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Car Sense

When Can My Child Ride in the Front Seat?

For many children, there’s a certain magic to riding in the front seat of a car. Some may view it as a rite of passage into the preteen years… while others just want a change of scenery.

But regardless of the reason, every parent will eventually find themselves answering whether it’s time for their son or daughter to graduate from backseat riding.

And as adults, we shouldn’t rely on our own childhood experiences to answer that question.

Laws and vehicle safety standards for children in the U.S. have changed a lot over the years. It wasn’t until the 1970s that child safety seats were required to have belts and harnesses. It took another 10 years for federal car seat crash tests to become standard.

So how do you know when your child can – or should – ride in the front seat? Finding an answer to this question is more difficult than you’d think.

Here’s the tricky part: Unlike the transition from rear-facing to forward-facing car and booster seats, there’s not a standard go-to milestone for moving your child up front. Like many parenting decisions, it’s up to you to know what local laws are and sort through what the experts recommend to determine what’s best for your child.

Here are four questions that can help you make the right call:

  • How old is your child? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all children should ride buckled in the back seat of a vehicle until they are 13 years old. Though some argue that age isn’t always the best determining factor, the agency has established this as a safe guideline for parents.
  • How does the seatbelt fit? Your child’s height and weight also play an important factor. If the vehicle’s seatbelt doesn’t fit correctly, they could be at risk of injury in an accident. Before you ditch the booster seat, make sure the seat belt sits low on your child’s hips with the shoulder strap resting across their collarbone and chest.
  • Are the airbags active? Front airbags deploy at speeds approaching 200 mph, which can seriously injure a child riding in the front seat. Because of this, many newer vehicles have a sensor that automatically disables the airbag for lighter passengers. Others have the option to manually disable the airbags. If your airbags are active, the front seat isn’t a safe place for your child.
  • What are the laws in your state? Each state has different laws when it comes to children riding in the front seat. Depending on your state, laws could be set by your child’s age, height and/or weight. Check the laws for your state on the Governors Highway Safety Association website.

However short the trip, make sure your child is safe and secure. Set the example early by always using your own seat belt. In the event of an accident, you’ll be thankful you made safety a priority. 

One more thing

From Saturday morning errands to an epic family road trip, it’s our pleasure to help you stay safe on the roadways of life. See what makes ERIE auto insurance different or get a free quote from a local agent near you.

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