Shotgun at 13

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by Kathie Graydon, Director of Education and Community Relations

Today our family celebrates my daughter officially becoming a teenager! She turns the ripe ole age of 13 today. In fact, that teenager is already acting like a teen, sleeping in after a late night sleepover with good friends, talking about who is “dating” whom, downloading music and the newest “approved” apps for her phone.  There are multiple birthday celebrations planned for her and so many things to be happy about.

The one thing she is most excited about, however, is finally getting to ride “shotgun” in the car.

You heard that correctly.

She is most excited about being able to finally ride in the front seat of the car; ANY car. I am sure some of you are thinking, “Wow, overprotective parent here”, and well, yes, she and I would both agree to that. When it comes to her safety and well-being, I am not ashamed in the slightest to admit it. What my daughter will also tell you is that she rode in a booster seat until she was 9 years old. See, the thing is, from the day she was born, her father and I strived to do what was absolutely the best for her, as most parents do. I have had the privilege of working with Child Passenger Safety technicians who have taught me not just what the Child Passenger Safety laws are, but also what was recommended by the Safe Kids Coalition, The American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, so we could make the best decisions and practice the safest means of traveling with her. Perhaps you could say we were at an advantage.

We knew that it is more than just the size of the child that matters.

Oh yes, I have had multiple people point out to me that my daughter is “big” enough (an adjective that makes me cringe, but that topic will have to wait for a future blog). Sure, she is 100% the size of an adult. In fact, she is almost identical in size to me; the same height and roughly the same weight. The thing is, though, when it comes to riding in the front seat, it has more to do with the development of a child’s bones. The concern is about whether their bones have had enough time to develop the strength needed to absorb the impact of a crash and that dreaded, but oh so helpful, airbag.

Not Knowing

I often wonder why other parents are not making the same choice, as I see elementary aged children riding in the front seat of vehicles way too often. I remind myself, though, that all parents want to do what is best for their children. It has to have more to do with the “not knowing” than anything else. So, let me provide you with this link from pediatrician Natasha Burgert, MD of, that I found most helpful when preparing to write about this topic.  Her main points are:

Most child passenger safety recommendations are based on 2 very simple principles:

1.  Vehicle restraint systems are designed for adults.

2.  Children are not little adults.

The data clearly shows that remaining in the back seat until the age of 13 is a safer way to travel because:

  • Buckling up in the back seat decreases the risk of death by one-third.
  • Passengers in the front seat are at greatest risk of injuries.
  • Rear-seated passengers have 60% better protection in side impact collisions.
  • Studies repeatedly suggest the risk of injury becomes equal to those of an adult person after the age of 13 years.

For those of you who don’t have the time to read that blog, let me share that this doctor addresses multiple reasons parents give as to why they are NOT keeping their children in the back seat until they are 13. In a practical way, the doctor provides us with the physical reasons and the statistical reasons that riding in the back seat is the best place for children and tweens through the age of 13.

While I can empathize with some of the feelings/reasons parents have as to why they are not making the choice to keep their kids in the back seat until they are 13 years old, I also wonder what these same parents will do once they know this information. I hope that some of these parents take the step to keep their children in the back seat and that some will even change their travel rules and move their children to the back seat if they are not there already.

Worth the Wait

I will tell you that for our family, my daughter has been looking forward to this day for so long now, that it is officially an event that we will all remember and celebrate. She even denied the opportunity to ride in the front seat a few days before her birthday because she understood that some things are just worth the wait. She understands that to us, her safety is worth it, that she is worth it. You can’t ever go wrong giving your children that message.

Trust me, your children are worth whatever hassle you may think following this guideline will cause.

Some things ARE just worth the wait!

Important Links

Follow these links to learn more about the importance of child passenger safety and keeping tweens safely in the back seat.