Kids riding shotgun

by Finn

When your kids ride in a car, where do they sit?

In the September 2015 issue of Consumer Reports, there’s an article that says that, “In cars made after 2006, a person sitting in the rear seat, even when wearing a seat belt, has a 46 percent greater chance of dying in a car crash than someone riding in the front passenger seat, according to a recent study….”

“The rear seat is still best for kids under 9 years old, probably because of the added protection of child restraints. We still recommend that all children under the age of 13 ride in the back.”

Shortly after reading this, DD sat in the front seat of my car for the first time (well, for the first time while the car was being driven). We were going to a camping trip, and the back of the car was full of stuff, so that worked out well, and she and I had a very nice conversation as well; she was quite excited about going back to school.

When will your kids move up to the front seat? For families with multiple kids, does this signal a return to the days of kids fighting over the front passenger seat?


153 thoughts on “Kids riding shotgun

  1. a person sitting in the rear seat, even when wearing a seat belt, has a 46 percent greater chance of dying…

    You mean front seat, I imagine.

    We haven’t really thought about it. I’d say by middle school, though.

    There are all kinds of things that change your chances of dying in a car accident. Size and height of the vehicle are two of the big ones, but nobody ever wants to talk about that because of environmental and class implications.

  2. My youngest is 12. So everyone can ride in the front seat. One child get odd days, one child gets even days and the third child gets days divisible by 3. It is not my responsibility to figure out whose days are whose. It is my responsibility to enforce the law. So far, it has cut down (somewhat) on arguing and increased the ability to divide by 3.

  3. Mine are big enough now that we are past this issue. However, I recall reading at the time about a weight and height for moving out of a booster and only wearing the seatbelt. Also, both of my cars have (prior one had) a sensor in the passenger seat that shows something fairly heavy, but not heavy enough to be safe for the use of airbags and turns on a light. The kiddos had to weigh enough so that sensor didn’t turn on the light.

    When I have only one passenger, they ride shotgun. Generally, if I have both, DD#1 takes her spot in the rear. DD#1 likes passenger side, DD#2 likes drivers side – at least this is something they don’t argue about.

    I wonder about the back seat being safer or not. The newer cars (2010 forward) with side curtain airbags in the 2nd and 3rd rows would seem to add more protection.

  4. I remember the fights my sisters and I used to have about who got the front seat so I’m not anxious for when this happens. My kids are such peanuts that I can’t even imagine the day when they will be free of booster and car seats.

    I remember talking to a mom of one of my oldest daughter’s friends last year. She was a nurse who now works in a law firm that does personal injury type stuff (a lot of car crashes). She was saying one of the worst things she sees is passengers dying because they had the passenger seat reclined. She said it was pretty gruesome so now I don’t recline my seat while in the passenger seat.

  5. I drove a friend’s child the other day in my car. He is eight and sat in the front seat, because there were no other available seats. (She was aware of this when we made the plans). Car manufactures spent a lot of money making sure new cars, at least for the last 10 years, have smart airbags in the front. In theory, a small child would not be injured by airbags – if they were too small they wouldn’t deploy. In practice, I feel like you’re practically a criminal if you put a child under 12 in the front seat.

  6. I am actually somewhat of a car seat minimalist. I think our obsession (at least the obsession of the mommy groups that I am a part of) with having the exact perfect seat in the exact perfect place, is unhealthy. Car accident deaths are incredibly rare, the marginal savings between having a 36 pound four-year-old in a booster versus a five point harness are quite small. I believe that in small cars, like my sedan, having a rear facing child behind the passenger decreases visibility to the extent that I may be a more dangerous driver. Half of all children who died in car accident had no restraint on whatsoever. My kids are always restrained, always in legal restraints, but not always in the maximum protective position/restraint. For examples, My middle travels with a simple booster, even though she does not meet the AAP’s weight and height recommendations.

  7. “passengers dying because they had the passenger seat reclined”

    Yeah, this is another important point. Also, the girls (it’s always girls) who put their feet up on the dashboard. You don’t even have to be going that fast for airbags to deploy in a collision, and that one’s going to snap your legs like a couple of matchsticks.

  8. I have a related question regarding booster seats. My DD is 8 and very small for her age – only 48 inches tall and a little over 50 lbs. Our state regulations for height to graduate out of a booster seat is 4 ft. 9 in. She needs to grow 9 more inches before she can get out of the booster seat! That will probably be in high school. None of her fellow 3rd grade friends use booster seats (though I don’t think they all meet the height requirement). This is really only an issue when she is riding with someone else and needs to take a booster seat along because her friends no longer have any. I’m pretty sure we will let her lose the booster seat once the seat belt can fit properly across her shoulder/lap, but I’m just not sure when that will be. Has anyone else has a child in a booster seat for an extended period?

  9. “so I’m not anxious for when this happens”

    well, actually you are. You’re expressing anxiety. Clearly you are not eager for this to happen. (playing the role of Finn until he can step in later)

  10. I hate these kinds of things. It is hard to pick my favorite child to have in the optimal spot in the car. Passenger side is safer. Third row seating is a death trap. Rear facing is best until they are 12 and who cares if they scream like crazies and distract you and every driver within 20 feet. I have some anxious tendencies, so I try not to go down the path of shooting for perfection. Kids get restrained and we hope for the best.

  11. I remember being 10-12 when I was allowed to ride shotgun (this was the 90s, so the rules were different). My cousin (10 years my junior) couldn’t ride in the front until she was 12 because of airbags (I remember driving with her in the backseat… she got stuck in the seat belt of the jump seat in the extended cab of my truck… I had to pull over because I was laughing so hard).

    Right now, we can’t recline the passenger seats because of the infant seat. Problem solved. DH and I are discussing on when to buy the next car seat (convertible type). We could solve our issues by purchasing another base which may buy us a year. But at the rate DS grows vertically (about an inch per month), theoretically, in 6-8 months he will be too tall for his infant seat. He doesn’t grow horizontally all that fast, so with the new age/height/weight requirements, DS will be in some type of car or booster seat until he’s 18. And then in the backseat until he’s 25.

  12. Oh dear, I never knew about reclining seats and feet on the dashboard.

    Nell, I have a petite daughter who continued to use a booster seat long after her friends had ditched theirs. It was a pain, but the shoulder belt continued to hit at her neck for a long time. And when she graduated to sitting in the front we had quite a celebration.

  13. Murphy– I love your system and am filing that one away for the future. I hate the fighting.

    So far I guess I’m one of those overly careful about the car seats. Though I don’t think it’s so bad. Now that my youngest is 3, all are forward facing, and all remain in harnessed seats. The 7 year old is still in a harnessed seat simply because it still fits her and it’s already installed. It’s also safer, but it’s exactly zero effort to continue to keep her in it because she can buckle herself in. My two older ones have boosters for when they ride in friends’ cars. (I would never try to carpool with 5 point harnesses. I’m not that kind of martyr.)

    My oldest has started asking about the front seat, but my understanding has always been 13 because of the airbags. (Thanks for confirming that, Ada.) Though to ride in my dh’s civic, if he ever had to haul all 3 kids in a pinch, she’d be the one in the front seat.

    I see other kids that are 7, 8, and 9 riding without boosters and/or in the front seat, and I make ’em use a booster in my car. When they try to click on seatbelts and the belts cross their necks, etc., you can visibly see that they still need the booster. So they can deal.

  14. When we were growing up, I remember my dad used to put us on his lap while driving and let us steer around the neighborhood (and most likely had an open beer in his hand). He tried to do that when some of my cousins’ kids were under ten and my cousins said “You can’t do that, it isn’t the 70s anymore!” My MIL often talks about just having my husband and his brother in her lap in the back seat.

  15. DS is waiting to ride in the front seat which will happen next year. DH is very risk averse so I don’t think DS will be hopping into the passengers seats of our cars right on his 12th birthday but over the next year I will have a passenger (who will be itching to move over to the driver’s seat).

  16. It is hard to pick my favorite child to have in the optimal spot in the car.

    Obviously, access to the front seat is based on seniority.

  17. Are third rows really that bad?

    We are thinking of trading in my car (5 seats) for a pilot, odyssey or enclave, so that I can car pool. Being able to split the 3 kids into 2 rows would be a major benefit.

    Mine will be in car seats for a long, long, time – I was 60 pounds in 6th grade, and that’s the weight requirement in our state.

    Does anyone with a third row keep their kids from sitting there?

  18. Milo – That is awesome! Seriously, my sisters and I talk and laugh about that a lot. One of our fondest childhood memories.

  19. “Does anyone with a third row keep their kids from sitting there?”

    No, but I appreciate the fact that minivan third rows tend to have more space between the third-row passengers and the tailgate than comparable SUVs offer, at least from what I can tell by climbing around and sitting in them at dealerships and car shows.

  20. We have had friends with shorter kids who had boosters past the age of most. It is state law that children are properly restrained and at one time there was more crackdown on it than there seems to be lately. Or, maybe we just don’t have as much contact with families still using boosters.

    I get on my kids about reclining seats and contorting themselves in ways that makes the seatbelt and/or airbags weapons instead of a safety devices. On the topic of airbags, they can be dangerous for short drivers as well – IIRC – your chest should be 12-18 inches from the steering wheel. I see short people (or at least those with short legs) much closer than that.

  21. Austin– I’m too close. I can’t make my legs longer though….

    Sky– I think the crash rates for minivans aren’t bad even with 3rd rows. The one that I can’t wrap my brain around is the Mazda 5. I love the idea of a smaller car that would fit 5, but the people in that 3rd row are *right* in front of the rear glass. I can’t see any way that is safe if the car is rear ended– adults or kids.

  22. The Enclave’s third row is right there too which seems dangerous and gives you no trunk space. Love the look of that car but the minivan just seemed safer and more practical.

  23. Rhett – as a middle child, I object strongly to that way of thinking.

    My grandpa used to let one kid steer and one kid work the pedals. He would sit in the passenger seat. We used to drive to the bar down the street and he would buy us Shirley Temples.

  24. Both of mine are now front seat riders and I dislike it because that seat has always been my “office”. I keep my purse there, anything I might need to return or deliver, the mail….. Now it gets jammed in the back.

    I’m surprised that Ada is so relaxed about car seats. For me I decided that since car accidents are the leading cause of death of children under 18 and it was something that I could mitigate to some degree that it was worth the effort to have good a proper seats. I also insist on helmets on bikes and scooters and skate boards because there are often no do overs with head injuries. Break your arm, hell amputate your arm you can still have a nice life, scramble your brains = Done.

    I won’t EVER take a kid too young in a front seat regardless of the circumstances. Everyone is chill and ok with things until someone’s kid dies and then all bets are off. Everyone has to have a seat in my car and wear a belt or booster, don’t care what your mom allows, my car, my rules.

  25. I’m with Moxie – my car, my rules. I’ve been in too many accidents to not believe in the power of seat belts. I would be happy if all cars came with 5 point harnesses for every seat plus neck guards (like race car drivers wear).

  26. “I can’t make my legs longer though…”

    Sure you can. Wear platform shoes. Or, tie blocks to the bottom of your feet. Remember the kid doing that in one of the Indiana Jones movies? IIRC, it was the second one, with Kate Capshaw.

  27. There was great celebration when DD turned 8 because she was already big enough to go without a booster but the law is age first, then the weight/height. My 8-yo is the size of an average 11-yo, so now she is itching to ride in the front. I let her do it some when we were moving (half a mile and in the same neighborhood, so not on any streets with traffic), and this reminded me that if you give them an inch they will demand a mile. No more shotgun, even if we’re just going a half-mile.

  28. there are cars with adjustable pedals. I don’t have one, but they’re available.

    I am excited to see how electronic crash avoidance systems develop over the next couple of decades. If their effect is significant, then when my kids are all grown and my continued survival is less consequential, I could see getting a motorcycle to ride on Skyline Drive.

  29. DS is 7 and not all that tall (48 or 49″), so he is still in a booster. He will likely be in a booster for awhile as he very obviously needs it for the belt to hit the right place in our car & is on the shorter side for his age. He may be out of it sooner in his Grandma’s car which has a different configuration. We forgot to pack our booster on our latest vacation, and he had to ride in the back of a rental car without a booster until we made it to Target near the airport.

    Living in an urban area, we don’t do much carpooling. It really hasn’t come up much, so I’ve never really thought about it. DS is not all that close to sitting in the front seat.

    I’m with Ada on the stance of having a legal restraint, but not worrying about all the little nuances. I’ve seen some real crazies in my local mom group who take things to extremes.

  30. MA law is car seat until 5 or outgrown, booster seat until 8 or 4 foot 9. After that booster and/or back seat riding is advisory only. Coco is 6, 40 in and 36 pounds. We discussed this last week and she will be moving to booster seat, which means I can get one for the trunk and drive both her and a car seat denizen (I have already have a car seat installed) if needed. Maybe the older two can sleep over at Nana’s sometime…..

    Of course, when my kids were young it was different. We were early car seat adopters and seat belt enforcers, but that was suggested for infants and toddlers only. As a matter of fact, in the pre air bag days, it was usual and considered safe to put the infant in the rear facing seat in the passenger seat and the other kids in the back.

    Once on TOS we had a fevered discussion in which I discovered that on a long drive, modern practice is that when the baby needed to eat and Dad was driving, Mom didn’t just sit in the back, pop the baby out and feed him, but everyone stopped at a rest area for 30 minutes. I even heard that as an argument against breast feeding. No further comment.

  31. Sorry Fred, I’m with Atlanta on this. From

    “Usage Notes

    The earliest sense of anxious (in the 17th century) was “troubled” or “worried”: We are still anxious for the safety of our dear sons in battle. Its meaning “earnestly desirous, eager” arose in the mid-18th century: We are anxious to see our new grandson. Some insist that anxious must always convey a sense of distress or worry and object to its use in the sense of “eager,” but such use is fully standard.”

  32. “Remember the kid doing that in one of the Indiana Jones movies? IIRC, it was the second one, with Kate Capshaw.”

    Data from Goonies!!!! Ha! Poor guy will always be “Data from Goonies” to me… even though I know him from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, too. I think Short or Shorty was his name…

  33. Both my kids seemed too big for booster seats by age six. So we never did boosters after that. They had to sit in the second or third row of our vehicles, both of which have big trunks and space between the third row and tailgate.
    Both kids automatically put on helmets when they bike/scooter. There are a ton of kids in our neighborhood and there are varying degrees of helmet use. The skateboarders never wear helmets. This point was probably made to the skateboarding kids’ parents because for a while helmets did appear.

  34. My problem in the car is not being too short to reach the pedals (my limited height is in my legs), but raising the seat high enough or using a cushion so that the belt doesn’t cut into the side of my neck. There isn’t enough room for my legs under the steering wheel. My old Jetta had an adjustment for short people to lower the angle of the seat belt, but I can’t manage even to install a work around on the Camry because of the way the mechanism grabs. I just live with it.

  35. “I could see getting a motorcycle to ride on Skyline Drive.”

    Where is that?

    One of my favorite roads for bicycling was Skyline Boulevard on the SF peninsula, SR 35. I used to often encounter crazy motorcyclists who tried to drive its length twice (to and fro) averaging at least 100 (mph, not kph).

  36. ” We were early car seat adopters and seat belt enforcers,”

    I am old enough to remember when seat belts were not standard equipment on cars. I also remember my dad retrofitting our car with seat belts.

  37. “My problem in the car is not being too short to reach the pedals (my limited height is in my legs), but raising the seat high enough or using a cushion so that the belt doesn’t cut into the side of my neck. There isn’t enough room for my legs under the steering wheel. ”

    This would seem to be one of the things to evaluate in the car selection process.

  38. Finn – It rides along the Blue Ridge Mountains, from Front Royal at the northern end, through Shenandoah National Park for 100 miles. But I think you can take it, or something like it, all the way down to Asheville, NC. We’ve driven sections of it, usually on the way to hiking. I’m going in a few weeks with the Scouts.

  39. “Passenger side is safer.”

    Are there any data to support this? I would suspect that in the back seat, the passenger side is less safe, because that’s the side that would typically get hit if you’re t-boned.

  40. “Size and height of the vehicle are two of the big ones, but nobody ever wants to talk about that because of environmental and class implications.”

    I’ve discussed that here (that’s one reason I did not buy an SUV). I suppose that qualifies me as a nobody.

  41. Indeed, Finn, but I was replacing in a hurry a car that was totaled in the middle of winter and decided to upgrade a weight class from Corolla to Camry – the collar on my coat during the test drive obscured the problem with the seat belt position.

  42. I want to know the science behind the recommendation that kids stay in the back until 13. It seems that there is science to say kids are safer in back until 9 (presumably in appropriate boosters). It also seems that there is science that fully-grown humans are safer in the front seat in newer cars (presumably because the front seats have all of the side/head airbags that many back seats do not, and those are safer once you hit a certain size/weight). So what is the justification for putting a larger child in the back seat between 9 and 13? Seems to me that if the airbags are safer once you reach a certain size/weight threshold, then they should be advocating to put kids in the front as soon as they hit those thresholds.

    I’m actually really interested in this, as DS is 9 but close to 100 lbs and is begging to sit in the front. I have said no until 12, based on the recommendations, but if there’s no science behind it, then screw it — he can sit up front (assuming he can wrestle his sister for the honor).

  43. “passengers dying because they had the passenger seat reclined.”

    Is this just when they are fully reclined? I would think that some reclining, but not enough for the shoulder strap to not be effective, would be safer, but perhaps I’m influenced by the era when air bags caused a lot of harm, especially people sitting too close to the bags.

  44. Finn – Skyline Drive is in Virginia..the western part of the state…beautiful.

    Milo – so I’m old school. Anyway Merriam-Webster defines it this way (the positive “eager” is the 3rd usage):
    Dictionary: anxious adjective anx·ious \ˈaŋ(k)-shəs\

    : afraid or nervous especially about what may happen : feeling anxiety
    : causing or showing fear or nervousness
    : wanting or eager to do or have something very much especially because of fear or nervousness

    Full Definition of ANXIOUS
    1: characterized by extreme uneasiness of mind or brooding fear about some contingency : worried
    2: characterized by, resulting from, or causing anxiety : worrying
    3: ardently or earnestly wishing

    And, yes, I’m aware that anxious = eager is the common usage nowadays.

  45. “Milo, are bicyclists a common sight on that road?”

    Finn – Absolutely. And whenever I’ve been there (probably closer to peak times), traffic is meandering peacefully. I’d just be worried about that one idiot grabbing a selfie while driving…

  46. Finn – you are correct. I mis-wrote. Driver side is safer because you naturally protect your side. However, from a practical aspect, it is a lot safer to get kids out on the passenger side if parked on a street.

  47. Not me, Fred. I didn’t jump in on the anxious issue. But I think you both would really enjoy reading Bryson’s “Made in America.” It’s his lighthearted history of the English language, with a lot of fun tangents.

  48. “The one that I can’t wrap my brain around is the Mazda 5. I love the idea of a smaller car that would fit 5, but the people in that 3rd row are *right* in front of the rear glass. I can’t see any way that is safe if the car is rear ended– adults or kids.”

    I don’t think you’d ever want to put adults in that back seat; it’s too tight a fit. But the back seat is about the same distance from the rear glass as a number of small cars with two rows of seats, like my mom’s old Tercel or the Mazda2.

    The third row served its purpose when DD was younger and I could take her and 3 teammates to practice (and the routes were on local roads, most of which had 25 mph speed limits). Now that DD and her friends are old and big enough for the front seat, it doesn’t get much use.

  49. It is not so much that I am relaxed about car risks (I worry about them all the time), it is that I refuse to get bogged down in non-evidence based crazy.

    The post opened today with the fact that people are safer in the front seat (even when controlled by age). It is perfectly legal to put a child in the front seat if there are not other seats available. It is likely advisable based on the small amount of data available. I doubt anyone here will rush out and put their 9 year old in the front seat… why not? Your pre-teen child may have as much as 185% increased risk of dying in the back seat. Here is the primary source:

    There is a lot of mythology around car seats – that wet car seat straps stretch and will result in failure of seat in a crash (therefore you cannot wash them), that car seats that are checked as baggage get microfractures and then fail in a crash, that car seats expire (though the seatbelt I use every day is good for 20 years). None of these have evidence behind them that I have found (and I have looked)

    I haven’t seen the study which compares reaction time in an adult with a screaming child in the back seat vs one with a happy child. I turned my first around at 14 months, because 14 months of constant crying in the car was enough – and I think I was a safer driver. The visibility issue is significant – many cars can only accommodate a rear facing toddler behind the passenger seat. I want to decrease my children’s risk of dying as much as anyone else – I just don’t believe we know that way to do it.

    I think that life has become so (thankfully) safe for our children that it seems like we almost might be able to prevent any and all bad things if we just follow all the rules.

  50. Quick poll –

    When you had one kid, where did you put the car seat? Behind the passenger, behind the driver, or middle?

  51. Rhode – In our little crossover, behind the driver, iirc., for no other reason than because it’s on the same side as the driver when getting in and out of the car. In our sedan, it was in the middle because it was so big and, in any other position, would have required the seat in front to be pushed too far forward for comfort.

    In the van, my youngest was switched from left-side-second-row to right-side-second-row because the van goes in the left parking space in the garage, and we realized that right-side ingress and egress was easier since that would occur in the middle of the garage, rather than against the wall.

  52. Ada – Agree with everything @ 1:07, especially:

    “I think that life has become so (thankfully) safe for our children that it seems like we almost might be able to prevent any and all bad things if we just follow all the rules.”

  53. @Rhode — middle.

    I share Ada’s frustration with the lack of real evidence on most of the recommendations. My kids have always been outside the norm on height/weight/age, which left us constantly struggling to figure which is safest. For ex, DD was so tall and skinny that her head was well above the top of the baby bucket by about 9 months — so do we turn her around into a front-facing one earlier than we’re supposed to, or leave her rear-facing even though she didn’t seem to have the full neck support, buy a larger rear-facing seat she’d use for a few months, etc?? In the end we went with what seemed to make the most sense (turning her around into a larger seat that fit her comfortably) — but then there was @ 2 mos. of worrying that we’d get in trouble for not following the letter of the law.

    I do think it’s the classic first-world problem — if your biggest safety concern is choosing between “safe” and “safer,” that’s a pretty good place to be. The problem is that having a baby is a terrifying lesson in All The Ways Things Can Go Wrong Before Adulthood — and most of those you can’t control at all, so it’s natural to over-focus on those you can. Having been through all of that angsting of figuring out how to do things “just right,” I try now to remember that perspective instead of spending a gazillion brain cells trying to optimize the maximum incremental safety associated with every parenting decision.

  54. Since I haven’t had to deal with this in quite a few years, I am curious about keeping the car seats facing backwards until they are toddlers. Where to they put their feet and legs?

  55. ssk – they are bunched up in the seats… I’ve seen kids sit almost criss-cross-applesauce style, or frog-legged (with bottom of the feet pointed towards each other).

  56. Our oldest starting sitting in the front seat when we got a car with an airbag that would not deploy if he were undersized. I never considered not letting him sit in the front seat. He has convinced his siblings they are ineligible for the front seat.

  57. Milo,

    Skyline Drive stops in Waynesboro and the road becomes the Blue Ridge Parkway after that, continuing at least thru North Carolina, if not further. I think SD and the BRP are run by two different federal agencies. Both places are overrun with deer. Evertime I see people on motorcycles I wonder what would happen if a deer ran into them. It would not be pretty!

  58. Nell, in my state the rule is 4’9″ or 8 years old, whichever comes first. Double check your state.

  59. “Both places are overrun with deer. ”

    I remember that, and our dog cracked the back windshield when he moved quickly to get a better view of some that were running by the side of the road. He was not restrained at the time, but he didn’t seem to hurt himself much in that incident. It was puzzling, but we think it may have been a tiny crack that just needed a little pressure to expand.

  60. “Where to they put their feet and legs?”

    My recollection is that by the time that started to be an issue, they were ready to be front facing.

  61. What is with having the car seats be rear-facing for so long now? Why do the safety rules keep changing? We turned our DS around when he was 1. But when I asked my sister when she was going to turn her DD (~2.5 yo) car seat around to face forward and she didn’t answer and acted insulted by the question.

  62. Laws were different in the 90s when my kids were in car seats. We turned them both to forward facing at 10-11 months, because both made their displeasure with rear-facing known every second of every ride. It was nerve-wracking, and much safer for the driver when they were forward-facing. But I was also a scofflaw on sleeping position, letting them sleep on their stomachs with no blankets in the crib. My oldest slept 7 pm – 7 am starting the day she turned one month old. The benefits of that we’re good for the whole family. My oldest also would have been in a booster through 8th grade under current laws, so I’m glad we were past that.

  63. Rhett – Those Volvo pictures always look kind of creepy to me. Who wants to just sit in the back staring at a baby for the entire ride? And for wherever she’s going in that evening gown, they should have just gotten a babysitter.

    Sheep Farmer – Good call about the deer. We’ll have to somehow make them crash-avoidant, too.

  64. I just received this information from my ped, but I am 99% certain that it is from NY state:

    Air bags deploy (expand rapidly) from the steering wheel and/or dashboard, and, in some vehicles, from the side doors beneath or above the window. The force of an air bag deploying may injure those who sit too close to it. Make sure to sit with at least 10 inches between the center of your breastbone and the air bag cover. If you are the vehicle’s driver, place your hands on the steering-wheel at the 3 and 9 o’clock positions to keep them out of the way of air bag deployment. For maximum protection, children under the age of 12 should sit in the rear seat of the vehicle.

    The reason she gave me this information is that I drive several 10 -11 year olds that are at least 5 feet tall. A couple will sit in the front even though they don’t reach the age requirement. I spoke to the school safety officer for my town and he doesn’t recommend it. He said that any police officer, fire fighter, EMS, Er doc etc – will try to keep their kids int he back as long as possible. The issues are related to the injuries that they see when they respond to accidents. No seatbelt is obviously the worst – according to him – because those people are ejected and die.

    My neighbors are from another country and have diplomatic immunity. They have several kids and they often ride without seat belts, and in the front seat. Age range is 4 – 9. They get pulled over all of the time, but they can’t really receive tickets. The local preschool told them that they can not drop off unless their child arrives in a car seat because they were sick of seeing the kids like this in the front seat. they finally went to Target and bought some boosters and car seats after the preschool told them that they couldn’t use the drop off line.

  65. My not quite 5 year old is still under the limits for rear facing for our convertible car seat – he is neither 49 inches nor 40 lbs (and he isn’t super tiny). He is just supposed to fold his legs like a contortionist. But I needed that seat for another kid, so he rides in a harness to booster forward facing (in harness mode). The amount of money we have spent on carseats is crazy.

  66. What I heard is a medical reason – that in the event of a rear collision, rear-facing is the safest way to be (no whip lash). And that children between 1-2 years old still don’t have the head control to be safe enough. I’m sure there’s a more fancy explanation, but that’s what I was told.

    In response, a lot of car seat manufacturers are creating rear-facing only seats which have an upper weight limit of 35 lbs. Most convertible seats have rear-facing capabilities until 35-40lbs.

    NJ just adopted some strict car seat safety laws, which impacts my life going forward when we visit the family:

    Birth to age 2: A child under age 2 *and* under 30 lbs. must be in a rear-facing car seat with a five-point harness. That means toddlers who are tall or have long legs must remain rear-facing until age 2 even if their knees are bent and their feet are pressed against the back seat of the car.

    Ages 2 to 4: A child under age 4 *and* 40 lbs. must remain in either a rear-facing or a forward-facing car seat with a five-point harness in the back seat of a vehicle.

    Ages 4 to 8: Children must remain in a car seat or a booster seat in the back seat of a vehicle until they are at least 8 years old or 57 inches tall. Once they reach that age or height, they can use the regular adult seat belts.

    Age 8 and above: A child age 8 and older can sit in a regular seat using a seat belt. However, the New Jersey law does not specify when children over age 8 can move from the back seat to the front seat. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children not sit in the front seat until age 12.


  67. Rhett – Those Volvo pictures always look kind of creepy to me.

    ITA – it’s like a baby throne.

  68. Milo, I looked at that dress and had the same thought. Along with, “The baby is going to spit up on that dress and the dress looks like it’s dry clean only. And if it’s washable, it’s a pain to iron.”

  69. “My neighbors are from another country and have diplomatic immunity. They have several kids and they often ride without seat belts, and in the front seat.”

    Perhaps they misunderstand the concept of immunity.

  70. Under the rules, my son will be rear-facing until he’s 3-4 years old just because of his weight. I get the reasoning, but it’s the “and” that’s killing me.

  71. As I recall, the rear-facing had a weight, age, height limit. Once you exceeded one, you needed to turn them around. But of course, its been 12 years since we dealt with this issue and the laws and recommendations change regularly!

  72. “He said that any police officer, fire fighter, EMS, Er doc etc – will try to keep their kids int he back as long as possible. The issues are related to the injuries that they see when they respond to accidents. ”

    I wonder if their experience is still valid for newer cars that are safer for adults to be in the front passenger seat. The injuries they’ve seen may have been mostly in older cars that were safer for kids in the back seats.

  73. I agree with Rhett, Milo, and WCE… that lady needs to change. And I would *hate* to stare at my kid the entire trip. He would get all antsy that he couldn’t hang out with me and be a beast. I’d rather have him stare at the seat of the car and play with things I can tie down around him.

  74. I wonder how or if they intend to enforce the car seat restrictions based on ages and weights. I don’t carry my kids’ birth certificates or any sort of identification for them. We don’t have a scale in the car. If the officer doesn’t believe the parent who claims that the child is X pounds and Y years, is he just supposed to issue a citation regardless and tell him to bring the documentation to court? Should the parent take the child to a weigh-in within a certain number of days and get a health care provider to certify weight on a certain days?

    Guidelines are good, laws are good sometimes, but we should really, really be a little more reluctant to just throw out a bunch of new laws and regulations like these.

  75. “I don’t see any seat belts for the Pope.”

    The Pope should ask former NJ governor Corzine about seat belts… he was involved in a horrific crash when his state trooper-driven SUV crashed and rolled over (high speed crash).

  76. Or maybe because he’s the Pope, he doesn’t need seat belts… you know, close to God and all that…

  77. “Along with, “The baby is going to spit up on that dress and the dress looks like it’s dry clean only. And if it’s washable, it’s a pain to iron.””

    I think the baby is just riding along while the parents go to their event. The nanny is in the trunk and will deal with the baby when they reach their destination.

  78. Rhode, DS1 rode in the middle when he was an only. More room if we were T-boned. But I don’t worry about car seat stuff. Freakonomics has the best analysis I’ve read. Car seats help a lot between 35 and 45 mph. Beyond that, injuries are bad anyway.

    Baby WCE cried most of the way to O’Hare (from Iowa) and about 45 min on the way home from PDX. If staring at her/letting her stare at me saved all of us from hours of screaming, I would be grateful. Hopefully she’s better by our next major car trip, at Thanksgiving.

  79. “Under the rules, my son will be rear-facing until he’s 3-4 years old just because of his weight”

    That’s insane, I just wouldn’t do it. I think we did approx. 18 months for all three.

  80. I caved on the front seat for my now-11-year old when he was still 10. An advantage to being the youngest of 3 — eventually parents get tired of the fight. My car does have a weight-sensitive airbag.

    He’s still shorter than me (unlike the older two) but not that much shorter.

  81. “you know, close to God and all that”

    And a high speed crash without seat belts could get him even closer.

    Perhaps he only rides in the popemobile at low speeds?

  82. In the Pope’s defense the Popemobile is a parade car and as such isn’t really meant to go above a brisk walking speed.

  83. “I think the baby is just riding along while the parents go to their event. ”

    Perhaps it works if it’s just a short ride to the grandparents’ house, where the kid will stay while the parents are at their event.

  84. The fire department, for what it’s worth, told me to put Junior on the right passenger side. That way, he would break his neck on the passenger seat as opposed to flying through the windshield in the middle.

    Happily, neither happened.

    I wasn’t sure how wise that was when one nanny had the car in which he primarily rode was T-boned twice. (She was a short term nanny.)

    I am amused when the one of the Mother’s Club member who insists we hire a security guard and install even more cameras to protect our snowflakes pulls up each day with her 1st grade boy in the front seat of her 2-passenger Porsche..

  85. “I think the baby is just riding along while the parents go to their event. The nanny is in the trunk and will deal with the baby when they reach their destination.”

    I think that couple is going to a summer beach wedding and plan to leave the kid in the car.

  86. ” An advantage to being the youngest of 3 — eventually parents get tired of the fight.”

    My middle (19) has had this theory of “average age of child (AAC)” for a while. When the oldest was 5, our AAC was 2.7, everyone’s still young and so the rules are set and parents care.

    At 10 (youngest now 5) AAC=7 and the parent start thinking more along the lines of “eh…3rd kid…he’ll be ok”. Language is the biggest issue…swear words start to come out around 3rd-4th grade.

    At 15, AAC=12.3 and believe me despite our trying the youngest has heard everything from particularly his oldest brother, so it becomes “we don’t like you to talk like that and never outside the house.”

    So, essentially for the last few years, the youngest gets away with relative murder. Current AAC is 19 and though the youngest is only 16 and we really don’t like him swearing, etc, and he does have a lot less freedom that his (legally adult) brothers, he has gotten away with a lot more than his oldest brother did for a long time.

    Some is parental fatigue, some realization that it just doesn’t matter, some just laziness on our part.

    Now officially withdrawing my Hall of Fame Parent Application.

  87. theory of “average age of child (AAC)”

    We came up with that theory independently and we definitely follow it. I just can’t keep track of three different sets of age-appropriate rules at once. Right now our AAC is about 13, so yeah. Also with you on the “just don’t swear outside the house or to your grandparents, and can you please keep it down to one swear per sentence?”

  88. Junior and have a rule that there is absolutely no swearing unless it is directed at fellow Miami

  89. This year’s Amazon Fire tablets are announced and the low end one is quite inexpensive for a tablet at $50. I’m amused that you can get six for the price of 5. For the larger family!

  90. Rhode, my kid goes I’m the rear seat, middle. Kid was also rear facing until 2.5. Many moms on car seat board keep theirs rear facing until the height weight limit is reached. I have seen pics of 4-5 yr olds rear facing too. I took pity on my kid a few months ago. :)

  91. Milo — I have always wondered about enforcement as well. My youngest is large for age and my middle is small for age – so I am often asked if they are twins, despite 2 year age difference.

    How can we expect law enforcement to know which seat each should be in?

    Does anyone personally know anyone who has gotten a citation for wrong restraint (not just a warning?) I don’t.

  92. I don’t, Ada. But I do know of cases where after an accident it is determined that a kid was not properly restrained and drivers are charged accordingly for putting a minor in harm’s way.

    Our youngest rode rear-facing until 3. Quite happily. But we had the advantage of 2 sisters in the 3rd row of the minivan who would talk to him!

  93. “So, the child needs to be rear facing IF they are under 2 AND under 30.”

    I read that as saying if the kid reaches 2 but is 25lbs the kid has to stay rear facing. That “and” makes all the difference. To me the child didn’t satisfy both requirements. It’s not 2 or 30. So those sentences are contradictory to me.

    I think I may ask some cops in the NJ family about it.

  94. WCE – to me, it’s just a tedious way of asking “did that story remind you of anything? If so, what?”

  95. @Fred: your kid is freaking brilliant. I never thought of it that way, but it makes SO much sense.

    @Rhode: lawyer moment! Conjunctive vs disjunctive! Must be rear-facing if A and B = only have to face the rear if both criteria are satisfied. So if you are A but not B, or B but not A, you don’t trigger. Second sentence affirms that.

    At least, that’s what I’d argue if I were pulled over. :-)

  96. And from the good news department:

    “NOTE: Maryland’s child safety seat law does not prohibit front seat riding. The lone exception to this comes into play when placing a rear-facing child in a front seat with an active air bag.”


  97. Moxie, the car seat is just for the four year old!

    They don’t like (or follow) many of the laws that they don’t understand. They let their kids ride their bikes and scooters without helmets too. My town has a very strict helmet law, but they don’t wear helmets.

    they tried to mix recycling with regular garbage, but our town garbage guys wouldn’t take their garbage. they kept trying to break the rules until raccoons took over their driveway on garbage days – now they follow our town rules and they separate the real trash from recycling!!!!

  98. Lauren – the raccoons in the driveway sound like a scene from Parks and Rec!

    Tulip – that article is hysterical. It was nice to see that pretty much every commenter said how idiotic this woman is, so if the website is for millennials at least they know she was full of malarky.

  99. I always appreciate a good contrarian. Some of her points are not without some validity:

    “When you’re saving for yourself, you’re refusing to bet on yourself”

    In a way, that’s true for us. DW and I have always tended toward the side of pessimism on our realistic or practical earning potential (especially considering what sort of relaxed, 9-5 lifestyles we want), so we figure that we’ve got to juice it with dividends.

  100. Lauren I have a good friend who is from a South American country. She is well educated but doesn’t follow rules like that because she simply does not like to be told what to do. Her kids hate riding with me for the rules, but they do like the music.

    I had friends who lived in Switzerland and it took them a good two months to figure out the rules for trash – very complex, but at least they were trying. The Swiss don’t fool around. They were not diplomats. For most of the Western European countries they have really cracked down on the traffic tickets and other violations. It is not like the 80s when you could essentially park where you wanted if you were diplo.

  101. Milo, that article you linked at 7:33 may be typical of the wrongheaded type of guidance  teachers use in reading instruction.

    Good readers draw on prior knowledge and experience to help them understand what they are reading and are thus able to use that knowledge to make connections.  True!

    But the article emphasizes strategies over prior knowledge.  Educators focus too much on strategies, such as making connections, rather than on actually teaching relevant knowledge. “No need to memorize or learn facts because you can Google it.”   Memorizing is bad, but 21st century googling skills are good.  Yet cognitive science tells us that reading comprehension becomes mostly knowledge-dependent after decoding skills are mastered.  If you lack knowledge about history, geography, science, math, literature, etc., your reading comprehension suffers.

    Text-to-self connections are easy for most students, and teachers often fall back on teaching that at the expense of text-to-text or text-to-world.  Who doesn’t want to relate a lesson to themselves and how they feel?  The personal narrative has figured prominently in public schools, while expository evidence-based writing has been downplayed.  Common Core was supposed to address this, but apparently in implementation, time devoted to history and other subjects has been reduced.

    Teaching prior knowledge is especially important in helping low-income students succeed.

    ‘it’s mostly facts that end up separating rich kids from poor kids’

    … facts like the meaning of “common denominator” or understanding what an “ombudsman” does or knowing who Geronimo was that offer many middle- and upper-class students—who learned the terms at home and in their community—a clear advantage in life, while their poorer peers often miss out on absorbing this basic cultural knowledge.

    “Facts are what you need to read properly, and to learn more, and to communicate,”

  102. Moxie, They are from a middle eastern country, and some of our rules just don’t make sense to them. They lived in Europe before the US, so it isn’t their first time in a western country. This is their third year in the US, and Ive realized that some of it just has to do with old fashioned parent discipline. The mom is very laid back, and she lets the kids do whatever they want to do. She is like this too, so it is probably a combination of her background and her personality.

  103. “I had friends who lived in Switzerland and it took them a good two months to figure out the rules for trash – very complex”

    I still have trouble figuring out our local rules. In particular, my husband has to keep explaining the difference between trash and rubbish.

  104. Why is it that you guys are still separating all your sh1t into different bins, and the companies that deal with all our recycling just want everything in one big single-stream bin? I have NEVER separated recycling. Papers, junk mail (including envelopes with clear plastic windows), bottles, cans of any type of metal, any type of cardboard, just throw it all in to one bin.

    I thought all those high taxes were supposed to pay for better services.

  105. “the glass is being used to provide a lining for landfills instead of being recycled back in to glass”

    The Holy Trinity–“reduce, reuse, recycle”–is actually a hierarchy of priorities, no? Reusing (repurposing, if you prefer) is supposed to be better than recycling. Besides, glass is just melted sand, anyway.

    I’m always amused at places like Wegman’s where the trash cans are supposed to be so off-putting. Next to a bin that is labeled “Bottles” and another that says “Cans” the trash can doesn’t say “Trash,” but rather “To Landfill.”

  106. Tulip,

    I have the same problem with her that I have with almost all personal finance people: they focus way too much on what you have to do without vs. how little you’ll actually notice the x% going into your 401K.

  107. “@Rhode: lawyer moment! Conjunctive vs disjunctive! Must be rear-facing if A and B = only have to face the rear if both criteria are satisfied. So if you are A but not B, or B but not A, you don’t trigger. Second sentence affirms that.”

    You lawyers and your backwards speak… but thank you LfB. You are probably right, considering lawyers wrote the rules…

  108. Milo – we have single stream in my eastern Mass town. My tax rate isn’t high as a percentage of FMV, but the base of course is high.

    That article was picked up, made the rounds and was discussed in slate and vox and elsewhere – not bad circulation for a generic big coastal city 20 something blogger. The content is not the point, the boldness is. She probably did more to land a higher paying gig with that single act than with all of her “networking” over a drink.

  109. “My tax rate isn’t high as a percentage of FMV, but the base of course is high”

    yeah, I never thought that yours was. It’s the NY/NJ ones that always seem so astronomical.

    Call me cynical, but I always have a feeling that, in certain areas, the powers that be actually LIKE activities such as sorting recyclables. It makes them feel noble.

    Our friends who moved to Charlottesville for U.Va positions were telling us about one company that was bidding in the area to turn the whole system into single-stream everything, including household garbage, disposable diapers, etc. The company had estimated that the increased yield of recyclable material outweighed the costs of sorting. But a lot of people were just uncomfortable with the idea, and the only reason I can think of is that they would lose a little bit of self-satisfaction.

  110. the powers that be actually LIKE activities such as sorting recyclables. It makes them feel noble.

    The same is true for personal finance. You can have “single stream” retirement in which you put X% into your 401k and forget about it vs. spending several hours a day fretting about every minor expense and constantly reminding yourself of all the things you’re doing without.

  111. “Call me cynical, but I always have a feeling that, in certain areas, the powers that be actually LIKE activities such as sorting recyclables. It makes them feel noble.”

    That’s probably part of it, but don’t discount the union jobs and government bureaucracy that would be lost if efficient evidence-based practices were implemented.

  112. CoC – Maybe in your town the garbage is collected by union members, but not here – everything is outsourced to private haulers.

  113. “but don’t discount the union jobs”

    I can’t post it, because Harper’s is subscription-only, and my subscription is on paper, but they had an excellent article about the current system of prisons, and the author illustrated how the unions for correction officers, even in the private prisons (which is almost an unnecessary adjective at this point) are one of the biggest impediments keeping the Democrats from enacting any sort of meaningful reform.

  114. Rhett – That’s one of those cases where I saw it on Law and Order, but only now realized that they were referencing something from real life.

  115. On the topic of recycling – we can choose from an assortment of private haulers for trash. The city chose one of the privates to do recycling (single stream). So on trash day we have two bins and most houses have two companies stop for pick up. Last year I noticed that the recycling truck is also picking up the regular trash for their customers. So it appears that the company takes it back to their facility and sorts the trash from the recycling. Because of this I don’t care if some non-recyclables accidentally gets throw in the wrong bin. ITA with Milo and that for most people recycling is all about feeling noble.

  116. Milo,

    I find this disgusting: The plea agreement[9] called for Ciavarella to serve up to seven years in prison, pay fines and restitution, and accept responsibility for the crimes.[10] However, Ciavarella denied that there was a connection between the juvenile sentences he rendered and the kickbacks he received.[11][12] In part because of this denial, on July 30, 2009, Judge Edwin M. Kosik of Federal District Court in Scranton, Pennsylvania rejected the plea agreement.

    Now,it’s great that the plea was rejected, he went to trial, was convicted and will likely spend the rest of his life in jail. But, that prosecutor need to be fired for even proposing that original slap on the wrist. 7 years even for not paying taxes on his $2.8 million in bribe money would seem a little light let along the extortion, the bribery itself, money laundering, etc.

  117. “When you’re 40, you’re not going to look back on your 20s and be grateful for the few thousand you saved. You’re going to be full of regret.”

    As a person who is almost 40, I snort-laughed at this. The one thing I regret about my 20’s is not saving MORE and spending LESS on stupid crap because there was so much that wasn’t worth it. As if being a hermit counting pennies vs getting in debt up to your eyeballs because – YOLO! – is a binary choice. I also love how people in their 40’s are basically dead to this kid. I guess life never changes. :)

    Obviously, this was a click-bait, ridiculous article, and I shouldn’t take it seriously. But it’s an interesting insight into the mind of a certain 20-something.

  118. Milo – we have the “landfill” option at some places here as well. I guess to shame you into not putting stuff in the trash. It makes me want to throw recyclables/compostables, etc. in there just to be contrary (but I don’t!).

    Many books I’ve read that were set in the early/mid 20th century have the characters take out the trash (rubbish). It seems to consist mainly of empty bottles and newspaper. No plastic!

  119. “the difference between trash and rubbish.”

    I’m not sure I know that difference, but it reminds me that as a kid, we differentiated between garbage and rubbish. Garbage was food waste, and that went in to one receptacle for collection by pig farmers. Rubbish, which I think (but I’m not sure) is trash – garbage, was taken to the landfill.

  120. “You lawyers and your backwards speak… but thank you LfB. You are probably right, considering lawyers wrote the rules…”

    IMO, LfB’s interpretation is logically correct.

  121. Tulip, that article is a great argument against a lot of welfare programs.

    And of course I must make the obligatory point that it also helps make the case that assets shouldn’t be taken into account in determining college financial aid, especially government-provided aid.

    And I suggest one more point to add to hers:

    When you become old and destitute, you will be a burden on your family and society.

    With those savings habits, you will only avoid becoming old and destitute by dying early. Unfortunately, by the time she is old, global warming may have eliminated ice floes.

  122. Definitely click-bait. Or I like Ada’s rage-bait term. I can’t muscle up rage for someone who isn’t my kid. As Meme pointed out, she rustled up enough attention to benefit herself short term– who knows what she’ll do with it. We took all kinds of bets on ourselves in our twenties, but we still saved. Not much, due to practical restraints, but still.

    We have a private company that does trash here, and they also pick up recycling. Three bins– one for yard clippings and commpost, one for plastic/glass/paper, and one for everything else. We really have a much smaller can for the trash because so much of it is food waste or recyclable (though it’s still not as good as the “reduce” component). I think the goal of those “landfill” trash cans is to shame people into sorting out the compost and recycling.

  123. “My town has a very strict helmet law, but they don’t wear helmets.”

    In the past, I wasn’t a supporter of helmet laws, or seat belt laws. I took a libertarian position, that we shouldn’t legislate against people harming themselves, or putting themselves in danger, if they’re not harming others or putting others in danger.

    But a couple instances of getting caught in traffic jams due to fatal car crashes, in which the fatalities involved people not wearing their seat belts, I am now a strong advocate of seat belt laws, as well as laws against riding in the back of trucks. The police will close roads for much longer after fatal crashes, exacerbating traffic problems and increasing the likelihood that I will be directly affected.

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