Ask a Trooper: Air bags only work properly if seat belt is on 

Published 8:40 pm Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Ask a Trooper by Troy Christianson

Question: I really liked your recent article about the dangers of putting your feet up on the dash while driving and air bags. With the way vehicles are changing, can you talk about the other air bags, like side curtains and such? Thank you.

Troy Christianson

Answer: Thank you for the email and I am happy to talk about this. First of all, let me say air bags are designed to work with seat belts to keep vehicle occupants in a safe position during a crash — air bags are not effective when the motorist is not belted.

You are right with all the changes in vehicle technology. Motor vehicles are federally required to be equipped with “Supplemental Restraint Systems” (SRS.) Not all of the safety features described in this article are standard equipment; some may be optional depending on the vehicle. 

Air bag system components

• Driver and front passenger air bags

• Supplemental side air bags

• Supplemental seat-mounted side air bags (SABs)

• Supplemental side air bag inflatable curtains (SABICs) 

• Supplemental knee air bags

• Knee impact bolsters

All of these features and advancements in technology are incredible. But again, if people are not belted and seated properly these components could injure occupants. Children are at an even greater risk or injury from a deploying air bag. To keep yourself and others safe make sure you:

• Keep items away from any area where these systems can deploy.

• Always buckle up — and insist passengers are belted, too. 

• Wear lap belts low and snug across the hips; shoulder straps should never be tucked under an arm or behind the back — not only is this unsafe, it is illegal. 

• Children under age 13 should always ride in the back seat.

• In Minnesota, all children must be in a child restraint until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall, or at least age 8, whichever comes first. 

You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and always drive sober. Help us drive Minnesota toward zero deaths.

If you have any questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson, Minnesota State Patrol, at 2900 48th St. NW, Rochester, MN 55901-5848; or reach him at

Troy Christianson is a sergeant with the Minnesota State Patrol.