When can a child travel in the front of a car? | Mother Distracted

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Saturday, 21 February 2015

When can a child travel in the front of a car?

Yes, we all fell in love with this sporty BMW at our recent visit to the BMW pop-up shop which appeared in St. David's shopping centre in Cardiff.  Leaving aside the fact that we'd probably have to sell the kids to get one, the knotty issue of kids' safety and sitting in the front seat reared (ha!) its head again.

Every time we measure the kids, we check to see how close they are to 135 cm (approx 4 ft 6"), because I had it in my head that once they reach this height, they are allowed to travel in the front seat and / or no longer need a booster seat.  

BMW 428i M Sport
What are my chances of getting one of these for Mothers' Day? 

Ieuan in BMW
Ieuan, dreaming of getting his hands on the keys...

I am aware, of course, that it is considered safer for children to travel in the back of the car, but there are occasional instances when the ability to put Caitlin or Ieuan in the front seat would be helpful- for example when travel sickness rears its ugly head.

There seems to be a great deal of confusion on this topic. For example, if you have a two seater vehicle, you obviously have no choice but to put your child in the front,using the appropriate and correctly fitted car seat and with the airbag switched OFF if the car seat is rear facing.  

This afternoon we measured the children again.  Caitlin is 124 cm and Ieuan 119 cm and, after a repeat of the "when will I be tall enough to sit in the front" conversation, I thought it time to check out what the Law actually says.

And here it is, according to www.childcarseats.org.uk:-

All children travelling in the front or rear seat of any car, van or goods vehicle must use the correct child car seat until they are either 135 cm in height or 12 years old (whichever is reached first).  

After this they must use an adult seat belt.  There are very few exceptions.

It is the driver's responsibility to ensure that children under the age of 14 years are restrained correctly in accordance with the law.

The law is different for buses, coaches and minibuses with seat belts fitted.

To my mind, this raises more questions than it answers.  It certainly does not draw any distinction between front and rear seat travel.

Details of the most appropriate child car seat are available on the Childcarseats.org.uk website but these recommendations go according to weight and not height. In other words, the car seat you choose must be appropriate for your child's weight up to the age of 12 or the height of 135 cm, whichever is reached first.

The Government's website is not much clearer at www.gov.uk/child-car-seats-the-rules/using-a-child-car-seat-or-booster-seat.   

"Children must normally use a child car seat until they're 12 years old or 135 cm tall".

But even this does not really give a definitive answer to the front / rear seat question. 

Child safety in vehicles is such an important issue that I think it's time we were given a much clearer set of rules appropriate for different classes of private vehicles.  There seem to be so many contradictions.

Caitlin and Ieuan travel in the back of our car on booster seats and that, until they reach the magic height of 135 cm or the age of 12 is where they'll be staying. But my understanding is that if I had to put them in the front, I could do so as long as they are placed on their booster seats.

If you are aware of any other regulations that may clarify this child safety issue, please let me know!
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