Kids in the Front Seat of the Car

Updated on April 28, 2012
K.S. asks from Littleton, CO
27 answers

Hi everyone, maybe a poll here to see where we fit in. When my DD was 10 she started getting interested in when she could sit in the front seat of the car (many of her friends already were). Here in Colorado, they said once she was 12. So she's been so excited and is about to turn 12. I looked this up again just to be sure, and apparently they changed the recommendation back in August 2011 to 13 to be able to sit in the front. She's SO bummed. I guess I'm wondering where you all fit in. Do your children sit in the front or the back? She is 5'1" and just over 80 lbs, so tall but skinny.

I've been a stickler for recommendations forever, she was in a booster way longer than anyone we knew, just because she hadn't reached the height or weight or whatever it was that qualified her to be out of it. I know they are recommendations for a reason, just wondering how you all weigh in. Thinking of her peer group, there are some 12 year olds who are tiny, and some who are bigger than me, so it's frustrating to just go by age. I know it has to do with the airbag deal, but that depends on size, not age. Anyway, where do your kiddos sit?

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answers from St. Louis on

My older daughter who is 22 has a friend that if you go by height and weight should not be driving a car since she has to be in the front seat.

I know they are trying to do their best with the laws and guidelines but somewhere in there should enter common sense. If you have a 12 year old that doesn't fit the height and weight clearly they should be allowed just as an adult that doesn't fit the guidelines should. When you have an 8 year old that fits the height and weight guidelines they should be fine.

My kids have been allowed to sit in the front since they were ten.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boca Raton on

I used to jump up and down between my parent's seat when I was a kid, as did both my sisters, so I tend to agree with Grandma T.

That being said, my kids didn't ride in the front until they were about 10 or 11? We have always been sticklers for seat belts.

Good luck.

PS: Both my kids were tall at those ages, so that made a difference to me too.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Savannah on

I think that the recommendation is more for height. She is just as tall as I am and I am an adult. We all grew up sitting tin the front seat when we were little and are all fine now. She has waited long enough . . . i would let her up front.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Redding on

Well, I came from a time where the kids rode in the front seat at young ages, right after growing out of the car seat. Mine were fighting for the front by age 4.
They are still alive and in their 30's now.
We didnt even have seat belts in our car when I was a kid, lol.... and no carseats at all, they werent even invented yet.
People can die in the backseat just as easily as the front, it all depends on how that accident happens.
I'm pretty much a believer in "when your number comes up, it's up". I dont try to find excuses or blame something or someone when there's a death or disabling accident. It doesnt change things.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

You know what? If I went by "recommendations" of what is unsafe for front seats (based on weight and height) I wouldn't be able to sit in the front seat!!

It's just a recommendation, use your own discretion.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

The front seat actually isn't an issue of height or weight, it's an issue of skeletal strength which is why the AGE restriction IS important.

When WE were little we could ride in the front seat because there weren't air bags. Now there are. This isn't an issue of people being more uptight than they used to be or the whole "well I survived" argument (which, by the way, is silly because the kids who didn't obviously AREN'T posting on these boards).

Keep her in the back seat for the extra year. She's bummed, yes, but not as bummed as everyone else will be if the airbag breaks her neck or internally decapitates her in a crash.


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I would go by the recommendations.

The front passenger seat used to be referred to as the "suicide seat", because more deaths occur when a passenger rides in that seat, she is safer in the back seat, the air bag could be a danger to her. My almost 14 year old grandson still rides in the back, his choice, he found all the statistics and wants to wait until he's driving ; )

1) Kids in the back seat are 38 percent less likely to be injured in a crash.
2) Riding in the back seat reduces the risk of death by 30%, so my 79 year old mother rides there.
3) Motor vehicle traffic deaths are the leading cause of injury death for ages 1-34.

Riding in the front seat isn't really all it's cracked up to be.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Considering that my MIL is 3 inches shorter than your daughter and drives every day, I think she'll be fine in front!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

We don't have a backseat... so my 9yo has been riding up front for years.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Lakeland on

I think by 10 then they should be allowed. I assume that your state was recommending that they wait and it’s not mandatory. It's not like you are putting a car seat or booster in the front.

I too have known plenty of people that drive who would not meet the height and weight requirements. I worked with a woman that had her husband glue attachments to the gas and brake pedals so she could reach them with the seat pulled all the way forward.

Mine still sits in the back, but Florida does not have laws for children sitting in the front.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

If some adults were to follow the height and weight recommendations for children.. even though they are in their 20's, 30's, 40,s.... Would not be able to sit in the front seat. Not sure what an age difference all of a sudden makes it safer.

It is a recommendation.. You can make this decision.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Provo on

All you have to do is stop and think about the reasons behind the recommendations. What does the front seat have that the back seat does not? (airbags) Why would waiting to be older be beneficial? (longer term for bone growth and density, greater chance that they actually fit the height and weight recommendations for facing the increased force of frontal impacts)
I'm sure there are more reasons for it. Do some reasearch on the WHY and not just the recommendations and then you'll know how to apply it to your child.
FWIW -- my kids will be in boosters until they are actually tall enough for seatbelts, not the 8 years old that is legally mandated.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

My 10 y/o is chomping at the bit to sit in the front sear too. Here in CA they changed it too. I think it's 12 here but there are height and weight restrictions too although I am yet to find if it's a "requirement" or a "recommendation". The law is so poorly worded that you'd have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. I think it's something like if the back seat is full with babies and small children (car seats and booster seats) it's ok to sit in the front. I sometimes let her sit in the front if we are just going to the store close by or something. She hates it because she sees a lot of smaller, younger kids sitting in the front seat that really shouldn't be.

The bottom line: how would you feel if you were in a wreck and your child got badly hurt as a result of sitting in the front seat? My answer: "Sorry honey you have to sit in the back seat."

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I have to say that I am shocked at the number of much younger kids sitting in the front these days. Parents have no backbone to just say no when their kids asks them. The other posters are correct-it is all abvut the AIRBAGS. These can be fatal for children if they go off, that is why there are guidelines around it. Additionally, the back is a much safer seat to be in period. Stunning how many parents over look this.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

It is mostly about the weight for which airbags are rated. Height matters for the seat belt but front and rear seat belts aren't that different in most cars. However, airbags are not as safe for people less than 100 lbs. My son will probably be driving about the time he hits 100 lbs...LOL.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

In MN I think it's 12 as well. My oldest is only 7, so I don't have to worry about it yet. But, I am surprised everyday when I walk him to school how many little kids are riding in the front seat of the vehicle. Maybe they all live close by, since it's kind of a "neighborhood school", but still. I'm a stickler for rules when it comes to safety, so my son will follow whatever the AGE guidelines are regardless of his size (he's a big kid).



answers from Phoenix on

My daughter is 9. She is 5ft 2in and 125. I sometimes let her sit up front. My son is almost 14 and he has been upfront since he was 11.



answers from Boston on

My 12 year old has been sitting in the front seat since she was 11 because she gets severe motion sickness which seems less in the front. Even in the front seat she occasionally throws up (we always have a plastic bag with some paper towels in the bottom for absorption as well as baby wipes in the car). For long trips we give her Dramamine which makes her really drowsy. I was the same as a child so I know how awful it is to go for a 20 minute drive and feel nauseous for 2 hours afterwards. You almost wish you would throw up to feel better.

From the Child Passenger Restraint Law in Massachusetts (where I live):
1) Children 12 years old and younger must ride in federally approved child safety seats until they are five years old and weigh at least 40 pounds.
2) Children older than five but younger than 12, who weigh more than 40 pounds, must ride in booster seats or use safety belts.
3) There is no written law in MA surrounding when a child can sit in the front seat. It is a suggestion state (and federally) that children 12 years old and under should sit in the rear seat whenever possible to reduce their risk of death and serious injury. At age 13 they say a child can ride in the front but position the seat as far back as possible from the air bag.


answers from Washington DC on

I always said never...and then I got a car where it's more comfortable for my almost 9 year old to sit up front and the boys in the back. The air bag turns off and she is tall enough for the seatbelt to fit I let her.



answers from Washington DC on

My best frirnd is 4ft 11in. she weighs under 100 pounds. She is also 49 and has had a license since 16. My son was bigger than she at 8. As long as the kids behave they can sit in front, from about 8 years old.



answers from Salt Lake City on

Well, to be the 'safest' in a collision, we should ALL be in the back seat. So, perhaps we should start making our spouse (or ourselves when our spouse/partner is driving) sit in the back. ;) My 10 year old (5'1" 85lbs) sits in the front on occasion. I would allow him more, except A. minivan 'back' doors don't open to bang neighboring cars like the front seat doors do, and B. I usually have a bunch of stuff on the passenger seat - purse, laptop case, coat, etc. So, it's more a convenience thing right now. BTW, I'm assuming we're discussing riding in the front seat with airbags off (which most cars built in the last 5 years do automatically). If they did not turn off, I would probably not allow him for another couple years. Those can do more damage than the accidents themselves.



answers from Oklahoma City on

If she is tall enough for the strap to fit she can ride up front fine. I don't know any kids who don't even as young as 8 or 9. Some vehicles do not have air bags or they can be turned off. That is where the risk comes from.

I think they are recommending it, that it is not a law. You are the parent and can decide when they can sit up front. My 8 year old does often but again, she fits the seat belt and there are no air bags at all.



answers from Boston on

I kept my son who is 5' 1" and 125 lbs. I kept him in the back seat until he was taller. The air bag is the big factor here also. but now he is 13 and I let him sit in front with a seat belt. He was looking so forward to turning 13 so he could sit in front. Even thou most of his friends sat in front already..... I do whats best for mine.


answers from Dover on

There are a few things at play here...first, a child should remain in their car seat until they reach the maximum height or weight for that specific carseat. Once they exceed either, it is not safe for them. They should then move to the booster style seat and again, continue to use until they exceed the maximum for THAT seat. They need to remain in a booster until they are big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. Key word being PROPERLY. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Once that happens they can use a seatbelt but remain in the backseat until they reach at LEAST 12 years of age. If your daughter is 12 but really small (height or weight) it is better to keep her in the backseat...I always prefer to be on the safe side.


answers from Milwaukee on

I have a tall 8.5 year old and a airbag that goes off in the front. He can ride in the front in our neighborhood. If we go on the main roads then he has to ride in the back.


answers from Chicago on

I am struggling with this right now. My 10 yr daughter has been sitting in the back, smooshed between two car seats for the last 2.5 years. Her brothers bother her, pull her hair, get in her face, which causes lots of anguish for her and me! She begs me daily to let her sit in the front. She is a big girl and looks like she's at least 12. Many of her friends sit in the front and they are smaller than her. I just feel nervous about it. I keep begging my husband to let us get a minivan so we can safely have everyone in the back seat, and my daughter can have a whole row to herself. He'd rather listen to them fight and scream than have a car payment.



answers from Denver on

I would call the police or fire dept and talk with someone who helps with the program of installing carseats. They could tell you the height and weight requirements for riding in the front seat. Since the age has risen to 13, I'm sure it's due to small 12 year olds who have gotten seriously injured or killed by airbags. I've even read about petite women (particularly in Asian countries) who have been killed by airbags due to their small frame.
I wouldn't let your daughter's insistence cloud your judgement; just think if something terrible happened b/c you caved into 'all my friends are doing it'.

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