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two boys ride in backseat of car

Driving Through Maine? Know The Front Seat Law (2024)

The state of Maine requires children under 12 years old who weigh less than 100 pounds to be secured in a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt in the backseat of a vehicle (if possible).

Keep reading for more info on the front seat law in Maine.

Front Seat Requirement Maine

According to Maine’s child restraint laws, children must ride in the backseats of vehicles (if possible) until they reach ONE of the following:

  • Front Seat Age Maine: 12 years
  • Front Seat Weight Maine: 100 lbs.

At age 12 or when a child reaches 100 pounds, the child can legally ride in the front seat with a regular seatbelt.

However, children under 4’9” are at more risk of injury from a regular seatbelt than those 4’9” and taller, and studies have shown airbags are a risk to children under age 13 during collisions.

So, CDC guidance is for children to remain in the backseat of a vehicle until age 13 and at least 4’9” tall.

Exceptions To Front Seat Law in Maine

Maine’s law expressly states that children under 12 years old and 100 pounds must be restrained in the rear seat, if possible.

It is not possible to restrain a child in the rear seat when:

  • You are in a vehicle with single-row seating, like a sports car or pick-up truck.
  • The seatbelts in the backseat are broken or there is another issue with the vehicle that makes restraint in the rear seat dangerous.
  • You are transporting multiple children of car seat/booster seat age, and all backseat seatbelts are in use with other car seats or booster seats. (But this is highly discouraged.)

Note: The Child Passenger Safety Brochure on Maine’s government website is outdated. Our information comes from the “Use of safety seat belts and child restraint systems” from the Maine Legislature’s Motor Vehicles and Traffic code.

General Front Seat Law FAQ

two boys ride in backseat of car

When can a child sit in the front seat?

Legally, the age (or height) at which a child can sit in the front seat varies from state to state.

Some states have no laws preventing children from sitting in the front seats of vehicles regardless of age (even while still in car seats).

When it comes to safety, however, a child should not sit in the front seat of a vehicle until they are at least tall enough to properly fit a standard seatbelt (4’9”).

But the longer you can keep them in the backseat the better.

The CDC recommends all children under the age of 13 sit in the backseat of vehicles.

What is the purpose of front seat laws?

Studies have shown children under the age of 13 are safest in the backseats of cars.

More specifically, the center backseat is the safest place in a vehicle for a child.

This is why some states have laws forbidding children from riding in the front seat of vehicles until they reach a specific height or age.

Why is the front seat unsafe for children?

There are two main reasons the front seat of a car is unsafe for children.

One of the reasons children fare better in the backseat of a vehicle during an accident is because head-on collisions are one of the deadliest types of car crash.

Though they make up only 2% of all car crashes, head-on collisions account for over 10% of car crash deaths. (Rollovers are the only other accident type with such a disproportionate fatality rate for those inside the vehicle.)

Since the back seat is furthest from the front of the vehicle, it is the safest place to be in a head-on collision.

The second reason children fare better in the backseat of a vehicle during an accident is because the safety devices installed in cars to protect passengers during a collision are designed for adults.

Since airbags are designed for adults and not children, the impact of an air bag when deployed can cause more harm to a child than the accident itself.

Research conducted by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found “children exposed to air bags during a crash are twice as likely to suffer a serious injury.”

The Safest Place For Kids Is The Backseat

Maine law states that children under 12 years old and 100 pounds must ride in the backseats of vehicles when possible, which closely aligns with the CDC and vehicle safety guidelines of age 13.

So, follow Maine law and keep your kid in the backseat until at least age 12 and 100 pounds.

And, before that, follow Maine’s laws regarding car seats and booster seats.

For more on Maine’s car seat laws, see Maine Car Seat Laws.

For more on Maine’s booster seat laws, see Maine Booster Seat Laws.

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