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Lap, shoulder belts strongly recommended

Question: Our vehicle has a lap type seat belt only in the center seating position (1997 Toyota pickup). We use this to buckle in our 4-year-old son without a booster. I understand that as of July 1 all children are required to use a booster seat if they are shorter than 57 inches (4-feet, 9 inches) and younger than 8 years of age. Can we still use this lap seat belt for buckling in our 4 year old? Would we get a ticket? Is it necessary for us to contact the dealer to install a shoulder/lap type seat belt?

Answer: According to Minnesota statute 169.685 sb 5 (a) "Every motor vehicle operator, when transporting a child who is both under the age of eight and shorter than four feet nine inches on the streets and highways of this state in a motor vehicle equipped with factory-installed seat belts, shall equip and install for use in the motor vehicle, according to the manufacturer's instructions, a child passenger restraint system meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards."

What this basically means is that infants and the very young will be required to be in some sort of infant seat or forward facing child safety seat. Those that are older, example 4-7, will be required to use some type of booster seat if they are shorter than 4 feet 9 inches.

The statute says the booster seat must be installed for use "according to the manufacturer's instructions." You will have read the owner's manual that comes with your booster seat for proper installation and use of that seat.

Note: I know of no booster seat of which the manufacturer says it is acceptable to use only a lap belt when restraining a child. There is no doubt in my mind that you will find that to properly (therefore legally) use a booster seat you must use both lap and shoulder belts for restraining your child. As for getting a ticket or not, that is up to the officer that stops you. According to our statute, yes, you could get a ticket.

As for installing lap/shoulder belts, the answer is definitely yes. Even if it were not legally required, I would still strongly urge you to get that done. From a safety standpoint, we know that lap/shoulder belt combinations are much safer than lap belts alone. And thank you so very much for your question. This is one in which many parents and grandparents out there are going to learn something. Be careful out there!

Parents, don't just hand over the keys to your new driver. Take the time to ride with them and let them gain experience before allowing them to face the dangers of a public road on their own.

Send your questions concerning traffic-related laws in Minnesota to Trooper Andy Schmidt, Minnesota State Patrol, 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205 or e-mail