Car Seat Laws: When Rear-Facing Isn't an Option and Sitting Up Front Is

car seats, car safety
Not recommended in this millenium.

I am all over car safety and properly installed car seats and height/weight age recommendations for when to put who where and in what direction. I was well aware of the new recommendations a couple of years ago that suggested parents of toddlers wait until their child turned 2 years-old before turning around their rear-facing toddlers. Yet around the 16-month mark, I flipped my boy’s seat.

I realized I was putting his safety in a slightly riskier category. But by keeping him rear-facing, I was risking his sisters’ health and well-being. My toddler was regularly kicking them IN THE FACE with his long and super-strong little toddler legs.

The extended rear-facing recommendation is only possible if you have one child or a big car. Neither is the case for me. My three kids are spread across our one back seat in our mid-size Pontiac Vibe. There’s just enough room for my son’s car seat and two booster seats flanking either side. (Yes, my 10-year-old daughter still sits in a booster, more on that in a minute.)

My son is on the taller side for his age and by the time he was 1, he was already having to bend his legs in order to fit into the rear-facing seat. I suppose that was uncomfortable for him, which is why he frequently stretched out. The only space for his foot happened to be one of his sister’s faces and, being that young, he didn’t really get that his foot didn’t belong there.

We flipped him, he’s well into his 2s and we have no regrets. I think when recommendations come out like this, they’re not always realistic for every family and every car. I wish that were acknowledged and I wonder if that isn’t one of the reasons, as Carolyn reported, so many families aren’t complying with that particular safety campaign.

But now I’m faced with the question: when are kids allowed to sit in the front seat? I have a 10-year-old who goes up there when we are transporting a friend. That friend goes into her seat and the oldest comes up front. I’m not totally crazy about this, because we have an airbag on the front passenger side and there’s no way to turn it off, an option for some newer cars. I know getting in a front-end collision puts her at risk for getting a broken neck if the airbag deployed, simply because of her height.

Still, in my state, California, it’s perfectly legal for her to sit up front (she could have been doing it for years).

In looking into this, the laws vary by state. In some states, there’s no requirement for anything other than a seat belt when the kids is 3 years or older in other states, they’re very specific about the age/size of a child before she no longer has to sit in a booster.

For information on laws in your state, go here.

And for a map of what the rest of the country is doing, go here. Florida appears to be the most lax: children 3 and under have to be in some kind of restraint seat. Wyoming and Tennessee the strictest: children up to 8 have to be in a booster.

Are you in compliance? Do you think your state goes overboard or is a little too lax?


Article Posted 5 years Ago

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