I Don't Need a Law to Be Safe!
April 4, 2012 7:57 AM   Subscribe

I am trying to find the actual law which states that infants younger than one year old and under 20 pounds need to be in a rear-facing car seat in Minnesota. Not only can I not find the actual law, but I am getting conflicting information on .gov and .org websites. My research trail inside...

For those of us with young kids, it is "common knowledge" (always a dangerous assumption) that babies under one year old and 20 pounds need to be in a rear-facing car seat, by law. It is recommended that kids are rear-facing until they are two years old, yada yada.

So, since I don't like assumptions, I thought I would find the actual law which states the under one year/under 20 pounds law for Minnesota.

But I can't find it. At all.

I started on this site and this other site, which both state the infant under one year/under 20 pounds law. They both cite §169.685, subdivision 5.

Okay, so §169.685 does not say anything at all about infants under one year/under 20 pounds. Not a single word. The only age mentioned is "under the age of eight and shorter than four feet nine inches." There is a statement that says that the restraint itself must meet federal motor vehicle safety standards.

So, then I went to this site, which lists car seat laws by state. For Minnesota, infants/under 20 pounds is not mentioned, but the under 8 and 57" is mentioned, as in §169.685.

So, then I went to the Code of Federal Regulations, and I found §571.213 (also here) which talks about the construction and testing of rear-facing car seats, but it doesn't state that a rear-facing car seat must be used for infants under one year and under 20 pounds.

I went to the site of laws for other states, and other states do clearly mention the under one year/20 pounds law, but not Minnesota.

I know that federal laws override state laws, but I can't find a federal law regarding under one year/20 pounds, either--just the CFR for car seat construction and testing standards.

So, am I crazy and having serious issues in my research skills, or am I not crazy after all and Minnesota actually doesn't have a rear-facing under one year/20 pounds law? Or, did I stumble across a major exclusion/typo in the law and it needs to be corrected?

(P.S. This question clearly isn't about car seat safety itself--I understand the recommendations, and our baby will be in a rear-facing seat until he is at least two, etc, etc, so don't derail my question into this area, please.)
posted by TinWhistle to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This is only general advice, but could it be a regulation instead of a law? Laws are often broad, while the regulations get down into the nitty-gritty details.
posted by ldthomps at 8:06 AM on April 4, 2012

There are federal rules/regulations on this topic, too.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:14 AM on April 4, 2012

I believe it falls under 'proper use' - most car seat laws specify that the restraint must be installed and used according to manufacturer instructions. No car seats allow forward facing use under 20 lbs or one year of age, therefore it is illegal to use them forward facing for a child under those limits. As an aside, some seats specify higher limits and people use that as an argument to get early turners to get their kids turned back around - that it's actually illegal to turn the child forward because it would be improper use of the restraint. 22 lbs and 34" tall is a common one, and the Britax Frontier specifies 2 yrs and 25 lbs.
posted by pekala at 8:31 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Looking at the MN statutes, the relevant section is subdivision 5 a) " shall equip and install for use in the motor vehicle, according to the manufacturer's instructions" and maybe also 5 b) " child is properly fastened in the child passenger restraint system". A forward facing under 1 yr old would not be 'properly fastened', and it would not be installed according to manufacturer instructions.
posted by pekala at 8:36 AM on April 4, 2012

The bill that I mentioned was introduced in 2001, amended, then referred back to committee, if I'm reading this right.
posted by zamboni at 8:37 AM on April 4, 2012

IANAL, but I think Subdivision 5 (a) which states..."Every motor vehicle operator....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," means one has to comply with whatever is the latest CFR standard for car seats.

Which, I think, would mean that CFR section you linked to.

Other states may include it separately (or differently) in their statutes for additional clarity/political reasons, and so forth.

NCSL has a good overview here.
posted by pantarei70 at 8:37 AM on April 4, 2012

Perhaps the relevant bit of the CFR is:
S5.5.2 (j)

(2) In the case of a child restraint
system that is designed to be used rearward-facing for infants and forward-
facing for older children, the statement: Use only in a rear-facing position when using it with an infant
weighing less than (insert a recommended weight that is not less than 20
posted by zamboni at 8:57 AM on April 4, 2012

Ah, thank you all. I did so much reading about this over the past few days that I totally spaced-out on the "according to manufacturer's instructions," in which case all manufacturers do state a weight and age restriction in the use of their car seats.

(I also have a tendency to over-analyze so much that I miss the more surface-level points made, but that is no excuse.)

Thanks again!
posted by TinWhistle at 9:01 AM on April 4, 2012

« Older What to do with all these emotions   |   Do serious JavaScript coders use string-formatting... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.