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Driving Through New Jersey? Know The Front Seat Law (2024)

The state of New Jersey requires children under 8 years old and under 57” (4’9”) tall to be secured in a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt in the backseat of a vehicle (if available).

Front Seat Requirements New Jersey

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

  • Front Seat Age New Jersey: 8 years
  • Front Seat Height New Jersey: 57” (4’9”)

At age 8 or when a child reaches 57” (4’9”), the child can legally ride in the front seat with a regular seatbelt.

Exceptions To Front Seat Law in New Jersey

New Jersey’s law expressly states that children in car seats or booster seats who are under 8 years old and 4’9” should be restrained in the rear seat, if available.

A rear seat is not available 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.

Even with these exceptions, a child in a rear-facing car seat may only be secured in the front seat of a vehicle if it has no passenger-side airbag or the airbag is deactivated.

General Front Seat Law FAQ

kid rides in back with mom

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

While New Jersey law says children may ride in the front seat once they reach age 8, we recommend following CDC guidelines and keeping your child in the backseat until they turn 13.

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

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

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

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