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When is it Safe to Move to the Front Seat?

by Ronald A. Rowe | November 26th, 2014 | Elementary, Safety

child car seat (400x400)Car safety is an important consideration with any child.  Car seats are recommended for children up to age 8.  The biggest problem that we encountered with enforcing this rule was that so many of our children’s friends were allowed to ditch the seat early.  We’ve all had the “All my friends are doing it; why can’t I?” argument at one time or another.  It’s a standard part of the parent-child relationship.

Somehow it was a little more difficult than usual.  With both our sons their was a deep sense of disappointment when their friends were freed from the confinement of the child safety seat but the rule was still enforced in our vehicles.  Government studies and federal guidelines did not make as compelling an argument as I’d hoped they would when discussing car safety with a seven year-old.

In the end it came down to “I am the parent and you are the child” and “Because I care about your safety,” two old standbys from the parenting phrase book.  I haven’t reviewed the statistical analysis or conducted my own crash test studies but I am going to accept the word of the people who have.  If they say my children are safer in the booster seat until age 8 then they are staying in the booster seat until age 8.

Having said that, age actually has nothing to do with advancing beyond the booster seat.  Height is the real key determinant.  Age is just a broad guideline.  At the height of approximately four feet and nine inches, the booster seat is not longer necessary.  Which means that many children can slip out of the booster before reaching the ripe old age of 8.

The bad news is that long after that argument is won and eventually rendered moot by the reaching of the magic height requirement, another very similar argument is going to sprout up.  At age 8 or 9 or 10 your child is going to want to move up to the front seat because little Johnny’s parents let him sit up front.

There is not a clear consensus on this one.  Age 13 seems to be a safe bet but state laws prevail so there could be fifty different regulations in the US alone, some based on age, others on height and weight.  To be on the safe side, I would keep the children in the back until the magic age of 13.

Beyond the possibility of running afoul of state law on the matter, the risk is just too great to play around with this issue.  Air bags, designed to keep us safe in case of an accident, can be extremely dangerous – even fatal – to shorter passengers in the front seat.  The reward of being the cool parent simply isn’t worth the risk of harm that could come in case of an accident.  Follow the government guidelines and keep the kids in back until it is safe to make the move up front.

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