GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Before you head out on this summer’s family vacation, it may be time to refresh on Michigan’s safety laws for children riding in the car.
Michigan law allows a child who is four years of age or older to ride in the front seat of a car so long as certain car seat requirements and/or seat belt requirements are complied with. (MCL 257.710e(3) and (5))
However, child safety experts recommend that kids under 13 sit in the back seat and use seat belts.
Michigan Auto Law attorney Brandon Hewitt joined us to discuss the laws around children riding in vehicles. Hewitt explained that children who are eight years of age or older and/or who are 4-feet-9 inches in height or taller must wear a “fastened safety belt” when they are seated in the front seat. (MCL 257.710e(5)) They are not required to use or sit in a car seat or booster seat.
Hewitt explained this is consistent with Michigan’s general seat belt law, which provides that each driver and “front seat passenger” of a car or truck being driven on a Michigan roadway “shall wear a properly adjusted and fastened safety belt.” (MCL 257.710e(3))
As for a car seat, Hewitt explained that children who are seven years of age or younger and who are less than 4-feet-9 inches in height must use a car seat or booster when they are seated in the front seat. (MCL 257.710e(3)(b))
Hewitt said there are circumstances when a child is prohibited from riding in the front seat.
“Children ‘less than four years of age’ must ride in the back seat, and they must be secured in a car seat. However, if there is no back seat or if all the rear seats are occupied by other children under the age of four, then the child can ride in his or her car seat in the front seat.” (MCL 257.710d(1) and (2)) Further, a child in a rear-facing car seat can ride in the front seat under the circumstances above “only if the front passenger air bag is deactivated.” (MCL 257.710d(2))
According to Hewitt, “airbags deploy with tremendous force and at extreme speeds. As a result, they can cause serious injury or death to young and small children seated in the front passenger seat.”
Injuries that children may suffer after being struck by an airbag in a crash include injuries to the chest, internal bleeding, fractures, and injuries to the head or back.
So, what are the penalties if you violate the law by letting your child ride in the front seat? Hewitt said drivers face a fine of not more than $10 for violations concerning children under 4 years of age and a fine of $25 for a violation concerning older children. Drivers may also be required to pay court costs up to $100 and a “justice system assessment” of $40. (MCL 257.907(2)(m) and (n); 257.907(4); 257.907(12))
Hewitt said, “although drivers will be guilty of a civil infraction (MCL 257.710d(4) and 257.710e(9)) they face no jail time, no community service, no license suspensions (MCL 257.319), and no points on their driving records” (MCL 257.710d(5) and 257.710e(14)).
Forget whether it’s permitted. Hewitt said it is not a good idea to let children ride in the front seat. He quoted child safety experts who recommend that children under the age of 13 ride the back seat and wear a seat and/or use car seat or booster seat. Michigan law says any child under the age of 16 riding in the rear seat of a motor vehicle must be: (1) secured by “a properly adjusted and fastened safety belt”; or (2) secured in a child car seat or booster seat. (MCL 257.710e(3)(b) and (5))
For more information or to contact an attorney call 833-411-MICH or visit www.MichiganAutoLaw.com.
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