What Is the State of Tennessee's Law Regarding Children Riding in the Front Seat?

By Jessica McElrath

Tennessee’s child restraint law governs whether children can ride in the front seat of a car. The law in Tennessee does not prohibit a child from sitting in the front seat. However, the state recommends that a child sit in a rear seat if it is available. Tennessee does mandate the use of child seats and booster seats for children under a certain age or weight. A police officer can stop a driver for the failure to comply with the law.


In Tennessee, it is not required that an infant younger than 1 or a child weighing 20 pounds or less ride in a rear seat. However, the child must be buckled into a child car seat. The seat must be placed in a rear-facing position and the seat must meet federal motor safety standards. It is recommended that the child sit in a rear seat if available. The person transporting the child is responsible for complying with the law.


Children 1 to 3 years old or who weigh more than 20 pounds are not prohibited from sitting in the front seat in Tennessee. The law, however, does require that the child be transported in a child car seat in a forward-facing position. It is advisable, but not required, for the child to sit in a rear seat.


Children who are 4 to 15 years old can sit in the front seat. Children 4 to eight years old and less than 4 feet 9 inches tall can sit in the front seat or the back seat if they sit in a booster seat. Children 9 to 12 years old or a child through age 12 who is taller than 4 feet 9 inches tall must be restrained by a seat belt, regardless of whether the child sits in the front seat or a rear seat of a passenger vehicle. Children 13 to 15 years old must also be restrained with a seat belt. The state recommends that all children sit in a rear seat if available.


A person that violates Tennessee’s child restraint law is guilty of a Class C misdemeanor. A first-time offender may be required to participate in a class that educates offenders about the danger of not restraining a child in a child seat or booster seat. The state may require the offender to pay a fee to participate in this class.

About the Author

Jessica McElrath has been a freelance writer since 2000. McElrath is the author of "The Everything John F. Kennedy Book" and "The Everything Martin Luther King Jr. Book." McElrath has a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of California at Berkeley and a Juris Doctor from Santa Clara University School of Law.

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