Rhode Island requires all children under 8 years old, 80 pounds, and 57” (4’9”) tall to be secured in the backseats of vehicles, when available.
For details on Rhode Island’s front seat law, see below.
Front Seat Requirement Rhode Island
According to Rhode Island’s child restraint laws, children must ride in the backseats of vehicles (if available) until they reach ONE of the following:
- Front Seat Age Rhode Island: 8 years
- Front Seat Weight Rhode Island: 80 pounds
- Front Seat Height Rhode Island: 57” (4’9”)
Once a child reaches 8 years of age, 80 pounds, or 57” (4’9”), the child may legally ride in the front seat with a regular seatbelt.
However, children under 4’9” are at more risk of injury from a regular seatbelt than those 4’9” and taller, and studies have shown airbags are a risk to children under age 13 during collisions.
So, the state recommends following federal guidelines and keeping children in the backseat until age 13.
- Age To Ride In Front Seat In Rhode Island Guideline: 13 years
Exceptions To Front Seat Law in Rhode Island
Rhode Island’s law expressly states children under 8 years of age, 80 pounds, and 57” (4’9”) may be properly restrained (in an appropriate child seat) in the front seat of a vehicle when:
- The vehicle is not equipped with a backseat
- All rear seating positions are being utilized by other children.
General Front Seat Law FAQ
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 Rhode Island law says children may ride in the front seat once they reach 8 years old, 80 pounds, or 57″ (4’9″) tall, we recommend following CDC guidelines and keeping your child in the backseat until age 13.
And, before that, follow Rhode Island’s laws regarding car seats and booster seats.
For more on Rhode Island’s car seat laws, see Rhode Island Car Seat Laws.
For more on Rhode Island’s booster seat laws, see Rhode Island Booster Seat Laws.