Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Results: it's legal but is it safe?

Remember I asked you a favour in January?  To complete a survey about children riding up front and shotgun in the car?  Something I was interested in asking after stopping for a moment while on the school run and wondering whether it was legal or not.  Through my role as a BRITAX Mumbassador, I asked BRITAX for an answer but I wanted to know if mums and dads are aware of the legalities and recommendations of children riding up front and shotgun.  Well, I have the answers for you today; sorry about the delay!

source: unknown

So, drum role, if you please:

62 people completed the survey - powered by SurveyMonkey - which was a fantastic response!  Thank you.

And here are the results:

Do you allow your child to sit in the front seat next to you?
Yes 58%
No 42%

If so, how often do they sit up front?
Rarely 42%
Occasionally 39%
Always 19%

Do they use a car seat or booster?
Yes 96%
No 4%

Do you know if allowing your child to sit next to you is legal?
Yes 60%
No 5%
Don't know 35%

Are there any safety concerns to consider if your child sits next to you?
Yes 77%
No 3%
Don't know 20%

What safety points need to be considered before allowing your child to "ride shotgun"?
There were 46 written responses:

24 shared the need for the airbags to be off
10 stated that the correct car seat was used
9 said it depended on the age, size and height of the child
5 commented that the car seat should be placed as far back from the dashboard as possible
2 proposed that the children know the "rules" eg not touching anything, no distracting the driver
1 mentioned that the child locks should be on if possible

And some quotes from the responses:

"surely it's just not safe?"

"A child must be 12 years old before being allowed to ride in the front seat. Airbags can kill children."

"Children are distracting! Air bags? Are they too much for children? I do not let my children in the front unless absolutely necessary."

"Proper booster connected to seat belt Have air bags so more protected?"

"That they are in a booster seat? I'm really not sure! Possibly putting the seat back away from the dash board?"

"put seat as far back as possible to limit airbag damage to them"

15 people responded to the final question, 

Do you have any other comments, questions, or concerns regarding this topic?

"This post greatly interested me because I live in the USA and here it has been illegal for children under the age of 12 to ride in the front seat for >10 years now. Airbags can kill children in the event of an accident. I'm really surprised that Scotland doesn't have similar laws or at least recommendations."

"my eldest (4) only travels in the front rarely when we have a friends child in the back and can't fit 3 seats in across the back"

"Do people still do this?"

"My child is 9 and a half, 5ft tall and weighs 48kg! He's a big lad! So occasionally he does sit in the front of the car."


"You should have asked child's age youngest is 8. Rarely let her sit in the front because I have an air bag."

"Does the seatbelt work ok in the front seat with a booster?"

"I regularly see children aged 4-10 with no car seat at all not even a booster.Local councils should enforce child safety and educate parents about legislation."

"Is it legal?"

"Is it legal? I just do it as a treat for my daughter- must get these answers!!"

"My children are 3 and 6 and have never sat up front. Would consider it when they are tall enough not to need a booster."

"Less distracting for me next to me than behind"

"Would never, have never"

"I don't do it because its a lot of effort to move the car seat and make sure it's secure. My son's uncle moves my son to the front when he has him so he can see him better"

"I think children should travel in the back so most of the time mine do!"

In summary this shows that there is confusion regarding the legality and safety of allowing our children to sit in the front of our cars while we are driving.  The advice that airbags should be switched off if you are travelling with a child in the front seat is widely but not exclusively known, with some parents wrongly thinking that the airbags provide extra protection.

There is no clear consensus or legislation here in the UK, not on government pages nor on the road safety channel THINK! other than the advice that  "children must normally use a child car seat until they’re 12 years old or 135cm tall and deactivate any front airbags before fitting a rear-facing baby seat in a front seat".  Further afield, each state in America has a different opinion from no law at all to recommendation that all children under the age of 16 sit in the rear of the car.  In New Zealand "A child under 15 years old may sit beside the driver only if they are restrained by a child restraint or safety belt (whichever is appropriate for their age and size). However, they are always safer in a back seat than in the front."

So, what does the man from Car Seat Safety Expert from BRITAX have to say?
“Yes, it is legal to carry a child on the front passenger seat in the UK  in a child seat appropriate for its weight and size. In the case of a rear facing child seat, this MUST NOT be done if an active passenger airbag is present. In the case of a forward facing child seat for an older child, you should always refer to the vehicle manual for advice on the position of the front seat and the airbag status.
In general terms, as more accidents tend to happen at the front of the car it is wise to carry children in the rear of the vehicle and away from the most likely impact zones.”

To conclude, on drawing this wee bit of research to a close, I have three "asks":
  • I ask that the powers that be consider the question "Is it safe for a child under the age of 12 to sit in the front of the car or should all under 12s sit in the rear when travelling?"
  • I ask that the Police consider a campaign highlighting the safety issues surrounding us allowing our children to sit upfront.
  • I ask that Car Seat Manufacturers consider including a leaflet on Car Seat Law with each new car seat, explaining what must be done in the event of a child sitting in the front of the car.

For the moment, my advice is this: if you are in any doubt, keep your children in the rear of the car; they are so very precious and are safer there.

I should add that I was not asked by BRITAX to do this research or to write this post.  It is not a sponsored post; it has been fuelled by my genuine interest in the safety of our children.  I am just lucky that I was able to ask the right person at BRITAX the question.


Midlife Singlemum said...

I remember travelling through France and each of us taking turns to sit on my mum's lap in the front seat. That photo reminded me that we also took turns to sit on the pull-down arm rest in the middle of the back seat. It was about 1970. Maybe the roads were slower then and had fewer car? Sometimes I'm amazed at what we were allowed to do back then.

h0peful mummy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
h0peful mummy said...

I often remember my early years and the cars without seatbelts, the freedom to roam around while mum and dad were driving. I do wonder what changed? How did we become more aware of safety issues?