Picture this: you’re loading up kids into your awesome minivan, counting heads as they all leave the house and making sure the dog isn’t sneaking out either. The neighbors’ kids head home and yours pile into the van—almost seamlessly. Your oldest strikes up the frequent questioning, “Can I sit in the front seat?” is sandwiched between the questions about where we are going and what we are eating. Your child, who knows enough about car seats to know why he’s still in a booster at age 11, still wants to debate whether he can sit in the front seat.
Slow. Down. Kid. Weren’t you just born yesterday?
Now they’ve got your attention. All of it. As you buckle your toddler into his—still rear-facing at age 3 thankyouverymuch—car seat you start a conversation about front seat car safety. Your kids start rolling their eyes as they’ve been hearing about safety and cars eats for their entire life, but they listen politely anyway.
At the end of your diatribe, you’re pulling out of the driveway with three children, safely buckled into the van and you say, “Plus, you’d be a distraction and I need to focus on driving.”
So how do you know if your child is bid enough for the front seat? Chances are, if you’re asking this question, the answer is no. But we’ve got some facts and figure to share too.
3 Questions to Ask About Front Seat Car Safety
Question 1: Are they 13?
There’s no question the back seat is safer for kids in the car. If there is a back seat, put kids in it until they are at least 13. Kids who are 12 or younger are 50% more likely to be hurt or killed in the front seat. Also, airbags in modern cars are not meant for young kids.
If you don’t have a choice, like the vehicle only has a front seat or you have to put someone upfront, make the best choice. Sometimes that means sitting in the front seat with a booster and sometimes that means the oldest goes upfront. As long as you are keeping front seat car safety at the heart of your decision, you’ll be good.
If no, to the back they go!
If yes, then next question.
Question 2: Can they sit without a booster seat?
Booster seats—and car seats in general—tend to be thought of for just little kids. We know you know that rules have changed, and some states now require car seats for older kids. When kids ask about sitting in the front seat, ask them to show you these five-steps in the back seat and then you can make a decision.
Here’s the five-step test courtesy of our friends over at Car Seats for the Littles (and not so littles).
- Shoulder belt firmly in the middle of the shoulder
- Lapbelt low on the thighs
- Bum all the way back in the vehicle seat bight
- Knees bend beyond the edge of the vehicle seat and feet rest on the floor
- Child can maintain this position 100% of the time without moving
Front seat car safety is even more important because there are so many more dangers. But if your child cannot sit properly and safely in the back seat without a booster, then there is no way they should be sitting in the front seat.
Question 3: Do they need to sit up there?
Ok, this may just be me, but having someone in the front seat is weird for me. I spend a lot of time driving my minivan without another adult. Even when my husband sits upfront with me on family trips it feels weird and distracting.
I can only imagine if that passenger seat occupant was my own kid. The questions, the fidgeting, the attempts to change the radio station. Not to mention the fighting with their sibling in the back seat. Yeah, no. Front seat car safety includes my safety and that of the whole van. So, unless we have literally no more seats left, everyone under the age of 18 can be in the back. And I may raise that age when my oldest approaches it.
If no, to the back they go! (With a booster.)
If yes, fine, they can be in the front seat.
As with all parenting decisions, you are the only one that can decide when your child is safe to sit in the front seat. Just like getting your child a phone for middle school or allowing sleepovers.
But here’s one thing you’ll want to know if our kids are friends: they won’t be riding in the front seat of my van either. And they may very well be riding in a booster seat even if they haven’t in your car. Because I have seen the results of car accidents and front seat car safety is more important to me than a child’s momentary happiness.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out 3 Tips for Car Seat Safety in Real Life