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When Is It Safe for Kids to Ride in the Front Seat?

by Sara Mahuron, studioD

Almost 150 children are seen in the emergency room every hour as a result of vehicle crashes, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Injuries from vehicle crashes are also the most deadly injuries faced by children ages 5 to 19. Parents can protect their children by making sure they sit in the back seat and are properly restrained. Avoid using the front seat as a privilege and be prepared to tell your child that being the oldest may not be enough when safety is an issue.

Back Seat is Safest

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children ride in the back seat until they are 13 years of age. Children should be seated in the back seat and use lap and shoulder belts -- this offers the greatest protection. Until the adult seat belt fits properly, children should ride in a car seat or booster seat that is appropriate for their age and weight. The adult seat belt should lay across the upper thigh and cross your child's chest. It it crosses at the stomach or neck, it doesn't fit properly and a child safety seat should be used.

Back Seat Every Time

The Autotrader reported that in 2008, 6 percent of surveyed parents admitted to seating their child under 12 in the front seat, while 7 percent of infants were reportedly placed in the front seat. Considering that, according to Autotrader, the back seat is 35 percent safer than the front seat, it makes sense to keep kids in the back. Yet 32 percent of child vehicle-related fatalities continue to happen in the front seat.

Air Bags

More than 100 children have died from front air bag deployment in the U.S. These deaths may have been preventable had the child been seated in the back. Air bags are meant as a safety device -- but must be used properly. The rate they deploy causes head and neck injuries in children. In the event that you must seat a child in the front, be sure the air bag is disabled. If your vehicle does not have a switch to turn it off, have one installed at a car dealership.

State Laws

Your state may have laws regulating where children sit. For example, Washington requires that children under 13 sit in the back seat if practical and Wyoming requires children under 8 to do so if available. Explain to your children the law and set a good example by following laws and safety measures yourself -- like buckling everyone up, including yourself.

About the Author

Sara Mahuron specializes in adult/higher education, parenting, budget travel and personal finance. She earned an M.S. in adult/organizational learning and leadership, as well as an Ed.S. in educational leadership, both from the University of Idaho. Mahuron also holds a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in international studies-business and economics.

Photo Credits

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