In New York State alone, there are almost 14 children aged between 10 and 14 that are hospitalized every month, and more than 300 children are treated in emergency rooms due to motor vehicle crashes. Comparing children within the same age group, those who are unrestrained are twice as much at risk of getting injured than those children who are restrained. Where the child is sitting and whether or not they are wearing a seat belt can make a life-saving difference. As a parent or caregiver, you play a big role in preventing injuries on your child from motor vehicle crashes.
How Tall Do You Have to Be to Sit In the Front Seat?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a child must be at least 4 feet 9 inches tall and 13 years of age to be able to safely ride in the front seat. If your child's height is taller than average, he can sit without a booster in the backseat when he has reached a height of 4 feet 9 inches and the age of eight. If he is of the required height but younger than 8, he will require a booster to sit in. Booster seats reduce the risk of car crash injury in a child by 59%.
There are certain scenarios which warrant your child sitting in the front even though he has not met the requirements. If the seat belts in the back seat are broken or you are unable to fix a booster, then the front seat is safer for the child to sit in.
Now that you know the answer to "how tall do you have to be to sit in the front seat". There are still some rules that need to be followed.
Your child must know that he has to wear the seat belt at all times. You, as the parent, need to show your child how to properly wear a seat belt. The shoulder part needs to fit across his chest and the lap belt needs to sit on his hips. Whenever you are travelling with your child, make sure that he is wearing his seat belt properly. The middle of the seat is the safest place in the vehicle so always try to buckle in your child there. Set a good example by always wearing your seatbelt, no matter how short the trip is.
The Potential Risks of Sitting in the Front Seat
Knowing "how tall do you have to be to sit in the front seat" is not enough for the safety of children. It is recommended to have children sit in the back because the front seat is not as safe as the backseat.
Being Thrown onto the Dashboard
When the child is buckled in the back seat instead of the front, it reduces the risk of fatality during a car accident. During a head on collision which is the deadliest and most common type of car accident, a child can be thrown onto the dashboard with considerable force and can even go through the windshield. Even if you are properly buckling in your child, he is at far greater risk of getting injured from protruding objects in the front than in the back.
Injury from Airbag Deployment
Passenger airbags also pose an injury risk to children. Air bags deploy with a huge amount of force upon collision and can cause severe head and neck injuries in a child sitting in the front seat. The nation over, there have been over a hundred cases in recent years of children dying due to air bag deployment. Most of these deaths occurred in slow speed collisions where fatalities can be easily avoided. Rear facing car seats that are installed on the front also pose a great risk to infants and toddlers. Because their car seat is so close to the dashboard, they are at high risk of injury from air bag deployment. It is always a safer option to keep children till the ages of 12 seated in the back.
Ensure Child Passenger Safety at Different Stages
In the United States, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among young children. Parents and caregivers can easily avoid injuries installing the age and size appropriate seat, and check the position of the child. Although you know the answer to "how tall do you have to be to sit in the front seat", you also need to know what type of seat to use. As a parent, it is important for you to know the safety requirements for every age.
Birth to Age Two
At this age, children should be put in rear facing car seats in the back seat. This offers the best possible protection to infants and toddlers. Your child should use this seat till the age of two or till they reach the upper height and weight limit of the seat, as described in the owner's manual.
Age Two to Age Five
As the child grows past the age of two, he should be put in a forward facing car seat which should be buckled in the back seat. Your child should continue to use this car seat till the age of five or till he outgrows the upper limit of weight and height.
Age Five till the Seatbelts Fit
When the child has outgrown their forward facing car seat, it is time for them to start using a booster seat. A booster allows the seatbelt to snuggly fit the child and offer better protection. The child can stop using the booster seat once he reaches the required height and can fit into a seat belt without needing a booster seat. Booster seats should always be fixed in the back to provide better protection to your child.
When to Go Without a Booster Seat
When the seatbelt begins to fit a child properly, he no longer needs a booster seat. A seat belt fits properly when the lap belt lays across the hips and the shoulder belt lies across the chest and not the neck. For better protection, keep the child sitting in the back seat.