Child safety is a concern on New York roads. As roads become busier, ensuring children are seated safely and correctly has never been more important. One of the most common questions we encounter is, “At what age can children sit in the front seat of a car in New York?” 

Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum, P.C.’s car accident lawyers can help you understand New York’s child passenger laws. Read on for insight so that you can comply with the law and help your child stay safe while in the car.

New York’s Child Passenger Safety Laws

New York’s traffic laws offer a roadmap to protecting children while traveling. New York law requires that all children be restrained in an appropriate child restraint system while riding in a motor vehicle. 

A proper restraint system meets the child’s size and weight recommended by the manufacturer. Additionally, all seats and restraint systems must be certified under the Federal Motor Vehicles Safety Standard, 49 C.F.R. 571.213.

According to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles, this generally means that:

  • All children under the age of 2 must ride in a rear-facing car seat,
  • All children age 4 and younger must ride in approved child safety seats, and
  • Children under age 8 can ride in an age-appropriate child restraint system.

An age-appropriate restraint system can include a harness, vest, or booster seat used with a vehicle seat belt. However, a child under 8 cannot ride with a seat belt alone.

Can Kids Sit in the Front or Back Seat in New York, NY?

According to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles, it is not illegal under New York law for a child passenger to ride in the front seat of a vehicle that has a passenger airbag. However, it is dangerous. 

Front passenger airbags can injure or kill young children in crashes. Even with a car seat, the force of an airbag can be catastrophic for small children.

What Type of Seat Should I Use in New York, NY?

Parents or guardians must choose the appropriate car seat. These include rear-facing seats, forward-facing seats, booster seats, or seatbelts. Experts make recommendations based on the child’s age and size, including:

  • Rear-Facing Seats: The Centers for Disease Control recommends infants and toddlers remain in rear-facing seats until age two to four. Children should stay in rear-facing seats until they reach the seat’s weight or height limit. New York law requires that children under the age of 2 ride in a rear-facing car seat.
  • Forward-Facing Seats with Harness: Children outgrow rear-facing seats. Forward-facing seats with harnesses protect children until they reach the seat’s weight or height limits, which can extend up to or beyond the age of 4.
  • Booster Seats: Booster seats are the final step before regular seat belts. Booster seats ensure a vehicle’s seat belt correctly fits the child’s lap and shoulder. Children generally transition out of booster seats when they attain a height of 4 feet 9 inches and are between the ages of 8 and 12. In New York, all children must ride in a child restraint system, such as a booster seat, until age 8.

Once a child outgrows these seats, they must wear a traditional seatbelt.

Why Child Restraints Matter in New York, NY

Children are some of the most vulnerable on our roads. Due to their smaller stature and developing bodies, children face unique risks in an accident. In a car accident involving an improperly restrained child, the child may be at an elevated risk for:

  • Head and Brain Injuries: These are often the most severe injuries to a child. Injuries can range from traumatic brain injuries to mild concussions or skull fractures.
  • Spinal Cord Injuries: Children’s spines are developing, making them susceptible to injury. This may cause temporary or permanent paralysis and other complications.
  • Chest Injuries: While lifesaving, seat belts can injure children if positioned incorrectly. Misaligned seat belts can cause contusions, broken ribs, internal abdominal injuries, and bleeding.
  • Cuts and Lacerations: Impact with broken glass or metal fragments can cause cuts, bruises, and lacerations.

The long-term effects of an auto accident can also be profound. Emotional trauma can manifest as nightmares, mood changes, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Physical injuries for children, especially those related to the spine or brain, can also have developmental implications.

Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer in New York, NY

New York’s approach to child passenger safety underscores a broader commitment to road safety. While the intricacies of the law might seem overwhelming, their purpose is clear: ensuring every child’s safety on the road.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident or have questions about child passenger laws, Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum, P.C.’s car accident lawyers are ready to help. Schedule a consultation today.

Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in New York City

If you’ve been injured in an accident in Manhattan, NY, and need legal help, contact our New York City personal injury lawyers at Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum, P.C. to schedule a free consultation.

Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum, P.C.
100 Wall St 15th Floor
New York, NY 10005
(212) 514-5007