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Q. At what age/weight is your child allowed to sit in the front seat of your vehicle? My son weighs 40 lbs and is 42 inches tall. Our vehicle airbag automatically turns off when it detects him in the seat. I have seen others riding around with their children in the front seat. Is this breaking the law?
Dear Juneau Resident,
I have included the city ordinance at the end of this answer, which mirrors the state law if you want to read the details. Basically, there are no legal restrictions on where in the vehicle the child rides, or even if the airbag is turned off. What the law does address is that children must be in a seat approved by the Department of Transportation for a child of that size. JPD childseat experts do want everyone to know that the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children who have outgrown booster seats and are using an adult seatbelt configuration should ride in the backseat until they are 13 years old. A childseat expert will be at the JPD open house tonight from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to answer questions in person. Here is a Safe Kids Alaska website with more:
72.10.160 - Use of seat belts and child safety devices.
Except as provided in (c) of this section, a person:
16 years of age or older may not occupy a motor vehicle while being driven unless restrained by a safety belt; and
may not operate a motor vehicle unless restrained by a safety belt.
Except as provided in (c) of this section, a driver may not transport a child under the age of 16 in a motor vehicle unless the driver has provided the required safety device and properly secured each child as described in this subsection. If the child is less than four years of age, the child shall be properly secured in a child safety device meeting the standards of the United States Department of Transportation. If the child is four but not yet 16 years of age, the child shall be properly secured in a child safety device approved for a child of that age and size by the United States Department of Transportation or in a safety belt, whichever is appropriate for the particular child.
Subsections (a) and (b) do not apply to:
passengers in a school bus, unless the school bus is required to be equipped with seat belts by the United States Department of Transportation, or an emergency vehicle;
a vehicle operator acting in the course of employment delivering mail or newspapers from inside the vehicle to roadside mail or newspaper boxes;
a person or class of persons exempted by the State of Alaska regulation under AS 28.05.096; or
a person required to be restrained by safety belts under (a) or (b) of this section if the motor vehicle is not equipped with safety belts.
A person may not remove a safety belt from a vehicle solely to be exempted under (c)(4) of this section.