When can kids ride in the front seat?

Being able to ride in thefront seat is a rite of passage for most kids. If you have a tween or a pre-teen, you know this is a step they can'twait to make.

In Arkansas, there is nota law that mandates how old a child should be before they're allowed to ride safelyin the front seat. However, there areguidelines set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National HighwayTransportation Safety Administration that parents should follow.

Airbags are strong enoughto save the lives of adults, but also capable of killing children. Airbags inflate at speeds of up to 200 milesper hour. For kids sitting in the frontseat that force can kill, cause serious head injury and even decapitate.

Because of those possiblydangerous outcomes, the program coordinator for child passenger safety educationat Arkansas Children's Hospital, Holly Terry, recommends, "Until theyreach the age of 13, they need to stay in the back seat."

Terry says thatrecommendation is based on many factors including the bone strength anddevelopment of kids. That means no matterhow big your child is or how much they complain, parents need to remember thatkids sitting in front of an airbag are twice as likely to suffer serious injuryin a collision as kids sitting in the back seat.

"Kids want to ride in thefront seat, and I can remember my kids hounding me to death to ride in thefront seat, and you just have to be the parent and you have to take intoconsideration that this is all about safety," says Terry. "It's not about rewards;it's about getting to do something that you don't normally get to do. You've got to think safety first."

Terry says airbags arealso extremely dangerous for infants. Children in rear-facing car seats should never ride in the front seatwith airbag. For families that drivetrucks, terry says this is something they need to seriously consider.

Many new cars now haveside curtain airbags which can also pose a particular threat to kids whenthey're sleeping on or leaning on the door.

"We do caution them thatkids need to stay upright in the vehicle seat to reduce those injuries becausewe do see fractures, lacerations and numerous things involving the head andneck," says Terry.

In Arkansas the lawrequires children under 60 pounds, 6 years old and younger have to be properlyrestrained in a child safety seat. After that, it is up to parents to decide how safe they want theirchildren to be while traveling in the car. Terry, however, points out car accidents are the leading cause of deathfor children in the U.S.

"We know wrecks are goingto happen, we just don't know when they're going to happen. I may be a good driver, but that doesn't meansomeone can't come and cause me to wreck or hit my car, but what we can affectis the outcome of that wreck and reduce the injuries that occur."

If you're in a position where you have to puta child under the age of 13 in the front seat, Terry suggests moving that seatas far back as possible to create as much space as you can between the childand the airbag.