Ask a Trooper: Who is responsible when people don’t wear seat belts?

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, February 7, 2023

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Ask a Trooper by Troy Christianson

Question: Last week there was an auto accident that left one adult and three children dead. There were no seat belts or child restraints used. Who can be held responsible in this crash?

Troy Christianson

Answer: If there is a crash, the driver is ultimately responsible for the safety of everyone in the vehicle. As a driver it is important to protect all passengers by simply making sure everyone is properly seat belted in the vehicle.

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If stopped by law enforcement outside of the scenario of a crash, the driver or adult passenger not wearing a seatbelt will be issued a citation. The driver will be issued the citation for any juveniles not wearing a seat belt or children who are not properly restrained.

Minnesota car seat law and steps

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

Rear-facing seats: All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they have reached the height and weight limits allowed by the car seat manufacturer.

Forward-facing seats with harness: Toddlers and preschool-age children who have reached the height and weight limits of the rear-facing car seat should use a forward-facing seat with harness until they reach the weight limit of the harness allowed by the car seat manufacturer.

Booster seats: School-age children who have reached the height and weight limits of the forward-facing seat can sit on a booster seat. The booster must be used with a lap and shoulder belt.

Seat belts: Buckling up with a seat belt is for children 8 years old or who have reached 4 feet 9 inches. Your children are ready for adult seat belts when they can sit with their back against the vehicle seat, knees bent comfortably and completely over the seat edge without slouching, and feet touching the floor.

The law is for safety

Minnesota law states that drivers and passengers in all seating positions must wear seat belts or be in the correct child restraint. Belts should be tight across the hips or thighs and should never be tucked under the arm or behind the back.

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.