Who’s Right? Front & Back Seat Car Safety.

My husband and I are having a conversation over something. I’m right, I know I am, but I’m turning to see what you all think about this situation. But even if you don’t think I’m right, I know I’m right because I know what’s safer. Ha. 🙂

We have two cars, the family car and my husbands older truck.

My husband likes to take Lucas in his truck when they do things just the two of them. I completely understand that it’s fun to have Lucas up front and they are in his truck so it feels very manly and father/son ish- BUT, I don’t particularly like it because I don’t feel like it’s safe at all. They have only done this twice, but both times I have felt bad about it and worried and felt like we’re being stupid parents.

Because I know if I ever see a child in the front seat I am like, what are they thinking??? So NOT safe!!

A) He is in the front seat. (Children are safer in the back seat, duh.)
B) NO airbag (I had to update this part- I thought there was an airbag on the passenger side but there is not.)
C) He is in our “emergency” car seat that we have and have only had to use once. (I understand that all car seats have to meet basic safety standards, but when comparing such things like how “wiggly” the seat is and how tight the straps get, I notice a huge difference between our Britax and our basic $40 seat.)
D) He is rear facing, but I don’t think that would make too much of a difference after you factor everything else in

For goodness sake is he in the front seat!!!!

Ah. I mean, you think about the what if’s in regards to any sort of car accident and you think about the difference between the two, and the answer seems quite obvious, doesn’t it?  And I don’t care if it’s up the road or 30 miles from the house, if God forbid anything happened to Lucas or Joshua I would want to know that we made the best possible choice in keeping them safe.

Who’s right? I am, aren’t I??? Would you let your child right up front in a car, let alone an older truck? Or, am I overreacting? My husband reads the comments… please discuss nicely. 🙂

Published by Samantha Mellen

Certified personal trainer & health coach helping women transform their lives through fitness, abundant mindset coaching and internal peace. Mom of two boys, living life in Alaska.

29 thoughts on “Who’s Right? Front & Back Seat Car Safety.

  1. you had me at 'airbags' HUGE NO NO! Our visors have a warning that says that kids should NOT be allowed to ride exposed to airbags. If I remember right – they should be 12 before they ride in the front.

    Stick to your guns Mama!

  2. A) It is only legal for children to ride in the front seat of a pick-up here (VA Laws) if there is no other acceptable back seat.

    B) It is only legal for children to be in the front a pick-up if (A) applies AND the airbag can be turned off, not a sensor that says it is off, but an actual ON/OFF switch.

    C) This wouldn't fly. We don't even HAVE an “emergency seat”, if Luke can't ride in his Radian (or we borrow my sister's MyRide65), he doesn't go.

    D) If he is rear-facing & their is an airbag turned on, OMG that is VERY dangerous & could kill him, please don't ever do that again! I hope that your air bag is off when he is RFing. It would be safer (at his age/weight) to FF him, if their is an air bag on, but still would be illegal in my state.

    Mama, I would push this one with your DH.

    He would never forgive himself is something happened to Lucas. I would never forgive my DH if he was being careless (which I would consider the above situations to be, since it is against the law here) and something happened to our boy.

    You are most-definitely right.


    It doesn't look like that particular code covers vehicles with only front seats.

    Found this:

    Q: What if I drive more children than can be buckled safely in the back seat?

    A: It’s best to avoid this, especially if your vehicle has air bags in the front seat. All children younger than 13 years should ride in the back seat. If absolutely necessary, a child in a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness may be the best choice to ride in front. Just be sure the vehicle seat is moved as far back away from the dashboard (and the air bag)

    So, it is legal for FFing kids to sit with an air bag in the front seat in Alaska. That's where you are, right?

    And this specifically addresses your concern:
    About front air bags
    All new cars come with front air bags. When used with seat belts, air bags work very well to protect teenagers and adults. However, air bags can be very dangerous to children, particularly those riding in rear-facing car safety seats and to preschool and young school-aged children who are not properly restrained. If your vehicle has a front passenger air bag, infants in rear-facing seats must ride in the back seat. Even in a relatively low-speed crash, the air bag can inflate, strike the car safety seat, and cause serious brain and neck injury and death.

    Vehicles with no back seat or a back seat that is not made for passengers are not the best choice for traveling with small children. However, the air bag can be turned off in some of these vehicles if the front seat is needed for a child passenger. See your vehicle owner’s manual for more information.

    Those two excerpts came from:

    Good Luck!

  3. I would let me kids ride in a pickup provided that it was old enough to not have air bags. If it does have airbags there is no way I would, especially if he's still rear facing.

  4. i agree… i wouldn't do it. Unless your other car was broken down and the pick up was the ONLY available means of travel.

    lucas is still very young. i wouldn't put my 2 year old in the front either.

    hope hubby understands!!

  5. I would follow your mommy instincts. It is good though that you and your hubby can have open conversations in regards to the safety of your children. I'm Jennifer, btw. I have been reading your blog for the last few months but I have never commented. Your children are very handsome!

  6. I'm with you…back seat is safest, air bags or no airbags. Unless it's an emergency situation and you have no other choice, I wouldn't let him.

  7. I'm going to be the big standout here, but SO WHAT? Car seats were only made in recent years, and the truth is that seat belts (if appropriately fitted) would actually be safer than car seats. (studies done and reported in the 2nd version of Freakonomics if you wanted to check that out). Should you put your kid in the car seat and follow all basic safety rules? Yes. But a truck is a truck is a truck. It's an occasional thing. If you feel safe with your husband riding in it, you should be fine with your son riding in it. Either that, or you should sell it and get something you do feel safe with. But I think that there's too much paranoia these days about safety. As long as a car seat is installed properly, the chances of accident are slim (first of all, consider it doesn't happen often and your husband will be careful even more knowing you are worried)–you're getting your odds down to 0 there. There IS NOT AN AIRBAG. The airbag would be dangerous, but it's a non issue here. You're in an OLD TRUCK. That means HUGE MUSCLY STEEL FRAME. Heck of a lot safer than a mostly plastic car of van. Proud driver of a REGULAR CAB 4×4 F150. I have my girl in it, and as long as both car seats fit, I'll put baby #2 right beside me.

  8. As a teacher who used to help load kids in the car every day i would always be bothered when parents put their young children in the front seat. To me it's not worth the risk unless it is in emergency.
    Airbags are my main concern because I've seen them hurt teens and adults. That said I am also willing to sit in the back seat holding my sleeping toddler when we pick her up from our friends house after a date. They're about 5 blocks down the road and I figure if we aren't going more than 20-30 miles an hour there's probably not much concern.

  9. I let my husband do this with our kids in his older truck that didn't have a backseat and no airbags. Don't hate me……but I'm siding with your hubby on this one…..if it makes you feel better & you can afford it get him a better car seat that you would feel more comfortable having him in the truck.

  10. I think this one comes down to Mommy instincts then when you add that there isn't an air bag. It is legal & technically “safe”, but not the SAFEST.

    For me, I always want my boy to be in the safest possible seat.

    There will ALWAYS be a chance of something happening & NO MATTER HOW SAFE your DH is driving, you never know what crazy, drunk, distracted, young, inexperienced, or WHATEVER, driver may be out there & just accidentally slam into Lucas' side of the car.

    My husband BARELY lived through a car accident where he was t-boned, when he was 18 & properly buckled. He will ALWAYS be handicapped from that so I will always have a constant reminder of how dangerous motor vehicle accidents can be.

    FWIW-he was in an OLD, STEEL, muscle car, he was impaled by metal, cutting into major vital organs. He was in the hospital and then rehab for weeks.

    Why take a chance, even for a few blocks, when a safer alternative exists?

  11. I agree with the commenters that say it is O.k… When we were growing up, we didn't even have car seats at all. I HATE airbags and they scare me more than the thoughts of having a wreck.
    I don't understand the above comment about being T-boned (or as she said, “slamming into Lucas' side of the car”)… Wouldn't it hurt him no matter what vehicle he was in, whether front or back, car seat or no car seat, air bag or no air bag, if someone slammed into his side of the vehicle?? I don't think that one was thought through all the way. I also agree that older cars are safer than the way cars are made now days.. Sorry, but if you were in a small car and got into a wreck it would do WAY more damage than being in the older truck. Just Sayin… But I was raised riding in the BACK of a truck and I am fine, so what do I know??

  12. I drive a 1978 Ford Bronco, and we have had a pick-up before…I am siding with the yeses on this one. As long as there is no airbag because it is an older vehicle (also means it has a stronger metal frame most likely)it is fine. Newer cars are meant to crumple and older vehicles are meant to take impact.

  13. This is one thing I have to respond to, normally, I keep my mouth shut.

    New vehicles with their “crumple zones” are designed so that the vehicle body & then frame take the brunt of the hit & the inside passengers are not injured by parts of the car.

    The safest seat in the car is in the rear in the center, which is where my child rides. If a child is in an outboard seat in the front and the vehicle is t-boned it would likely be the same damage as a child in the back, BUT, there is no option for putting the car seat in the CENTER when the child is up front.

    My example was just to show that there is ALWAYS the chance that something could happen, things that are beyond our control, so why wouldn't you do as much as possible to keep your baby safe?

    AND I started out my post saying that it is a matter of parental choice, since it is not against any laws (in Alaska) and is technically possible to install the seat properly.

    BUT, again I was state that it is not the SAFEST possible way for Lucas to ride when he goes out with his Daddy & unless both family vehicles are going to be in use at the same time, there is no reason why Dad can't give in on this one & drive the other vehicle.

    When Lucas is older he'll have plenty of time for hanging out with his Daddy & riding in the front of the truck.

    My son will not ride in the front of any vehicle until he is 12 years old, regardless of any situation.

  14. Forgot one thing, as far as the “we did it when I grew up & I'm fine” comment, that may be well & true, BUT, those people who ARE NOT FINE aren't around to voice their opinion. Just because it didn't happen to you, does not mean it didn't happen.

  15. Sorry, mama. It is safe. Not as safe as a RF child in the back seat, but safe.

    In Sweden, where they average less than 1 child death in car accidents per year, it is quite common to have RF kiddos in the front seat (no airbag, or airbag switched off… an option we don't have in most cars in the US).

    As long as there is less than one inch of movement at the beltpath in your $40 seat, and the harness is adjusted properly, it is considered as safe as Britax. All seats must pass the same testing to be approved. There is no way to know if a Scenera passed the test with flying colors while Britax barely squeaked by, or if it's quite the opposite.

    While it sucks to admit that your husband is right, at least you can feel good knowing Lucas is perfectly safe.

  16. thank you everyone! I love hearing all views of this and you are make great points. Thanks for being respectful of me and others too. 🙂

    I am a little stuck in the middle now, I guess, because a lot of you on both sides make me think….

    great conversation and I bet this is helpful to a lot of other people too!

  17. NEVER!!
    When our family truck was in the shop for an accident, I took DD twice in the front seat of DF's truck (ONLY because there was no back seat and the air bag could be turned off) The truck took longer than expected so they gave us a replacement car.
    If there was an option of a back seat then it wouldn't even cross my mind.

  18. Already weighed in on twitter but adding my two cents here. We're keeping our child in the back despite how annoying it is to deal with car seats etc etc because there has been a LOT of research in this area and world-wide the conclusions are pretty consistent.

    The posters above stating that they didn't have all this safety equipment and they are fine are committing a logical fallacy. We used to spray our ditches with DDT – my mom remembers standing under the spray and smelling the chemicals as they settled on her hair. Since she's “fine”, that doesn't mean that DDT is a good idea.

    It's estimated that putting a child in the back seat instead of the front reduces the chance of injury and death by more than 30%, whether or not the car has a passenger air bag.
    Given that it sounds like the reason for using the truck is that it makes your husband feel more manly and there is another transportation option, I'd stick to your guns.

  19. I just have to say to the “car seats were only made recently” that I am 40 years old and rode in a car seat.

  20. With an airbag I'd be completely appalled. Without an airbag? If the carseat is installed well (and your comment about the wiggly-ness of it makes me wonder if it's installed well?… I mean it may be installed as well as possible, that still doesn't mean it's installed well, you know?) I think it's not *that* big of a deal. I say this knowing that Sweden has some of the very best carseat safety records in the world (maybe THE very best?), and they frequently put rearfacing children in the front seat, as long as the airbag is turned off. But, I'd have to do a bit of research to see if they change anything else about the scenario.

    But me? I still probably would try to avoid it as much as possible.

  21. I wouldn't worry too much about this Sam. I am concerned where you talked about the $40 (guessing the Scenera?) vs. Britax seat and said one was wiggly. I know you know LOTS about carseats and I'm probably just misreading but a car seat should NEVER be wiggly. If you have it installed nice and tight there should never be more than 1″ of movement.

    IMO, if you have the seat installed correctly, there are no airbags, and you trust your husbands driving I would be okay with it. It is the safest option in that particular vehicle. We let DS ride in our pickup when he's with DF, and he's RFing in the front since there's no backseat. At 18months old I don't worry, in fact I've never worried.

    I think there comes a time where we have to let our craziness over safety slide a bit. If something is truly dangerous than please, trust your gut! But in cases like this your family's happiness is equally important. As long as Lucas (or Joshua) is as safe as he can be in the situation. Which he is.

  22. I am siding with the commenters saying it's ok… especially in a big old truck with no airbags. those things are tough! My dad was in an accident with his old truck and a newer car hit him. He had a dented bumper and the other car was almost totaled. As long as he is properly strapped into his carseat, he should be fine. =) I know it is tough, but if it is just an occasional outing with daddy, then why fight it?

  23. Well i am unsure my in-laws are irate that i am choosing to put my child in the front… I do own a trailblazer. In my truck you have a certain weight for the passenger side airbag to even turn on… I could be hit from the side and my child could be hurt in the back seat. I have 2 kids and an English bulldog i will have to travel with from NH to FT. Campbell KY. My husband is active duty and i will have no room anywhere else. I either put my dog in the front seat and have him jump in my lap or throw my car in neutral while I'm driving and might i add he is 8olbs or i have my child in the front. I really don't see the huge difference unless you vehicle does not have the same safety mechanisms as mine. My brother died in a car accident when I was younger and the only person who lived was the driver… and that was the only person who would have lived due to the car wrapping around a tree. There are allot of ways to look at this. I would prefer my child in the back but not everyone has the luxury of being able to afford a car like myself… and this is why manufacturers have started making vehicles that have weight limits before the airbag is activated in the passenger seat.

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