Like many states, Ohio has strict regulations on restraining children in cars. The law includes stipulations for when children can ride in the front seat of the car, although there are exceptions to the rule. In general, Ohio law states that children under age 13 must ride in a rear seat, with a few possible exceptions.
Children in Rear-Facing Seats
Children are safer in rear-facing seats, which can reduce the risk of death in an accident by up to 75 percent, according to KidsHealth. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ride in rear-facing seats at least until the age of 2 years. Ohio law does allow for some exceptions to the regulation, which states that children in rear-facing car seats must be in the back seat. However, if no back seat is available or if the child has physician-documented medical needs that require him to be in the front seat, the front and side airbags must be disabled. You must carry a note from your physician stating that this positioning is medically necessary in the car at all times. If the airbag deploys while a child is riding rear-facing in the front seat, it could push the seat with enough force to cause serious head and neck injuries.
Children in Boosters
If your child is in a booster seat and hasn't yet reached the age of 13 or a height of 4 feet, 9 inches, he should ride in the back seat. The only exception to this Ohio state regulation is if all the back seats are occupied by smaller children. If this is the case, put your child's seat away from the dashboard as far as it will go, and to disable air bags, if possible. Booster seats raise the child up so that the lap and shoulder restraints fit low on the abdomen and don't go across the child's neck, thereby preventing internal injuries, as well as neck injuries. Use of a booster seat reduces the risk of injury in a crash by 59 percent, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Children Over Age 13
In Ohio, children over age 13 can legally ride in the front seat. But all children under age 16 must wear a seat belt in the car, whether they are seated in the front or back seat. At age 16 or older, the driver of the vehicle and all occupants in the front seat must wear a seat belt, according to Ohio law. But even in the back seat, adults and children over 16 are safer buckled than unbuckled. About 75 percent of people who aren't wearing a seat belt and who are ejected from the car during an accident will die, warns the Ohio Department of Safety.
Why the Rear Seat is Safest
Ten times more children ride in the front seat than need to, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. This means that the back seat is available, but parents don't make their children sit there. But children under age 12 are 26 to 35 percent less likely to die in a car accident if they're buckled up or placed in an age-appropriate restraining device in the back seat, explains the National Center for Statistics and Analysis.
- Boost Ohio Kids: AAA Model Child Restraint Act
- Ohio Department of Health: Ohio's Booster Seat Law
- National Transportation Safety Board: Putting Children First
- Ohio Department of Public Safety: Always Buckle Your Seat Belt
- National Center for Statistics and Analysis: Moving Children From the Front Seat to the Back Seat
- KidsHealth: Car Seat Safety
- HealthyChildren.org: AAP Updates Recommendations on Car Seats