Last Updated on June 29, 2023 by Lori Pace
Airbags are designed to protect adults in an accident, but they cannot protect children in the front seats. So, when can kids sit in the front seat?
In short, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recommends that children under 13 years old buckle up in the rear seat.
However, there are exceptions to this rule. It is not recommended that an adolescent older than 13 years old sit in front if they are too small. So, here are some safety tips for children who ride in a car.
Why It’s Dangerous For Young Kids to Sit in the Front Seat
Airbags are typically designed to protect adults who are at least 5′ tall and 150 lbs. Even if the child is properly wearing a seatbelt when riding in front, they are more likely to be injured than an adult. Because an airbag deploys quickly, in less than a second, it is very efficient. An airbag can travel at speeds of up to 200 miles an hour. This provides a lot of force for a child who is younger and lighter.
Children who are younger than their parents and sit in front seats before they reach adult size are more at risk of head injuries from the impact of the Airbag or the ability of the Airbag to lift them up off the seat and into the car’s top.
Once they have graduated from a car seat, it is safest for them to be in the middle of their backseat. As long as there are lap and shoulder belts, this position is most comfortable. Parents can protect their child from injury if he/she is 13 years old. And/or, when kids want to ride, or sit, in the front seat.
Here are some reasons why kids should not sit in the front seat:
- The airbag will deploy if you move the front seat back as far as possible. The front of most crashes involves a car’s engine, so this position is the most likely to be impacted.
- Your child should always wear a seatbelt.
- Your child should wear their seatbelt properly, with their back against it. This will ensure that they are further away from the dashboard. The belt should be worn across the upper chest and not around the neck. The lap belt should be placed across the lap and not on the stomach.
A booster seat may be necessary for a child under 4’9″ tall, even if their weight is more than 150 lbs. This height may make it difficult for a seat belt to fit. Some states have rules about when children can sit in front seats. Parents and caregivers can be issued tickets by police if they don’t follow the law.
Life Stages And Car Seat Safety | When Can Kids Sit in Front Seat?
It is important to use the correct size car seat and attach safety straps correctly in order to keep your child safe. An active airbag should never be placed in front of a rear-facing seat. To reduce injury risk, disengage the passenger airbag if a car seat cannot be placed in the back. These guidelines are based on age and can be used to help you choose the right car seat.
Birth to age 2
Children should be seated in rear-facing car seats for as long as they can, usually until they are at least two years old or reach their maximum weight of 40 pounds.
This car seat protects a child’s neck and spinal cord. Start with an infant carrier and then change to a convertible seat once they are older. However, the car seat should be rear-facing.
Ages 2 to 8 (or older) | When Can Kids Sit in Front Seat?
Children should be seated forward facing until they reach their maximum height or weight. The car seat prevents forward movement in the event of a crash. You should list the weight and height limits on the seat. The maximum weight limit for a seat is usually between 40 and 65 pounds.
Ages 8 to 12
A belt-positioning booster seat is required for children who have reached the maximum weight and height limit for forward-facing seats. This allows a child to sit at the most comfortable height and angle possible in order to avoid injuries from a car accident.
This booster seat will be used until children are over 4ft 9 inches tall. The booster seat covers the child’s strongest areas, making it less likely that they will be hurt in an accident.
Children older than 13 | When Can Kids Sit in Front Seat?
Teenagers can ride in front, but they must always wear their seatbelts. A booster or car seat is designed to place a child in the safest position to protect them from car accidents and impact.
What You Should Keep in Mind When Kids Sit in the Front Seat
Even low-impact collisions with young children in the front seats can cause serious injury if they aren’t tall enough or too small. Parents and caregivers should follow strict safety rules when driving.
Many hospitals and fire departments offer inspection and installation services for car seats. These resources are available to parents by calling or visiting the following:
- Call 1-866-SEATCHECK (866-732-8243)
- Visit SeatCheck.org from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to register a child’s car seat and receive safety updates. They also offer a map of car seat inspection locations.
Parents should also model safe driving habits. When Their children learn to drive on their own, make sure you buckle up.