When Can A Child Sit In The Front Seat? Risks & Safety Tips

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When can kid sit in front seat? Well, there are a few factors to consider. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), car accidents account for the leading cause of death among children in the US. However, these deaths can be prevented when parents take safety measures while traveling with children.

Seating children in the backseat of a car, all buckled up, is indeed a safe option. During a road accident, the pressure of an inflated airbag in the front seat could cause more harm to a child leading to more injuries and even death. Hence, the backseat is a safer option.

However, you could consider the transition from the back seat to the front seat after a certain age. The following post helps you understand the right age for the switch, risks involved, car safety regulations, and safety tips.

When Can A Child Sit In The Front Seat?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), all children weighing below 65 pounds or aged below 13 years should be seated in the back seat of the car (1) (2). Experts at AAP further advise delaying the transition from the rear seat to the front seat for as long as possible.

Risks For Children Sitting In The Front Seat

According to Stanford Children’s Health, the following are the risks associated with children sitting in the front seat of a car (2).

  • In crashes, the airbags inflate at less than 1/20th of a second and move at speeds of up to 200mph. The force from these airbags can kill, decapitate, or cause several head injuries in children sitting in the front seat.
  • As children tend to scoot up in their seats and sit closer to the dashboards, the airbags do not have enough space to inflate fully before reaching the child.
  • Children are light in weight, and therefore, an inflated airbag may lift them off their seats and cause them to hit their heads on the car’s ceiling or dome light.
  • The DOT states that children riding in the front seat have succumbed to airbag injuries even in low-speed car crashes.

Age-Specific Car Safety Regulations In The USA

Choosing the correct car seat and keeping the children buckled up are crucial to their safety. It is vital to choose a car seat appropriate for the child’s weight, height, and age. The CDC offers the following recommendations (3).

1. Rear-facing car seat

  • Infants and toddlers must be seated in a rear-facing car seat for the best possible protection.
  • The car seat must be fixed in the rear seat, preferably in the middle of the back seat, as it is the safest place.
  • Continue to use the rear-facing car seat until the baby’s height and weight are within the allowed limits mentioned on the car seat label.

2. Forward-facing car seat

  • Once children have outgrown the rear-facing car seat, transition them to a forward-facing car seat.
  • The forward-facing car seat should be used until the child’s height and weight are within the allowed limits mentioned on the label of the car seat.

3. Booster seat

  • Once the child outgrows the forward-facing car seat, they should be made to sit in a belt-positioning booster seat.
  • The booster seat should be placed in the back seat.
  • The seat belt fits properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs (not the stomach), and the shoulder belt is across the chest (not the neck) to avoid suffocation.

4. Seat belt

  • Once the children grow to a weight and height where the seat belt fits them accurately, they do not need a booster seat.
  • In most cases, the seat belt properly fits children when they are about four feet nine inches tall and are aged between nine and 12 years.
  • Each vehicle can have a different seat belt fitting, so check that it fits your child.
Using the correct car seat and well-fitted seat belt for kids

Source: CDC

Tips For Driving With Children In The Front Seat

Take the following precautions when a child above 13 years is seated in the front passenger seat:

  • Children should always wear seat belts.
  • Ask them to sit with their backs and bottoms well rested on the seats, as they often tend to scoot up and sit near the dashboard.
  • Lead by example, and do not drive rashly or under the influence of alcohol, etc.
  • Do not break any traffic rules as children learn from what they see you doing.

All children under 13 years should sit in the car’s rear seat. Experts advise delaying children’s transition from the back seat to the front of the car for as long as possible. Sitting in the front seat raises the risk of severe head injuries in case of a mishappening. Thus, it is imperative to let children sit in the back seat for safety. Once your child transitions to the front seat, follow the recommended safety measures to ensure optimal safety. Keep your children and adolescents safe during any form of travel as accidents always happen suddenly and may have adverse consequences.

Key Pointers

  • Children under 13 years and weighing less than 65 pounds should always be seated in the car’s back seat.
  • For optimum protection, infants and toddlers must be seated in a rear-facing car seat, ideally in the middle of the back seat.
  • If your child is riding in the front seat with you, be sure they are wearing seat belts, and you follow all traffic regulations.

References:

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Dr. Ritika Shah

Dr. Ritika Shah is a certified lactation counsellor from iNational Health Care Academy, Singapore and a dental surgeon with more than seven years of clinical experience across various cities in India. She did her graduation in Dentistry from KM Shah Dental College. During her clinical practice, pediatric dentistry was her particular area of interest, and she constantly thrived to inculcate... more

Dr. Neha Mehta

(MD)
Gold medalist Neha Mehta is an RCI-registered psychologist, certified relationship and child psychologist, and a well-known parenting coach practicing in Haryana. She has ten years of experience in the field of counseling. Dr. Mehta has completed her Bachelors in medical sciences from Delhi University and Masters in clinical psychology from Amarjyoti Rehabilitation and Research Centre, Delhi. Later, she did a... more

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