According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death among children in the United States. Motor vehicle traffic crashes were responsible for the deaths of 723 children age 12 years and younger in 2016, and more than 128,000 were injured. You can keep kids safe in the car by using seat belts, child safety seats and booster seats in the correct way. Before you drive in Arizona with a child as a passenger, you should know what laws apply.
Front Seat Laws in AZ
Arizona child seat laws changed in 2012. Under Title 28 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, every child under 5 years old must ride in an age- and size-appropriate child restraint system (as opposed to a standard safety belt). Additionally, every child age 5 to 7 who is not more than 4 feet 9 inches tall must be restrained in a child restraint system. In both cases, this applies whether the child is a passenger in the front seat or the back seat of the car.
If a child is age 5 to 7 and is taller than 4 feet 9 inches, she can be secured with the vehicle's adult seat belt. Older children (age 8 to 16) should also be secured with the adult seat belt.
The law does not provide an answer to the question, "How old do you have to be to sit in the front seat in Arizona?" It's up to the adult driver to use her best judgment when deciding whether a child should travel in the front or back of the car. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children under 13 years old ride in the back seat.
Whether you use a car seat, a convertible car seat, a booster seat or any other type of child restraint system, you should always follow the manufacturer's instructions and recommendations. If you need help installing your child restraint system, you can contact your nearest Fire Department and ask them to perform a car seat check, for which there is no charge.
You should never place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat or in front of an airbag.
Penalties for Breaking the Law
If you are stopped by the police and you have a child under 8 years old who is shorter than 4 feet 9 inches not properly restrained in the vehicle (either in the front or back seat), the officer will issue a citation for a $50 fine. However, the fine will be waived if you show that the car has subsequently been fitted with an appropriate child passenger restraint system.
Another way to have some or all of the violation removed is to attend a two-hour training session on child seat safety. The "Children Are Priceless Passengers" program runs classes (in English and Spanish) at various locations throughout Arizona. If you don't own a car seat, you may receive one at the training session.
Exceptions to The Law
Certain situations are exempt from Arizona's child seat laws. For example, these requirements don't apply include when a child age 5 or older is a passenger in a motor vehicle originally manufactured without seat belts (i.e., before 1972), or the child is being transported in a recreational vehicle, a bus, a school bus or is on public transportation. If you are transporting a child in an emergency to obtain medical care, you are not required to properly secure the child in the car. Additionally, if you do not have enough room in the car to secure all child passengers in child restraint systems, you are not breaking the law provided at least one child is properly restrained.