My daughter and I road tripped together this summer, and it was just the two of us in the family roadster hitting America's highways and byways. I was in the driver's seat and she was in the back seat. That raised a few eye brows. Why wasn't she riding shotgun in the front seat with me?
Because children should sit in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old according to numerous sources, including SafeKids.org, AAA, SafeCar.gov, the American Academy of Pediatrics and Nationwide Children's Hospital.
That's a pretty impressive list of organizations and if they all agree that my tween is safest in the back seat, I'm inclined to follow that recommendation, especially given that car crashes are the leading cause of death among children in the United States.
Researchers at Partners for Child Passenger Safety determined that children are 40% less likely to be seriously injured when properly restrained in the back seat.
About half of fatal crashes are some sort of frontal impacts. A child seated in the back seat is farther away from these crashes and thus safer during a crash, according to Car and Driver magazine.
Aside from crash location, another reason AAA recommends that kids ages 12 and under ride in the back seat is that air bags in the front seat are not designed for children. The CDC agrees, noting that airbags can kill children riding in the front seat.
If you want to go the extra mile for safety, it's good to know that the middle seat is the safest seat in the back seat as determined by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
When sitting int he back seat, it is still very important that kids wear seat belts, and that they do so properly.
"Never let a child put the shoulder belt under the arm or behind the backs, because it could cause severe injuries in a crash," advises SafeCar.gov, a website by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
I know that parents don't want to deal with the tween complaints of "But Alex gets to sit in the front seat!" and "No one else has to sit in the back seat!" It's tough, I know. But if you take a parental stand on this, know that you've got a ton of experts and research backing you up that the back seat really is the safest place in the car for your tween.
And for some of us shorter moms, there's the fact that our tweens are as big as we are.
Children's bodies, even when they are the same height as adults, are not done growing and that can make a big difference in a car crash.
"Although children may seem like 'small adults,' in reality children’s bodies are vastly different from adults’ in terms of not only size, but also skeletal structure, cervical spine development and, perhaps most importantly, flexibility," writes Thomas Seacrest, Project Manager for Pediatric Biomechanics research at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, in The Biomechanics Behind Child Passenger Safety.
The injuries a tween sustains in a crash will be different than those sustained by an adult, and when you're talking about impact to spinal development, you're talking serious stuff. In addition, injuries to adults that may not be serious, such as broken bones, can have a bigger impact on children as a result of impairment to future growth. That makes it much more serious.
It's worth fighting to keep children sitting in the back seat of the car until they are 13.
If you've got younger kids and want booster seat info, and some back up to keep them in those, click here. Did you know 9 in 10 parents let kids out of boosters too soon? Yikes.
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