As the mom of a 10-year-old tween and a bunch of other chicken littles, I’ve been pushed more and more with the question “why can’t I ride in the front seat? So-and-so does!” My blanket response to a question that I don’t exactly know the answer to is “because I said so.” I’ve always had in the back of my mind that 12 is the law, but I wasn’t sure. So prior to the last of our summer road trips, I decided to do a little Smarty investigating.
According to our friends at buckleupnc.org, there is a huge difference between whether it’s legal and whether it is logical. It is LEGAL to ride in the front seat if:
- The child is age 5 or older, OR
- The child weighs at least 40 pounds, OR
- The vehicle does not have an active passenger side air bag, OR
- The vehicle does not have a rear seat where the child restraint can be installed.
Note however, that children in rear facing child safety seats should NEVER ride in the front seat of a vehicle with an active passenger side air bag. The child will be seriously injured or killed if there is a crash and the air bag deploys.
However, it is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED that:
- All children age 12 and under should ride buckled up in a rear seat.
- Infants in rear facing child safety seats should NEVER ride in the front seat of a vehicle with an active passenger side air bag.
- Small children should ride in a rear seat in full harness type child safety seats appropriate for their age and size.
- Larger children should ride in a rear seat in a belt positioning booster until large enough for the lap and shoulder belt to fit correctly.
- If a child over one year old MUST ride in the front seat with a passenger side air bag, put the child in a front facing full harness child restraint, a belt-positioning booster seat, or a correctly fitting lap and shoulder belt — AND move the seat as far back as possible.
- If a child age 12 or younger MUST ride in the front seat with a passenger side air bag, have an air bag on/off switch installed and turn the air bag off when the child in in the front seat.
Also note, many 2011 models have passenger air bags that detect size and weight and adjust accordingly. So you don’t necessarily have to disengage your airbag. Rule of thumb: when in doubt, check it out in your manual.
What do you think? What’s the magic age?