing Car Seat Requirements:
- Infants and toddlers should stay in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the height and weight limit based on the manufacturer.
- There are two types of rear-facing car seats: rear-facing only and rear-facing convertible.
- Convertible rear-facing car seats allow children to ride rear-facing for up to 2 years of age.
- Used for infants up to 22 pounds, some models will hold up to 35 pounds.
- Most rear-facing car seats are equipped with a carrying handle and come with a base that can be left in the car.
- The convertible rear-facing car seat can hold up to 50 pounds and still be rear-facing.
- The convertible car seat has a 5-point harness that can be used for toddlers.
Key Points for Rear-Facing Seats:
- Make sure the rear-facing car seat is set at the right angle to make sure that your infant or toddler’s head does not flop forward while driving.
- Rear-facing car seats have built-in angle adjusters, so you know the perfect angle for your seat.
- When using a convertible or a 3-in-1 rear-facing car seat, make sure that the seat belt is routed in the car seat correctly so that it is in tight.
- Never put a rear-facing car seat in the front of the vehicle that has an airbag. If the airbag inflates and the rear-facing car seat is upfront, it can cause injury or death.
- It’s okay if your child’s feet touch the back of the vehicle seat.
- If the baby seems to fall to the side in their car seat, roll up a small blanket and put on both sides of the infant, never use anything behind or under the infant unless it comes with the seat.
- When putting your child in the car seat, dress them in thinner layers because thicker layers can cause the straps to be too loose and can lead to injury or death in the case of a crash.
Forward Facing Car Seat Requirements:
- Forward-facing convertible car seat and forward-facing car seat with harness are the two types of car seats that face forward.
- Children who have outgrown the rear facing car seat and the height limit should move to a forward-facing car seat.
- The forward-facing car seat with a harness is the safest of the two types of car seats.
- Children should stay in a forward facing car seat up to 65 pounds.
- Children up to 4 years of age should ride in a harness if possible.
- Combination forward-facing car seats can hold children from 40 pounds to 120 pounds, depending on the model.
Key Points for Forward-Facing Seats:
- If the car only has a lap belt in the back seat, a travel vest can be worn for children 20 pounds to 168 pounds as an option for a forward-facing car seat.
- When switching from a rear-facing to a forward-facing car seat, make sure that the shoulder straps are just above the child’s shoulders.
- Angle the seat so that it is in an upright position.
- Only use the lower anchors if your child is not over 65 pounds; otherwise, use the seat belt to install.
- Use the top tethers to strap the car seat in tightly.
Booster Seat Requirements:
- Children who exceed the forward-facing car seat weight and height limit should move to a booster seat.
- The booster seat should use a belt-positioning system.
- This booster seat should have a properly fitting belt that goes across the lap and the shoulders.
- Children should stay in a booster seat until they are 4 foot 9 inches and at least 8 years old.
- Children that are older than 8 years old and do not meet the height and weight requirement should stay in a booster up until they are 12 years old.
- The child should move to a booster when they have reached the maximum weight and height limit for a forward-facing car seat.
- The shoulders are above the harness slots in the car seat.
- The top of the child’s ears reaches above the top seat.
Key Points for Boosters:
- Booster seats do not come with a harness but use the lap and shoulder belt in the vehicle.
- The booster raises the child up so that the lap belt and the shoulder belt fit them properly.
- Booster seats do not secure into the vehicle but rest in the vehicle’s seat.
- Make sure the lap belt sits across the upper thighs, snuggly.
- The shoulder belt needs to land in the middle of the child’s chest.
- The belt needs to be on the shoulder and not laying on the child’s neck.
- A high back booster can be used for smaller children and have a harness that the child can be buckled into.
Seat Belt Requirements:
- Children who are 13 years of age(source) and older should always ride in the back seat and be properly buckled in their seat belt.
- Children who are large enough to have the seat belt to fit them correctly can use a lap and shoulder seat belt.
Things to Remember about MN Car Seat Laws:
- Lap belts work fine with rear, forward and convertible seats.
- Lap belts will not work with a booster seat.
- Shoulder belts should be installed in vehicles.
- A travel vest can replace a shoulder belt if a lap belt is in the vehicle.
- Seat belts are typically made for adults, and children should stay in a booster seat until they are around 4 foot 9 inches.
- Most children won’t fit in a seat belt until they are 10 or 11 years old.
- Children always need to wear the lap and the shoulder belt.
- The shoulder belt should lay across the middle of the chest and shoulder and should not lay on the child’s neck.
- Your child needs to be tall enough that their knees are bent over the seat comfortably.
- The shoulder belt should never be tucked behind the arm or back.
- Children should never share seat belts.
- No extra product should be used on the seat belt because they can interfere with letting the seat belt fit the correct way.
Special Needs Restraint System
Some children with special needs will not be required to ride in a restraint system but if the child can ride in a seat then here are a few options that can be used:
- Vest restraints-these types of restraints are used with the tether strap to give protection to the upper body of the child.
- Some restraints have been specially made to protect children with special needs.
- Car beds can be used for children that are premature and fragile.
Used Car Seats
While buying a used car seat from a garage sale or a resale shop is not recommended because no one is really sure what kind of condition the car seat is in. Here are some tips if you choose to purchase a used car seat:
- Make sure the car seat is less than 6 years old.
- Make sure the seat has not been previously recalled.
- If the car seat has been in an accident, don’t buy it.
- Check to see if all of the instructions and labels are on the seat.
- Know the owner of the car seat.
Exceptions to Car Seat Use
There are some exceptions in Minnesota to car seat use, such as:
- Children that are riding in an emergency vehicle such as an ambulance or police car do not require a car seat if they are getting medical attention.
- If the child has special needs, mentally and physically, and a licensed doctor advises against restraints or if the child has medical needs that make using a restraint system unsafe.
- Children that ride in a school bus that has a GVWR over 10,000 pounds.
- Children riding with a police officer who is on duty and a car seat is not available. A seat belt must be used as a substitute.
- A child riding in a vehicle that is for hires such as a taxi, airport limousine, or a bus.
- Children are exempt from being in a car seat or restraint system if riding a motorcycle, motorized bicycle, farm tractor, or road tractor.
Key Points to Remember about MN Car Seat Laws:
- Infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing seat as long as they can be based on their height and weight restrictions.
- The car seat should be installed based on the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Each passenger restraint system needs to meet the standards of the federal motor vehicle safety standards.
- The car seat height and weight restrictions need to be followed based on the manufacturer’s instructions.
- If you only have a lap belt in the backseat, put the child in the front seat with his or her booster seat. Make sure the car seat is all the way back, and the child is buckled the correct way.
- If your car is equipped with the LATCH system and has anchor attachments, this can be used instead of a seat belt to install a car seat. The LATCH system is as safe as a seat belt.
- When installing a car seat with the seat belt, make sure the belt locks to make sure the seat stays in place tightly.
- The safest place for a child younger than 13 years of age to ride is in the middle of the back seat.
- There is no car seat that is the safest. Purchase a car set that fits your child correctly for it to be the safest for them.
- Do not purchase a car seat that has no instructions, is missing pieces, is recalled, or does not have a date and manufacturer model number.
- People that drive pickup trucks with airbags that do not have a shut off cannot drive infants that are one year of age or under 20 pounds.
- Children should never ride in the bed of a pickup truck.
- Children that ride in motor homes and RV’s are still required to follow the car seat laws.
Child Passenger Restraint Penalties
There are certain penalties that people can face when not properly following the child passenger restraint laws.
These laws apply to anyone that drives in Minnesota, both residents, and non-residents.
Some of these penalties include:
- The driver is always considered the responsible party.
- A person can be pulled over if the police officer suspects non-use of a restraint system.
- Any person operating a vehicle with a child that is 8 years of age and shorter than 4 foot 0 inches that is not in a child passenger restraint system (including a seat belt) will face a violation of a petty misdemeanor.
- Any person that is operating a vehicle without the proper child passenger restraint system will get a fine up to $50.
- The $50 fine can be reduced if the operator of the vehicle shows evidence that they have purchased a child passenger restraint system that meets the federal motor vehicle safety standards, within 14 days of the violation.
- If a person is pulled over for not following child passenger restraint laws and they have a child that is disabled and cannot safely ride in a car seat or restraint system, they must produce a statement from the physician in court or in the office of the arresting officer.
Car Seat Help for Low-Income Families
Sometimes purchasing a car seat can be costly, and some families struggle to meet these needs.
Besides the violation program, there are many programs that are found in Minnesota that gives out free car seats to families such as:
- North Valley Public Health in Warren, Minnesota
- Inter County Nursing Service in Thief River Falls, Minnesota
- Polk County Public Health in Crookston, Minnesota
- Safe Kids Grand Forks in East Grand Forks, Minnesota
- Tri-Valley Opportunity Council in East Grand Forks, Minnesota
- Mahnomen Public Health in Mahnomen, Minnesota
- Walkin County Public Health in Breckenridge, Minnesota
- Otter Trail County Sheriff’s Office in Ottertail, Minnesota
- Tri-Valley Opportunity Council in Fergus Falls, Minnesota
- Life Connections in Alexandria, Minnesota
- Countryside Public Health-Big Stone in Ortonville, Minnesota
- Southwest Health and Human Services in Marshall, Minnesota
- Helping Hand Pregnancy Center in Worthington, Minnesota
- Nobles County Community Center Services in Worthington, Minnesota
- Human Services of Faribault and Martin in Fairmont, Minnesota
- Mower County Health and Human Services in Austin, Minnesota
- Chatfield Ambulance in Chatfield, Minnesota
- Filmore County Public Health
- Winona County Community Services
- Rice County Public Health Nursing in Faribault, Minnesota
- Mille Lacs County in Milaca, Minnesota
- Mille Lacs Tribal Police Department in Onamia, Minnesota
- Cass County HHVS in Walker, Minnesota
- St. Joseph’s in Park Rapids, Minnesota
- Mahube-Otwa Community Action in Park Rapids, Minnesota
- Todd County Health and Human Resources in Long Prairie, Minnesota
Violation Low-Income Car Seat Help
When a fine is collected for not following the child passenger restraint system laws, the money that is raised goes to the state treasury and is credited to an account called the Minnesota Child Passenger Restraint and Education Account.
The money in this account is to help low-income families to get a free or a low-cost restraint system.
Minnesota Cell Phone Laws
On August 01, 2019, Minnesota passed a “hands-free law.” This hands-free law allows drivers to only communicate through voice commands. Other parts of the law say:
- Motorists are not allowed to have a cellphone in their hand while driving.
- Music is only allowed if hands-free.
- Texting is only allowed if voice texting.
- Getting directions must be voice-activated.
- Drivers are not allowed to hold their phone in their hand while driving.
- Driver is not allowed to use their phone for gaming, looking at videos, navigation, reading texts, typing, or video calling while driving.
- A smartwatch is also considered a communication device and has the same restrictions as cell phones.
- Using two earphones in your ears is illegal in Minnesota.
- Motorists can make 9-1-1 calls in an emergency.
Minnesota Cell Phone Law Penalties
- First offense is $50 fine plus court costs.
- Second offense and more is $275 fine plus court costs.
Protecting our precious children is one of the most important things that we can do.
By following the mn car seat laws and the cell phone laws, we are helping to make sure that we can drive safely and that we can protect those that we love both in our vehicle and those outside of our vehicles.
Make sure to know and understand these laws not only when purchasing a car restraint system but knowing the laws on other things such as cell phone use to make sure that you are safe and fine free while driving.