Height Requirement for a Child Riding in the Front Seat

by Sara Ipatenco

    Your child probably begs to sit in the front seat on a regular basis. He doesn't fully understand why it's not safe to ride up front until he reaches a certain height, so it's your job to educate yourself about the guidelines before allowing him to ride shotgun. In addition to growing to a certain height, there are other things you should consider before allowing your child to make the transition.

    A child must be at least 4 feet 9 inches tall and age 13 to safely ride in the front seat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If your child reaches this height but hasn't reached his eighth birthday yet, he still needs to sit in a booster in the backseat. Once your child is 4 feet 9 inches tall and has turned 8, he can safely ditch the booster and sit with just a seat belt. He must, however, still sit in the backseat until his 13th birthday.

    Between worrying about correct installation and switching booster seats back and forth from your car to your partner's car, boosters can be quite the hassle. According to the CDC, booster seats reduce your child's risk of car accident injury by 59 percent compared to children who ride with just a seat belt. Despite the fact that parents know that backseat is safer until the appropriate height and age, 73 percent of 9 to 12 year olds still ride in the front seat on a regular basis, according to the SafeKidsUSA website.

    When your child reaches a height of 4 feet 9 inches and has turned 13, he gets to enjoy this rite of passage of by moving to the front seat. There are still some ground rules when it comes to enjoying this privilege, however. Show your child how to put his seat belt on correctly with the shoulder part fitting snugly across his chest and the lap belt sitting tightly across his hips. Check your child's seat belt every time you get in the car to be sure it's fastened correctly. Remind him to sit still while you're driving so his seat belt properly restrains him, as well.

    According to the California Highway Patrol, there are certain instances when your child would need to sit in the front seat even if he hasn't met the height and age requirements. If the seat belts in the backseat are broken, then obviously your child would be safer in the front with a belt that's in proper working condition. If you can't properly install a booster seat in the backseat, the front is probably safer, as well. If your child can sit in the backseat, establish a firm and non-negotiable rule that he has to sit in the back in your car and any other car in which he rides.

    About the Author

    Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

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