When is it safe for your child to start riding in the front seat of the car?
We are all concerned about the number of road deaths on South African roads. Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 14 and under. So how can you keep your children safe in the car? And when is it safe for your child to ride in the front seat of the car?
The importance of child safety seats
Child safety seats and safety belts, when installed and used correctly, can prevent injuries and save lives. Unrestrained children are more likely to be injured, suffer severe injuries and die in motor vehicle crashes than children who are restrained.
Although sunscreen, first aid kits and cell phones are among the travel aids that parents bring to ensure safety on vacation, many parents underestimate the importance of correctly using child safety seats for every ride. Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading killer of children, in part because nearly a third of children ride in the wrong restraints for their age and size and four out of five child safety seats are used incorrectly.
Child safety seats and safety belts, when selected, installed and used correctly, can prevent injuries and save lives.
Families should practice the following safety tips on every ride:
- Buckle up every time, no matter how short the trip.
- Never put a rear-facing child in a front seat with an active frontal air bag.
- Choose the right child safety seat or safety belt for your child’s size and age. Make sure you have the right seat for your child.
- Infants should ride in rear-facing safety seats as long as possible, until they are at least 12 months old.
- Children who are at least 1 year old, and can no longer ride in rear-facing seats should ride in forward-facing child safety seats.
- Once the vehicle safety belts fit children, both lap and shoulder belts should be used correctly.
- Install and use your child safety seat or safety belt according to the manufacturer’s instructions and your vehicle owner’s manual.
When is it safe for children to ride in the front seat?
Children 12 and under should be properly restrained in the back seat. A back seat is generally the safest place for a child to ride. While air bags can save lives, children riding in the front seat can be seriously injured or killed when an air bag comes out in a crash. Even with advanced air bags or no air bags, the back seat is safer for children. The reason for this is that a child younger than 12 years old is just not big enough to ride safely in the front. During a collision, a child in the front seat can be thrown into the dashboard or through the windshield. Even if he’s properly buckled in, he’s at much greater risk of being harmed by objects intruding into the car in the front than in the back. What’s more, in cars with passenger air bags, the car’s frontal air bags deploy with such force that they can cause severe head and neck injuries to a child.
By 12/13 years of age your child will reach the height and weight needed to minimise injury from an exploding air bag in a crash. Just like a roller coaster ride at an amusement park requires you to be ‘At Least This Tall to Ride the Ride,’ so should a child be to sit in the front seat. Once a child outgrows a booster seat, he or she should continue riding in the back seat with a seat belt until around age 12/13.