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What's the rule on kids in the front seat?

May 14, 2011|By IMPERIAL VALLEY PRESS STAFF

Is it illegal or just a bad idea for a 6- or 7-year-old to ride in the front seat of a vehicle? Two police officers at my kids’ school let their kids ride in the front of their personal vehicles without a booster seat, and now my kid is begging to. I thought they had to be 12? Is the car seat law “6 years AND 60 pounds” or 6 OR 60”? And isn’t the front passenger side airbag actually a danger to such a little person? — Mom, Imperial

First off, it is not illegal, but according to California High Patrol Officer Pablo Torrez it is a bad idea.
Also, it is “6 and/or 60.” We’ll get to that later.
But there’s more to consider here, and that is why law enforcement officials do not recommend it, and why legislation is attempting to be passed in California that would make it illegal for anyone under 13 to sit in the front seat.
We’ll admit, our 6-year-old loves riding in the front seat, but we’re second-guessing that decision after finding out that an airbag deploys at a speed of 200 mph, and could smash right into the face of our mini-me. Not good.
Torrez told us that drivers are four times more likely to be involved in a head-on collision than a side-impact or rear-end collision, so the chance that something could happen to a little kid in the front seat is great.
Also, he said any time the body changes speed suddenly in excess of 35 mph, there is the risk of causing serious injury or potentially fatal injuries.
Most cars will have warning labels on the visor or somewhere near the passenger side airbag that it is recommended that children 12 and under sit in the back seat. Torrez added that the CHP also recommends the same thing.
But … if a child is at least 6 years old or age 6 and at least 60 pounds in weight, the recommended manner for them sitting in the front would be with the seat all the way back so the deployed airbag won’t hit them full-on. Also, if there is a manual off switch for the passenger side airbag, use it.
The reason we say the law says “6 and/or 60” is, a 5-year-old over 60 pounds still has to sit in the back seat. But a 6-year-old under 60 pounds doesn’t.

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