Kids often start clamoring to sit in the front seat once they are past early school age. Indiana, like other states, has some laws and regulations regarding what kind of car seats a child must have, as well as when kids can move out of a car seat, and eventually use just a seat belt.
Indiana, like many states, does not have any specific laws about children riding in the front seat of a car. While children who weigh at least 30 pounds may use a booster seat in Indiana, state troopers encourage parents to keep their kids in forward-facing car seats until they are at least 40 pounds. Indiana law requires all children under the age of 8 to use a child restraint system in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, which are based upon the child’s height and weight. You must properly restrain all children under the age of 16 either with a regular seat belt or a child restraint system, which can include a booster seat. In Indiana, belt-use laws are primary, meaning that police may pull a car over solely for improper seat belt use.
While there may be no laws in Indiana regarding children riding in the front seat, there are recommendations for all children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children ride in the back seat until age 13. These guidelines are intended to help parents make decisions about their children's safety, but also to encourage lawmakers in Indiana and other states to make changes to their laws.
Sometimes parents are forced to make difficult decisions if there are not enough seats in the back for all children. While legally in Indiana you can have your child sit in the front seat, never place a child in a rear facing car seat in the front seat with the air bags on. Check the car manual to see if you can turn off the airbags in the front passenger seat if a child under the age of 13 is going to sit there. The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute recommends seating whichever child you can place furthest away from the air bag in the front seat if it is absolutely necessary.
Even though there are no laws in Indiana requiring it, and even though some preteens are the same size as adults, they still are safer in the back seat until they are 13-years-old. Pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgert explains that seat belts work by crossing the hips and sternum, but children's hip bones and sternums are not fully developed until the teen years. The back seat is further from the air bags, windshield, and dashboard, all of which present dangers if you are involved an accident -- and can pose particular dangers to a preteen who does not have a mature skeleton.
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: Safety Belt and Child Restraint Laws
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Child Passenger Safety
- Indiana Criminal Justice Institute: Traffic Safety Frequently Asked Questions
- KC Kids Doc: Backseat Until 13: Why Your Pre-Teen Should Get the Back Seat
- In.gov: Child Passenger Safety
- Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images