All children should ride in the back seat of a vehicle until they reach 4 foot 9 inches tall, which occurs sometime between 8 and 13 years of age, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. There are exceptions for trucks that do not have a front-facing back seat large enough to hold the entire base of the seat. You can install car seats safely and legally in the front of a truck as long as you do not install the car seat in the rear-facing position with an active airbag.
Rear-Facing Car Seats
All infants should remain in a rear-facing car seat until they reach 20 pounds and are at least 1 year of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you keep children in a rear-facing seat until at least age 2, or as long as they do not surpass the height and weight limits for the seat. The limits for many rear-facing car seats are as high as 40 or 45 pounds, which enables parents to keep their child in a rear-facing car seat longer. You can only use a rear-facing seat in the truck’s front passenger seat if you have installed the airbag on/off switch and that you have turned off the switch, to make sure the airbag does not deploy.
Forward-Facing Car Seats
After a child outgrows the rear-facing limits for his car seat, you can turn his seat to the forward-facing position if the seat allows, or you can switch to a different seat appropriate for his height and weight. You should secure the seat using either the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system or a lap and shoulder belt -- but not both. You can install the LATCH system by using the top tether strap, too. The seat should not move more than one inch in either direction when properly installed. These requirements are for cars and trucks.
A belt-positioning booster seat is required for children until they reach 4 feet, 9 inches tall, according to the AAP. A booster seat places a child higher up in the seat to enable the seat belt to go across the chest and hips, instead of the neck and stomach. You can only use a booster seat with both a lap and shoulder belt. The same standards apply for trucks.
Other Safety Concerns
You should ensure that the straps on a car seat are snug, with the chest clip placed at armpit level. You should not be able to pinch the strap between two fingers vertically if the straps are tight enough. You should never install a child seat in the rear of a truck if the seats face to the sides, according to the non-profit organization SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A. and the AAP.