Some states do not have clear laws about when a child can sit in the front seat, but North Carolina is not one of them. NC law makes it clear in their laws regarding child restraint systems when a child can sit in the front seat.
The law in North Carolina requires that a child must ride in a child restraint seat located in the rear seat of a vehicle if the child is less than age 5 and less than 40 pounds, and the vehicle has an active passenger side air bag, and if the vehicle has a rear seat where the child restraint can be installed.
There are exceptions such as the law allows that a child restraint may be installed in the front seat if the seat is designed and labeled by the manufacturer for use with air bags. The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) notes that although it is dangerous, installation of a child restraint (CR) in front seat of a car with an active air bag is allowed if the vehicle has no rear seat. Or as we already mentioned, installation of a CR is allowed if the child restraint seat is designed to be used in the front seat of a vehicle with an air bag.
The North Carolina Child Passenger Safety Law is listed under NC General Statute (GS) 20-137.1 if you would like to read the full law yourself. The basics regarding the child restraint law in NC says it is legal 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.
The site Buckleupnc.org notes that what is allowed under NC 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. So 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 North Carolina Seat Belt Law says that the driver of a car is responsible for not only himself but all passengers under 16 in the vehicle. Passengers that are 16 years of age and older are responsible for themselves with regards to seat belt use in North Carolina.
Penalties for violating the child passenger safety (child restraint) law, GS 20-137.1, in NC includes a fine not to exceed $25 plus payment of all court costs which are typically in excess of $100. This offense also is assigned two (2) points on your NC motor vehicle record.
The law however does make it possible that a driver not be convicted for a violation of North Carolina Statute Section 20-137.1 if they were cited for an unrestrained child who is under eight years of age and the driver shows satisfactory proof to the court that the driver subsequently acquired an approved child restraint device for the vehicle in which the child normally is transported in.
Though North Carolina law allows a child that is age 5 or older or weighs 40 pounds or more to sit in the front seat, still using the proper child restraint device for their age and weight, it is not recommended that a child sits in the front seat till they are older than twelve (12) years of age. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) encourages parents of children age 12 or younger to keep their kids in the back seat to keep them safe.
Not only are there less injuries if a child is in the rear seat, studies show the parents are more likely to correctly use a child restraint in a rear seat on their child while they ride in the back. Studies by the NHTSA have shown that parents who place children, infants and toddlers especially, in the front seat are more likely to not properly restrain their child then when they place the child in the back seat of their vehicle.
Seat belt and child restraint tickets to not necessarily affect your car insurance rates, at least not your first ticket and conviction. If you receive more than one it can show your automobile insurance company that you have a habit of leaving your child unrestrained or placing the child in the front seat when he or she should be in the back and that can make you seem to be a riskier driver to an insurer. Not properly restraining your child in the correct place in your car can make them more susceptible to injuries if you are in a motor vehicle accident, and injuries in an accident mean claims to car insurance companies.
Even with points and violations on your driving record CarInsurance.com can help you check car insurance prices. We give consumers the opportunity to shop and compare insurance companies online. Our site offers the ability to shop for car insurance online and the ability to purchase your policy directly through CarInsurance.com, so get started with instant car insurance quotes for North Carolina.