Laws on Children in the Front Seat in Michigan

By Andrea Griffith - Updated June 16, 2017
Mother and son crossing street on the crosswalk

Laws serve as an expectation and guideline for citizens to follow. In the state of Michigan, there is some concern over the laws regarding children in motor vehicles. There are some advocacy groups who feel that the laws are too loose and can cause harm to children riding in the front seat of vehicles.

Laws on children in the front seat

In the state of Michigan, there are no laws regarding children over the age of 8 sitting in the front seat. The current laws in Michigan state that "each driver transporting a child less than 4 years of age in a motor vehicle shall properly secure that child in a child restraint system that meets the standards prescribed in 49 CFR 571.213." According to the Michigan Legislature - Section 257.710e, a child between the ages of 4 and 8 who is less than 4 feet, 9 inches, "shall be properly secured in a child restraint system in accordance with the child restraint manufacturer's and vehicle manufacturer's instructions and the standards prescribed in 49 CFR 571.213." Under the law, children in a restraint system need to be seated in the rear seat unless those seats are occupied. In that case, a child under 4 years old can be in the front seat as long as the child is in a rear-facing car seat and the air bag is deactivated.

Problems with the current laws

According to Michigan Safe Kids, the No. 1 cause of death in children 14 and under is motor vehicle crashes. "In 2005, 7,188 Michigan children ages 0-15 were injured and 84 children were killed in crashes. While the largest toll of motor vehicle crashes is in human suffering and loss, crashes also exact an enormous toll on Michigan's economy. In 2005, the economic cost of motor vehicle crashes to Michigan residents was $9.1 billion, or $899 per resident." One of the reasons the injury and death toll is high is because there are no laws restricting children from sitting in the front seat. The airbag equipped in most vehicles to save adult lives can actually kill children. According to Michigan Safe Kids, the airbag is made for the average-sized adult male—and about 165 pounds. Because of this, the force, pressure and position of the airbag can actually decapitate an infant, toddler or child.

Studies done on children in the front seat

The American Journal of Neuroradiology says that an airbag can deploy—even in very minor accidents—between 96 and 200 miles per hour. This can easily kill or seriously injury a child sitting in the front seat, even if restrained with a seat belt or in a car seat. A study was done between 1994 and 1997 on 20 infants in rear-facing child safety seats. When involved in a low-impact collision where the driver suffered minor or no injuries at all, every child suffered life-threatening injuries. Of the 20 infants involved in the collisions, 12 were killed. Another study was done on 48 children between the ages 18 months and 9 years involved in minor- to moderate-impact collisions from 1993 to 1997. The drivers all had minor or no injuries from the collision. Of the 48 children sitting in the front seat, every child suffered life-threatening injuries. Of those 48 children, 37 were killed. The American Journal of Neuroradiology has concluded that airbags kill or injure more infants, toddlers and children than they save.

What you can do to protect your children

Keep your children protected in the backseat until they are 13 years old. Every child should be in proper seating in compliance with Michigan state laws. Never seat your children in the front seat unless absolutely necessary. If the children have to sit in the front seat, infants should be rear-facing car seats, toddlers should be in child restraint seats and children older than 8 should have a seat belt on securely with a lap belt and shoulder harness should be worn at all times. Always deactivate the passenger airbag when a child is sitting in the front seat, especially for a child in a car seat. Always read the directions on the car seats and child restraint seats to ensure that the seats are installed properly. Never allow your child to ride on your lap or without the proper seating restraints.

About the Author

Andrea Griffith has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has been published by the "Western Herald," Detroit WDIV, USAToday and other print, broadcast and online publications. Although she writes about a wide range of topics, her areas of expertise include fashion, beauty, technology and education. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and English from Western Michigan University.

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