In Michigan, kids can sit in the front seat of a car being driven when they’ve reached 4 years of age but only if they are properly secured either in a child car seat or by a fastened safety belt, depending on their age. However, safety experts recommend that kids ride in the rear seat until they’re 13.
Aside from the driver’s seat, the front passenger seat is the most dangerous seat to be occupying during a motor vehicle crash in Michigan, according to Michigan Traffic Crash Facts. The “Right Front” passenger seat has the second highest number of fatalities and injuries.
At what age can kids sit in the front seat of a car in Michigan?
Michigan law allows kids who are 4 years of age or older to sit and ride in the front seat of a car so long as the child is in compliance with the necessary seat belt requirements and/or child car seat requirements. (MCL 257.710e(3) and (5))
However, child safety experts recommend that kids under 13 sit in the back seat and use seat belts.
To learn more, check out this video of attorney Brandon M. Hewitt being interviewed on WZZM TV 13:
What are the seat belt laws for when kids can sit in the front seat in Michigan?
In Michigan, children who are 8 years of age or older and/or who are 4 feet 9 inches in height or taller must wear a “fastened safety belt” when they are seated in the front seat. (MCL 257.710e(5)) They are not required to use or sit in a car seat or booster seat.
This is consistent with Michigan’s general seat belt law which provides that each driver and “front seat passenger” of a car or truck being driven on a Michigan roadway “shall wear a properly adjusted and fastened safety belt.” (MCL 257.710e(3))
What are the car seat requirements for when kids can sit in the front seat in Michigan?
Children who are 7 years of age or younger and who are less than 4 feet 9 inches in height must use a car seat or booster when they are seated in the front seat. (MCL 257.710e(3)(b))
When can’t kids sit in the front seat in Michigan?
In Michigan, kids cannot sit in the front seat of a car being when it is being driven when they are younger than 4 years old. Children who are “less than 4 years of age” must ride in the “rear seat,” and they must be secured in a car seat. (MCL 257.710d(1) and (2))
However, if there is no rear seat or if all of the rear seats are occupied by other children “less than 4 years of age,” then the child can ride in his or her car seat in the front seat. (MCL 257.710d(1) and (2))
It is important to remember that a child under the age of 4 can ride in a rear-facing car seat in the front seat “only if the front passenger air bag is deactivated.” (MCL 257.710d(2))
Is it a good idea to let kids sit in the front seat?
Child safety experts say it is not a good idea to let kids sit in the front seat and recommend that children under the age of 13 ride in the rear seat and wear a seat belt and/or use a car seat or booster seat. The American Academy of Pediatrics states: “All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection.”
Similarly, NHTSA recommends that parents and adults keep children “in the back seat at least through age 12.”
As a car accident lawyer that has unfortunately had to help too many injured young children hurt in car accidents over the past 28 years, I would agree. This is sound advice.
During a crash – even a low-speed, low-impact accident – airbags deploy with tremendous force and at extreme speeds. This can cause serious injury or death to young and small children seated in the front passenger seat. Because of their size and weight, children are far more likely to be hurt in a car accident, and that risk increases substantially when a kids are sitting in the front seat.
In fact, research conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia shows that “children exposed to air bags during a crash are twice as likely to suffer a serious injury.”
Injuries that children may suffer after being struck by an airbag in a crash include injuries to the chest, internal bleeding, fractures, and injuries to the head or back.
What are the penalties if you unlawfully let kids sit in the front seat?
Drivers who break the law by letting kids sit in the front seat face fines between $10 to $25. Drivers may also be required to pay court costs up to $100 and a “justice system assessment” of $40. (MCL 257.907(2)(m) and (n); 257.907(4); 257.907(12))
Although drivers will be guilty of a civil infraction (MCL 257.710d(4) and 257.710e(9)), drivers face no jail time, no community service, no license suspensions (MCL 257.319), and no points on their driving records (MCL 257.710d(5) and 257.710e(14)).
What are the rules for when kids ride in the rear seat?
Any child under the age of 16 but older than 8 (and/or 4’9” or taller) who is riding in the rear seat of a motor vehicle in Michigan must be secured by “a properly adjusted and fastened safety belt.” Children younger than that must be secured in a child car seat or booster seat. (MCL 257.710e(3)(b) and (5))
Although Michigan law does not require it, seat belts should be worn by anyone riding in the rear seat. They protect both the people in the back and the driver and passenger in the front seat.
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(Source: Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, 2021, Statewide, “Occupant/Person,” “Motor Vehicle Occupants & Injury Severity by Seating Position and Known Belt Usage”)