August 10, 2004
CHILDREN SITTING IN THE FRONT SEAT OF CARS IN NEW YORK
By: Ryan O'Neil, Research Assistant
You asked for details about a New York law that prohibits children under the age of 12 from riding in the front seat of cars and how successful this legislation had been. You also wanted some statistical information about injuries to children sitting in the front seat of cars involved in accidents.
After a search of New York statutes online and a consultation with New York's Legislative Reference Library, we were unable to find a statute that prohibits children of any age from sitting in the front seat. New York does require that (1) everyone, regardless of age, riding in the front seat wear seat belts; (2) children under age four must sit in a child-safety seat (which may be placed in the front or rear seat); and (3) children under the age of 16 sitting in the backseat wear seat belts (N.Y. Veh. & Traffic Laws (Consol.) 7A33 § 1229-c).
Unintentional injury is still the leading cause of death for children under the age of 14 in the United States. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of unintentional injury, accounting for 28% of these deaths in 2000, according to a 2003 report published by the National Safe Kids Campaign. The report states the child motor vehicle death rate has been declining, dropping by 16% from 1987 to 2000. It attributes this to the use of child safety seats for children four years old and younger and safety belts by children older than that.