As summer break comes to an end and parents begin driving their children to and from school every day, many older kids will want to ride in the front seat. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but many states are considering legislation that would make it illegal for children under a certain age to ride in the front of a vehicle. Why the strict mandate? Because the risk of a child dying in a car crash is reduced by one-third when they ride in the back seat as opposed to the front.
Automobile accidents are the leading cause of death among children under 12 in Georgia. Approximately 1,100 adolescents age 14 and under lost their lives in 2012 alone as a result of auto accident, with an additional 176,000 sustaining injuries. Although your child may seem tall or heavy enough for you to allow them to ride in the front passenger seat, their bodies simply are not the same as an adult’s. An adult body can withstand the restraint systems and airbags that inflate with excessive force. A child’s body is not fully developed to be able to withstand the same force, leaving front-seat riders with serious neck and head injuries. In recent years, approximately 100 adolescents have lost their lives due to air bag inflation. Even in collisions that occur at low speeds, frontal airbags inflate with force that can leave children with life-threatening injuries.
Many states are considering implementing legislation requiring that children under certain ages ride in the back seat of a vehicle. Georgia law states that children less than 57 inches tall or less than 8 years old must ride in the backseat (if a backseat exists in the vehicle). These children are also required to be restrained in a car or booster seat that is appropriate for their size. Not adhering to these laws can result in a fine and points against the driver’s license. Many experts believe state laws should require the minimum age to ride in the front seat to be increased to 13, as data shows it is at least 40% safer for adolescents under 13 to ride in the back seat.
So, if your child asks to ride in the front seat on the way to or from school, or any other destination, we suggest saying no. They may not like your answer, but their safety is more important. For more information about child passenger safety, visit www.cdc.gov.