A front seat perspective

Front Seat Perspective

When I was a kid, my grandfather went to the supermarket once a week, on Fridays. He would buy enough food for the whole week and would plan out each dinner meal. During the summer and school breaks, I went shopping with him. I loved riding in the front seat with him, planning meals and getting blasts of air conditioner on those rare times he thought it was hot enough to turn on the AC (we usually just rolled the windows down).

Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now” must have been playing on the radio on a particularly happy beach day, because I associate it with going to the beach. I don’t remember any details; I just remember being able to sit in the front seat with my dad and choose a radio station.

Things are different for kids today. Hawaii children younger than 8 years old can’t ride in the front seat at all. Only at age 8 (second or third grade) can they get out of their booster chairs.

I know that safety organizations claim it is safer for children (and anyone) to ride in the back seat, in case there is an accident. I agree that newborns, infants, and very young children need safety seats when riding in a car. But I think that school-age children don’t need them and shouldn’t be forced to ride in the booster seat or back seat.

Like the increasing use of strollers, car seats and booster seats have the side-effect (if not the intent) of treating children like children longer. More obedient. Less curious.

School-age children should have the freedom and adult perspective of the front seat. It would let them feel like adults, with adult conversation, a better view of the road, access to radio/CD controls, and maybe even some responsibility for navigation. It would give them the opportunity to pay attention to routes and traffic.

I would like to ask seat belt designers and car manufacturers to do two simple things:

1. Install seat belts with adjustable shoulder heights. Many new cars already have this feature, but seatbelt designers could design an adapter to fit over existing seat belts for older cars.

2. Design seats with adjustable seat heights and head rest heights. Car seats could be raised or lowered, and head rests raised or lowered, depending on the passenger’s height. This would also benefit shorter passengers.

But just as importantly, I would like to ask parents, relatives, and chaperones to do one simple thing: Give kids a front seat perspective. Have conversations with kids in the car. Ask them questions. Talk about hobbies, events, and activities. Discuss current events or things that are reported on the news.

When you were a kid, where did you sit on road trips? When did you “graduate” to the front seat? If you’re a parent, how frequently do you talk to your children while you drive?

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