Clarified Confusion of Minnesota Booster Seat Law

A new booster seat law takes effect in Minnesota today. I’ve read information in our local newspaper, the Brainerd Dispatch, over the last few months and understood this law to apply to children who are between the ages of 4 and 8 and who are also shorter than 4-feet-9-inches tall.

Under that understanding, the new law would not require us to put our 10-year-old daughter in a booster seat, even though she is under 4 feet-9-inches tall.

Then, yesterday—the day before the law takes effect—I read this state brief from the Associated Press in our paper:

Beginning Wednesday, children under 8 years old or under 4-feet-9-inches tall will have to travel in booster seats.

From the language in this reading, it appears that the law would apply to any child under 8 years old or any child under 4-feet-9-inches tall.

My first thought was that the number of ways this law has been announced and reported has created confusion for parents. But then my second thoughts went straight to my own situation.

Am I now going to be required by law to buy and use a booster seat for my children who haven’t been in car seats since they were four? In my opinion that would be absurd especially since I, myself, am 4-feet-11-inches tall.

Did anyone else have this same confusion with this new law?

While my writing at this website is not directly for informational purposes, I thought other parents might be interested in the answers I found with a lot for searching for clarification.

At the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety website in their Child Passenger Safety page they define the new law and answer frequently asked questions. I’m including their words directly with boldface added:

New Booster Seat Law Effective July 1, 2009
Minnesota’s new child passenger safety law requires a child who is both under age 8 and shorter than 4 feet 9 inches to be fastened in a child safety seat or booster. Under this law, a child cannot use a seat belt alone until they are age 8 or 4 feet 9 inches tall — whichever comes first. It is recommended to keep a child in a booster based on their height, rather than their age.

Booster Seat Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What’s the law regarding booster seats?

A: Under MN Statute 169.685, subdivision 5; any child who is both under the age of 8 and under 4 feet 9 inches tall must be fastened in a child safety seat or booster seat.

Q. What are booster seats and how are they used?

A: Booster seats lift a child up allowing the lap belt to fit low and snug across the hips and the shoulder belt to fit snug across the middle of the chest to provide the necessary protection in a crash.

Q. What are the consequences of not using a booster?

A: The fine is $50 however, with local fees and surcharges the fees could total

$100–$130. More importantly, a child that should be in a booster that is seated in a seat belt alone can suffer death or serious injury in the event of a crash. Injuries associated with poor seat belt fit include ejection, internal decapitation and serious abdominal damage.

Q. Who should use booster seats?

A: Any child who is over the age of 4 and over 40 pounds who has outgrown a forward facing safety seat. A child should use a booster until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall.

Q. Should I use a high back or low back booster?

A: Boosters without a back may only be used in vehicles with a head rest. High back boosters are effective as they offer a slot for you to thread the seat belt to properly position the seat belt across the child’s chest.

Q. What if my child is 9 years old, but only 4 feet 6 inches tall (or shorter)? Under the law he/she would be able to be seated with just a seat belt.

A: By Minnesota state law, they would not be required to be in a booster seat, however, the best safety practice would be to keep them in a booster until they reach 4 feet 9 inches tall.

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9 Comments

  1. Tina
    Jul 1, 2009

    We now have the same law, or at least I think it reads the same. We wondered too about having to put the oldest back into a booster. Silly to think. Glad that it was clarified to having to meet both criteria. He would have been one mad boy to still be in a booster!

  2. Rebecca
    Jul 1, 2009

    Carseat and booster seat laws are so confusing to follow!

  3. ph
    Jul 1, 2009

    What she didn’t say was how much of a pain it was to actually find the correct language. Some news stories got it wrong, some right. We tried to find the law on an official site-and after a few attempts, we finally found it.

    I’ll leave the political commentary out for a different web site…

  4. big w
    Jul 10, 2009

    I am sick of the gov. trying to fix the stupid, more laws are not the answer. what if child is sitting in the middle of the back seat where there is no shoulder strap, a booster does nothing for that in fact I think it could be worse. I have an idea, lets pass a law that makes it illegal to do anything that you could possibly get an injury from.

  5. mother of 3
    Jul 18, 2009

    Thank you so much for posting this! This was extremely helpful to me and my family. I will be passing this on to family members and friends as it’s the clearest description I’ve found out there! Thanks again!

  6. Rach
    May 21, 2010

    I am 5ft tall but in most cars the set belt is still on my neck is there anything i can do? Also I don’t drive so would the back be safer? Becuse when it is just myMom and I a ride in the front. I am also older then 9 thanks Rach

  7. Sheila
    Jun 6, 2010

    I appreciated this information. I am not a stupid person or parent and only want to do what is best for the safety of my children. I had let my oldest child get rid of her booster seat and then made her use it again when this law was passed. She was not happy at first, but I just explained that it is the law and is meant to help me keep her safe. She re-adjusted just fine. She has now finally met the height requirement and is almost 10 years old. Just because our children reach a certain age does not mean that they are automatically eligible for certain things, just like staying home alone is an individual thing, so too is fitting into a car’s seat belt individual. Happy Trails and Safe Driving!

  8. Jenn
    Dec 31, 2014

    My daughter is 5 and her father wants to take her out of a 5-point harness car seat. She is only 35lbs and is about 4’2″ in height. Is this safe for her? The one he has for her does go from 30-110lbs with the high back on it. I’m just not sure it’s safe. Anyone have any advice to help a single mom out?

  9. Teresa
    Dec 31, 2014

    Jenn,
    I am not an expert and am not qualified to give advice in the area. As a mom, I would just look at the guidelines for height, weight and age on the car seat to determine which is the best fit for my child.

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