What Age for the Front Seat?

Published on:

Written by: Fatima O. Millers, CPST

This post contains affiliate links. We might be compensated if you buy using our links.

Navigating the world of car seats can feel like a marathon. From the moment your little one is buckled into their first safety seat, to the day they’re ready to leave the booster behind, each milestone is crucial. 

But how do you know when they’re prepared to take the seat beside you in the front? It’s a common question and, understandably, the answers aren’t always straightforward.

At Car Seat Parent, we’re dedicated to clearing up the confusion around transitioning to the front seat. 

Let’s dive into the essentials for knowing when your child is ready to make that big move.

Why moving to the front seat is NOT a good idea

Before we dive into when your child can transition to the front seat, take a moment to consider if it’s necessary to move them there while they can still safely sit in the back.

Sitting in the front seat carries risks, especially for children. In the event of a head-on collision, those in the front seat absorb the majority of the force. 

Also, airbags are designed to protect adults but they can pose serious risks to children due to their intensity and speed of deployment. 

Since car seats are engineered with adults in mind, it’s crucial to ensure your child is truly prepared for the move to the front seat.

What Age And Weight For the Front Seat?

The National Safety Council and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provide clear guidelines on the age and weight for children transitioning to the front seat. All children should ride in a booster seat until they are at least 9 years old, at least 4 feet 9 inches tall, and weigh at least 80 pounds. 

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises a more cautious approach, recommending that children under the age of 13 should always ride in the back seat of a car

Yet, the decision to transition your child from booster to front seat isn’t solely based on age, height, and weight.There’s more to consider than just age and size; they’re only one piece of the puzzle in keeping your child safe in the car.

When to Move from Back Seat to Front Seat

Beyond age, height and weight, several other factors must be considered before moving a child from the back seat to the front seat. 

These include the ability to properly wear the vehicle’s seat belt, and the specific laws and regulations of your state regarding child passenger safety. 

when can my child move to the front seat

Before we go through the steps to determine if your child is ready for the front seat, it’s important to first check your state’s laws and find out the minimum age for a child to sit in the front. Your child might still be too young, according to state’s law.

The 5-Step Test to Know if Your Child Can Stop Using a Booster Seat

5 step test for seatbelt readiness check

Here’s a simple test to see if your child is ready to move out of a booster seat:

Step One: Back and Bottom Position

Your child should be able to sit with their back and bottom fully against the vehicle’s seat. It’s important that they can stay in this position comfortably for the entire duration of the car ride, not just for a few minutes.

Step Two: Leg Position

With their back against the seat, check if your child can bend their knees at the edge of the seat and place their feet flat on the floor. Their legs should naturally hang over the seat without the need to stretch or slouch.

Step Three: Lap Belt Fit

The lap belt must fit snugly across your child’s hips and thighs, NOT their stomach. This positioning helps distribute the force of a crash more safely across the body’s stronger areas.

Step Four: Shoulder Belt Fit

Check the position of the shoulder belt, it should rest between the neck and shoulder, lying flat against your child’s chest and shoulder. The belt mustn’t be too close to the neck or face, as it could cause injury in a crash.

Step Five: Proper Sitting Position

A seat belt only works right if the person is sitting properly. If your child tends to lean over, slouch, or move out of the seat belt’s proper position, they might not be ready to move to the front seat. You should keep them in a backless or highback booster until they are mature enough for a seatbelt. 

Wrapping up

Is your child ready to move to the front seat? If they’ve successfully passed the 5-step test and meet the age requirements, it might seem like the right time.

But, don’t forget to check the child passenger safety laws in your state. Typically, children aren’t fully ready to take on all these criteria and transition to the front seat until they’re about 12 years old.

And remember, even when they reach this milestone, the safest place for them is still the back seat of your car!

FAQs

The recommended age for a child to sit in the front seat is at least 13 years old. This is based on safety guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

In Florida, there is no specific law stating at what age a child can sit in the front seat. But, Florida Department of Highway Safety recommends all children aged 12 and under not ride in the passenger seat of the vehicle, if possible. However, safety experts recommend that children under the age of 13 sit in the back seat.

Virginia law does not specify an age when children can sit in the front seat. However, it’s recommended to follow the AAP’s guidance and keep children under 13 in the back seat.

New York law requires children under the age of 8 to use a child safety restraint system. There is no specific law for children over 8 regarding the front seat in New York, but the safest thing to do is to keep children under 13 in the back seat.

South Carolina law does not specify an age for front-seat riding. However, the best practice, according to safety experts and the AAP, is to keep children under 13 in the back seat.

While South Carolina law does not have a specific age for children to sit in the front seat, the general recommendation is to keep children under 13 in the back seat for their safety.

The AAP recommends that children remain in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the maximum weight or height limit allowed by their car seat’s manufacturer, which is typically around age 2 to 4 years, not at 1 year old.

It’s strongly recommended that all children under the age of 13 ride in the back seat to reduce the risk of injury from airbags and maximize protection in a crash.

In the UK, children must use a child car seat until they’re 12 years old or 135 centimeters tall, whichever comes first. Children over 12 or more than 135cm tall must wear a seat belt. It’s recommended to keep children in the back seat for as long as possible.

Yes, if a child MUST sit in the front seat, the vehicle’s passenger-side airbag should be deactivated to prevent injury in the event of a crash. However, it’s best to avoid placing a child in the front seat if at all possible.

Please note: The content provided on Car Seat Parent, including all materials and information, is not intended to serve as medical or health advice. Always consult with ahealthcare professional regarding your specific circumstances, especially when it concerns the safety and well-being of your child in relation to car seat use.

About Fatima O. Millers, CPST

Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Fatima delivers insightful car seat reviews and recommendations. Combining her CPST expertise with an engineering background, her advice is both safe and practical.