When Can a Larger Child Sit in Front

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Transport Canada recommend that all children aged 12 and under be properly restrained in a back seat.

If the passenger’s front airbag inflates in a moderate to severe frontal collision, the airbag can cause serious injuries to a child who is unrestrained, improperly restrained, sitting too close to the airbag, or out of position.

A side airbag also poses risks. If any part of a larger child’s body is in the path of a deploying side airbag, the child could receive possibly serious injuries.

Of course, children vary widely. And while age may be one indicator of when a child can safely ride in front, there are other important factors you should consider.

Physical Size

Physically, a child must be large enough for the lap/shoulder belt to properly fit. If the seat belt does not fit properly, with or without the child sitting on a booster seat, the child should not sit in front.

Maturity

To safely ride in front, a child must be able to follow the rules, including sitting properly, and wearing the seat belt properly throughout a ride.

If you decide that a child can safely ride up front, be sure to:

Carefully read the owner’s manual, and make sure you understand all seat belt instructions and all safety information.

Move the vehicle seat to the rearmost position.

Have the child sit up straight, back against the seat, and feet on or near the floor.

Check that the child’s seat belt is properly and securely positioned.

Supervise the child. Even a mature child sometimes needs to be reminded to fasten the seat belt or sit properly.

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