At What Age Can Kids Sit in the Front Seat of a Car in Albuquerque?

Allowing children to sit in the front seat before they’re old enough or failing to secure them in the appropriate type of child restraint dramatically increases the risk of injury in a car crash. Using and installing a car seat correctly reduces the risk of injury or death by up to 71% for infants and 45% for kids four to 12 years old. 

Beyond safety concerns, New Mexico has enforced child restraint and seat belt laws. Violations can mean fines, court fees, and points on your driver’s license. 

Here’s what you should know about when kids can legally sit in the front seat in New Mexico and other important requirements. 

When Can Kids Sit in the Front Seat in New Mexico?

New Mexico does not mandate a specific height or age for children to sit in the front seat. However, the New Mexico Child Restraint Act requires children to be secured in a rear-facing car seat until they are one year of age and twenty pounds. The car seat must be in the rear seat if the vehicle has one. Otherwise, the passenger-side airbag must be deactivated if possible. 

A rear-facing car seat should never be placed in front of an active airbag. If you must place a rear-facing infant seat in the front seat, disable the airbag if possible. If you can’t, position the seat as far away from the airbag as possible. 

Legally, children can sit in the front seat of a car if they’re older than one as long as they are in the appropriate child restraint. 

Even though it’s legal, it’s much safer for children to sit in the backseat. The National Safety Council and other organizations recommend children stay in the backseat until they are 13 and at least 4’9”. Passenger-side airbags are designed for adults and may cause serious or fatal injuries to younger children. 

New Mexico Car Seat and Seat Belt Laws

The Child Restraint Act (NM Stat § 66-7-369) requires all children to ride in a child safety seat until they are seven and at least 60 pounds. Children must ride in a booster seat from seven to 12 years until an adult seat belt fits properly. 

Here are the specific requirements by age and weight. 

  • Less than one year: rear-facing car seat in the backseat
  • One to four years old or under 40 pounds (regardless of age): rear- or forward-facing child safety restraint
  • Five to six years or under 60 pounds (regardless of age): booster seat or appropriate child safety restraint
  • Seven to 12 years: appropriate child safety restraint or seat belt

As a general rule, your child should begin in a rear-facing seat and only advance to a forward-facing seat and then a booster seat once they reach the maximum height or weight. Under New Mexico law, children can begin wearing an adult seat belt at any age after seven – but only when they are properly secured by the adult seat belt. This means the lap belt fits across the hips and thighs, not the abdomen, and the shoulder strap crosses the chest and not the neck. 

Seat belts alone do not properly fit or protect children until they are 10 to 12 years old. 

The New Mexico Safety Belt Use Act requires all car occupants to be properly secured at all times. Once your child is old enough for a seat belt, they must always wear a seat belt. 

Incorrect Car Seat Use or Installation Is Common and Dangerous

It’s important to use the right type of child safety restraint for your child’s height and weight. Safety restraints are designed to direct the force of a crash to the strongest body parts. Rear-facing car seats for infants spread the force over the back and reduce the risk of brain injuries. Forward-facing and booster seats spread the force across the shoulders and hips. 

Make sure your child’s car seat or booster seat is correctly used and installed to ensure they’re protected in a crash. Nearly half of all car seats are incorrectly installed or used. According to the National Digital Car Seat Check Form, 65% of car seats nationwide brought in for a safety inspection were misused or incorrectly installed. The rate is 70% in New Mexico. 

Common installation errors and misuse include: 

  • Improper recline angle for rear-facing seats
  • Harness behind the child’s back, legs, or arms for forward-facing seats
  • Improper lap or shoulder belt position for booster seats
  • Loose installation
  • Loose harness

Misuse of the seat belt, harness, tether, lower anchor, and load leg are all common. 

To make sure your children are protected, you can have your car seat or booster seat inspected for free. There are Car Seat Fitting Stations throughout New Mexico, but you must make an appointment. You can also attend a Car Seat Inspection Clinic on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Contact the New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyers at Curiel & Runion Personal Injury Lawyers Today

If you were injured in an accident in Albuquerque, NM, and need legal help, contact our Albuquerque personal injury attorneys at Curiel & Runion Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free case review today.

Curiel & Runion Personal Injury Lawyers
400 Gold Avenue SW, Suite 650
Albuquerque, NM 87102

(505) 594-3621