What Is the Legal Age or Weight That a Child Can Ride in the Front Seat in Indiana?

By Lisa Maher
This little guy certainly can't drive, but is he old enough to sit in the front seat?
This little guy certainly can't drive, but is he old enough to sit in the front seat?

Your child's safety is of the utmost concern, both in the car and everywhere. While kids love the opportunity to ride "shotgun," it is not always safe to let little ones ride in the passenger-side seat. Indiana motor vehicle law dictates the approximate age, height and weight a child should be to ride in the front seat of any vehicle.

Indiana Child Passenger Law

Safety is the first priority in every vehicle.
Safety is the first priority in every vehicle.

The Indiana Department of Motor Vehicles outlines specific laws regarding the care and protection of minors in cars. Among these laws are those regulating child restraints, boosters, seat belts and where the child sits in the car. These laws regulate the safety of all underage passengers in all types of vehicles, including SUVs and trucks. Indiana's state laws regarding child passengers are structured around ensuring that a child is safe in everyday riding and in the case of an emergency or accident.

Restrictions and Guidelines

A booster seat or restraint is required for all children under the age of 8 in Indiana.
A booster seat or restraint is required for all children under the age of 8 in Indiana.

Indiana's laws regarding child passengers are very specific, so there is little room for confusion. From infancy to age 8, children must ride with restraints -- either a child safety seat with harness straps or a booster seat. The booster can be high-backed or backless and should be placed in the backseat. Children ages 8 to 16 must use a seat belt. The seat belt should lie flat and cross the torso to ensure safety in case of an accident. State law recommends that children under the age of 13 be seated in the backseat.

Weight and Height

When a child is more than 12 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall, he can use an adult seat belt.
When a child is more than 12 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall, he can use an adult seat belt.

Not all children of the same age are the same size. Height and weight are major factors when it comes to child safety, as certain safety chairs and booster seats are only effective at a certain height and weight range. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration dictates that children weighing more than 40 pounds require a booster, rather than a safety seat with harness straps. Children who have difficulty remaining seated in a booster may use a larger safety seat. When children reach a height of approximately 4 feet 9 inches, they can use an adult safety belt either in the front seat or backseat.

Considerations

Use a safety seat with harness straps for children weighing 40 pounds or less.
Use a safety seat with harness straps for children weighing 40 pounds or less.

According to Indiana University, when a child is older than 13 and taller than 4 feet 9 inches, she is allowed to ride in the front seat. According to the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, if more children are in the car than can fit properly in the backseat, the child who can be kept farthest from the airbag -- the tallest child -- may sit in the front seat.

About the Author

Lisa Maher earned a BA in English and Theater at the Macaulay Honors College. She is a frequently featured writer for several blogs, websites, and literary magazines, She also runs her own literary blog in preparation for her candidacy as an MFA Creative Writing student.