What Is the Minimum Age A Child Should Be to Sit in the Front Seat?


Child safety seat image indicating the various...

Child safety seat image indicating the various parts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At what age can a child safely travel in the front seat, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)?

I would have said two.

The correct answer is 13.

Dr. Amanda Soong, pediatrician, professor and mother of two, recently conducted a survey of grandparents to see how close they could get to recommendations from AAP on child safety and nutrition.

As reported in Moms.today.com, they mostly flunked the survey.

This was the fifteenth question.

Dr. Soong decided it was not worded clearly and did not include it in reporting her results.

But, I asked her anyway to find out what the right answer was.

At What Age Can a Child Safely Ride in the Front Seat?

I was shocked. 13!?

Don’t the children in every family vie for the front seat and learn to negotiate taking turns?

Why Did the Recommendation Go from Two to Thirteen?

Surely, the AAP isn’t recommending that children stay in car seats until they are 13.

No, the AAP recommends that children under two be in rear-facing car seats in the back seat.

Then, they should be in forward-facing seats in the back seat until they outgrow the height and weight limits for their seat.

They should be in a harness until age four, or up to 40 to 90 pounds, depending on the manufacturer’s limits.

Then, they should be in a booster seat with a seat belt until they reach 80 to 120 pounds, typically at 4’9” and 8 to 12 years.

What Should You Do If They Have to Be in the Front Seat?

Maybe you are carrying more than one child, and there aren’t enough seats with seat belts for them all to fit in the back seat.

Then, what do you do?

If you have to carry a child under 13 in the front seat, push the seat as far back as it will go to minimize their exposure to an air bag if it does go off in an accident.

Some cars automatically turn off the airbag if the weight on the passenger seat is not enough to trigger its use, but then, the air bag is not available in case of an accident.

What Does a Booster Seat Do?

The point of a booster seat is to elevate a child so the car’s seat belt falls correctly over the middle of their shoulder and across the upper thighs.

Seat belts are designed for adults.

Children need booster seats for them to use the same belt safely.

All but three states, Arizona, Florida and South Dakota require that children use booster seats up until the age of 6 or 8.

Air bags are also designed for adults, with an average weight of 165 pounds.

That’s why children are safer in the back seat and AAP recommends they stay there until 13.

Some states, including Alabama, Alaska, Massachusetts and Minnesota have passed laws requiring that children under 13 sit in the back.

For Delaware, Maine, and Ohio it’s 12. For Wyoming, it’s 9. For Kansas and New Jersey, it’s 8. For Kentucky, it’s 7. For Iowa, it’s 6.

Click What Is the Law on Children in the Front Seat to see where your state stands.

Did you know that some states have passed laws requiring that children sit in the back seat starting at 6 up to 13?

What age did you start letting your grandchildren sit in the front?

Did you know children need boosters to keep safety belts safe?

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To you and keeping those precious grandchildren safe in your car.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers



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