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How old do you have to be to ride in the front passenger seat in North Carolina?


A

North Carolina Child Passenger Safety Law is listed under NC General Statute (GS) 20-137.11 states in part that:

a) Every driver who is transporting one or more passengers of less than 16 years of age shall have all such passengers properly secured in a child passenger restraint system or seat belt which meets federal standards applicable at the time of its manufacture.

(a1) A child less than eight years of age and less than 80 pounds in weight shall be properly secured in a weight‑appropriate child passenger restraint system. In vehicles equipped with an active passenger‑side front air bag, if the vehicle has a rear seat, a child less than five years of age and less than 40 pounds in weight shall be properly secured in a rear seat, unless the child restraint system is designed for use with air bags. If no seating position equipped with a lap and shoulder belt to properly secure the weight‑appropriate child passenger restraint system is available, a child less than eight years of age and between 40 and 80 pounds may be restrained by a properly fitted lap belt only.

So in North Carolina it is legal in NC for a child to ride in the front seat:

  • If the child is age 5 or older, or
  • If the child weighs at least 40 pounds, or
  • If the vehicle does not have an active passenger side air bag, or
  • If the vehicle does not have a rear seat where the child restraint can be installed. Note however, that children in rear facing child safety seats should NEVER ride in the front seat of a vehicle with an active passenger side air bag. The child will be seriously injured or killed if there is a crash and the air bag deploys.

What is allowed under this law should be considered to be "minimum standards" and is not necessarily what is recommended to provide the best protection for a child or adult thus while not part of the North Carolina seat belt or child restraint laws it is strongly recommended by the state that:

  • All children age 12 and under should ride buckled up in a rear seat.
  • Infants in rear facing child safety seats should never ride in the front seat of a vehicle with an active passenger side air bag.
  • Small children should ride in a rear seat in full harness type child safety seats appropriate for their age and size.
  • Larger children should ride in a rear seat in a belt positioning booster until large enough for the lap and shoulder belt to fit correctly.
  • If a child over one year old must ride in the front seat with a passenger side air bag, put the child in a front facing full harness child restraint, a belt-positioning booster seat, or a correctly fitting lap and shoulder belt - and move the seat as far back as possible.
  • If a child age 12 or younger must ride in the front seat with a passenger side air bag, have an air bag on/off switch installed and turn the air bag off when the child in the front seat.

The website Buckleupnc dot org notes that instances where it is legal, though not necessarily recommended, for a child to be in the front seat include:

  • If the vehicle has no front passenger air bag.
  • If the vehicle has a front passenger air bag that is turned off with an on/off switch.
  • If the vehicle has no rear seat. Note however, it is legal to place a child in the front seat if the vehicle has no rear seat, but infants and children in rear facing child safety seats should NEVER ride in the front seat of a vehicle with an active passenger side air bag. The child will be seriously injured or killed if there is a crash and the air bag deploys.
  • If the child is 5 years of age or older.
  • If the child weighs 40 pounds or more.

If you have further questions about if you are allowed to put your child in the front seat of your vehicle check with the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles or you local police department. Both of these NC agencies should be able to answer questions about when it is legal for a child to be riding in the front seat of a motor vehicle.

We offer discount auto insurance for NC here.


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1 Responses to "How old do you have to be to ride in the front passenger seat in North Carolina?"
  1. Visitor

    My brother thinks he is big enough to sit in the front seat because he doesn't meet one of the requirements.

      Reply»