I still remember the summer when I was around 12 years old and my friend Jessica and I took turns driving her father’s old, rusted-out VW Bug through her backyard, which was really a giant cow field. We jammed the gear into first and then second, and we tore up chunks of grass and earth as we squealed in delight at our attempts to do donuts without hitting the ancient apple tree over by the barn.
That was the 1980s before parents seemed to have super strong feelings about kids going for a joyride. I mean, we have Grand Theft Auto for this nowadays, right?
My 7-year-old son is obsessed with fast cars right now. He can’t tell the difference between a Dodge and Bugatti, but he knows what speed is, and he knows that the front seat of the car is the mecca for all the buttons and controls and seeing out the windows. So, naturally, every time we go anywhere he starts in with the begging and pleading to sit in the front seat.
“But Mom! Look how tall I am now!”
“No,” I respond. “You’re not old enough to sit in the front seat.”
“But Mom! I promise I won’t touch anything!”
“No,” I say — times infinity.
My kids, like yours and everyone else’s, want to grow up fast and experience all the things they perceive as cool simply because older, taller, smarter, bigger kids get to have access. Like those rides at the carnival that require a kid to be 4-feet tall, or not sitting in a “baby booster seat” as my kid calls it.
And while I want to indulge my child and let him feel like he is responsible and older and able to push the boundaries at times, the fact is that there are safety laws in place to keep kids from getting hurt, and sadly for my future stock-car racer, sitting in the front seat before the appropriate time is one of those rules. And there’s data to back it up.
So he’s going to be a backseat driver for a while longer.
According to the CDC, all children under the age of 12 need to be in the backseat.
Universally, the backseat is the safest place to ride for all passengers. Period.
Also, airbags are designed to protect adults. The deployment of an airbag, even when a child is wearing a properly fitting seatbelt, can be deadly. It’s not worth it.
This is unfortunate news for my speed-racer who literally drools at the thought of sitting in the front seat. He’s just going to have to wait a good, long while because mama, and the law, said so.
Note: Child car safety laws vary by state, and you can find the information for your state here. But the fact of the matter is that kids are safest in the backseat in a properly installed car seat or booster.
For more information on transportation safety including proper car seat/booster installation, you can locate a certified child passenger safety technician in your area and look to trusted resources like The Car Seat Lady.