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girl rides next to mother in front seat

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

The state of Virginia legally requires rear-facing car seats to be secured in the backseats of vehicles.

This gives Virginia a de facto front seat age.

Front Seat Requirements Virginia

According to Virginia’s child restraint laws, children must be secured in rear-facing car seats in the BACKSEAT of vehicles until they reach ONE of the following:

  • Front Seat Age Virginia: 2 years
  • Front Seat Weight Virginia: specified by manufacturer
  • Front Seat Height Virginia: unspecified

Children under two years of age must remain rear-facing in Virginia until they reach the minimum weight limit on a forward-facing car seat or booster seat as determined by the particular car seat or booster seat’s manufacturer.

And rear-facing car seats must be secured in the backseat.

Exceptions To Front Seat Law in Virginia

A rear-facing car seat must be secured in the BACKSEAT of a vehicle in Virginia unless:

  • The vehicle does not have a backseat.
  • The seatbelts in the backseat are broken or there is another issue with the vehicle that makes restraint in the rear seat dangerous.

Even under these exceptions, rear-facing car seats may be placed in the front seat of a vehicle ONLY if the vehicle does NOT have a passenger-side airbag or the passenger-side airbag can be, and is, turned off.

General Front Seat Law FAQ

girl rides next to mother in front seat

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 back seat laws and recommendations might seem inconvenient (especially if you only have a pick-up truck), these laws are based in research.

So, follow Virginia state law and keep rear-facing car seats in the backseat (when and if available).

Or, even better, follow CDC guidelines and keep all children in the backseat until they turn 13.

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

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

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

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