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Air Bag Safety

Most cars have air bags that can protect adults and teens if a crash happens. But young children can be injured or even killed if they ride in the front passenger seat and an air bag opens. Air bags can open even in a lower speed crash, hit a child sitting in the front (including babies in a rear-facing car seat), and cause serious brain injury and death.

What Can Protect Kids From Air-Bag Injury?

The best way to protect kids from air-bag injury is to have them sit in the back seat. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under 13 years old always sit in the back seat, buckled safely into the car seat, booster seat, or seatbelt that is right for their age and size.

If your car doesn’t have a back seat and a child under 13 years old must sit in the front (for example, if the car is a two-seater, a pickup truck doesn’t have rear seating, or the car seat will not fit in the back seat):

  • Turn the air bag off.
  • Push the passenger seat as far back as it will go. Switch the air bag back on when the child is out of the front seat.

If you decide to have your child ride in the front seat after they turn 13, always have them wear a seatbelt. Push the seat back as far as possible (but make sure the shoulder belt still rests against their body) to help prevent injury if the air bag opens.

What About Side Air Bags?

Most cars with side air bags only have them by the front seats. These are smaller than the air bags in the front dashboard and steering wheel, open with less force, and open only a few inches toward the passenger.

If side air bags are installed in the rear, they could still injure a child leaning against the rear door of a car during a crash. Again, making sure kids are safely buckled in the back seat will help protect them from injury.

To find out if your car has side air bags, check your owner’s manual and look for labels on the seats.

What About When Kids Ride in Someone Else’s Car?

Remind your kids under age 13 that even when they ride in someone else's car, they should sit in the back seat (in a car seat or booster seat unless they have outgrown them). If they’re asked to ride in the front seat, they should tell the driver that they would prefer to sit in the back.

If they must ride in the front seat, they should ask the driver to push the seat all the way back so they'll be as far away from the air bag as possible.