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Ask a trooper (06/26/2013)
From: Sgt. Jacalyn Sticha

Minnesota State Patrol

Q. Can children (infants) ride in the front seat of vehicles?

We live in Minnesota six months and Texas six months. In Texas, children (infants) are not allowed to ride in the front seat of a car or truck. I’ve noticed, in Minnesota children in the front seat is common. What is correct in Minnesota?

A. Minnesota does not have a law prohibiting this specifically for all children but the law does provide that restraints are to be used according to manufacturers’ instructions. For example, manufacturers’ instructions prohibit rear facing seats in front seats, thus, it would be a violation. Best practice is what should be done for maximum safety. Best practices are the same nationwide.

It is best practice to keep children in the back seat when under 14 years old, this is determined by pediatricians. Waiting this long does have to do with size and fitting into the adult belts properly but not entirely; ligament strength and bone density are considered as well; they have not yet matured and are still more vulnerable than adults.

A great point to make is that all of us are safer riding in the back seat, so it follows that we would put our most precious cargo there, I say, until they go off to college!

Minnesota statute requires children to use a federally approved car seat or booster unless the child has met one of the two mile markers: 4 feet 9 inches or taller or 8 years of age. ALERT: many children are not ready to be out of a booster using this criteria. Best practice for graduating into the vehicle’s seat belt system is below.

Here are the restraint steps a child should progress through as they age and grow:

• Rear-facing infant seats — For newborns to at least 1 year and 20 pounds, recommended up to age 2. It is safest to keep a child rear-facing as long as possible.

• Forward-facing toddler seats — For age 2 until around age 4. It’s preferable to keep children in a 5 point harness as long as possible.

• Booster seats — For use once a child has outgrown a forward-facing harness restraint; it’s safest to remain in a booster until 4 feet 9 inches tall, or at least age 8.

• Best Practice for graduating a child to seat belt use only:

— Children are ready for an adult seat belt when they can sit with their rump pushed back into the bite of the seat - back straight and knees bent comfortably and completely over the vehicle seat edge without slouching and feet touching the floor. The child’s fit can change in different vehicles. Boys will likely stay in a booster longer, often until they are 10 years old, give or take, using this best practice.

For more information visit www.bucklesupkids.mn.gov . This site can provide answers and resources for hands on checkups and training.



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