When are children allowed to sit in the front seat of a car?? List of requirements

Children quickly reach the age when they much prefer to sit in the front rather than the back seat. Not only to avoid heated discussions before every car ride, parents should know the legal regulations and the advice of the leading experts. We inform you about it.

Child Passenger seat Child seat

In this article

Passenger transport in motor vehicles, including securing of the transported persons by safety belts and child restraint devices (= generic term for child seats and child booster seats), is regulated in § 21 StVO (German Road Traffic Act). Long sentences, because legislators are not allowed to formulate freely, but the regulation itself is simple and logical.


The question, from when children are allowed to sit in the front of a car, is therefore also very easy to answer: Always – by § 21 StVO specially protected children but (of course, here too only) in the safety systems prescribed for them. Thus, there are 2 characteristics that require more detailed definition:

1. Children specially protected by § 21 StVO

21 Abs. 1a S. 1 StVO protects children up to the age of 12 years. smaller than 150 cm. In detail this means:

  • Children from 0 to 12 years of age are under special protection
  • Requirement: maximum body height of 150 cm
  • Until then, children may only ride in suitable and approved child seats (s. 2.) ride along
  • It does not matter whether they are seated on rear seats or the passenger seat
  • At 12 years of age, children are considered adults with respect to motor vehicle ride-alongs
  • Reason: Equal physical conditions as far as safety in the car is concerned
  • Children under 12 over 150 cm are exempt from the child seat requirement for the same reason
  • Children over 12 under 150 cm: see tip

21 Abs. 1a S. 1 applies to all car seats for which seat belts are mandatory. § 21 Abs. 1b regulates the securing of children riding in approved vehicles that are not equipped with seat belts (z. B. classic car). According to S. 1, children under the age of three may not be transported in them at all; according to S. 2 is for children from 3 years under 150 cm in such vehicles explicitly the back seat intended. If safety belts are partly already available or if belts have been retrofitted, it gets complicated. This table provides a good overview.

2. Child seats in compliance with regulations

child child seat

S 21 Ia S.1 also regulates the requirements for child seats and their determination/updating. If a child seat is to be used for the front passenger seat resp. must be approved in the sense of the law and be suitable for the child. More information on the subject of child seats and their approval can be found here. The child seat is suitable if it has been selected to fit the body size specified in the approval, fits well all round and, with the accessories supplied, enables the child to be secured stably in the car.

If children ride in the front passenger seat, the following requirements/special features apply to the suitability of child seats:

  • Adapt the safety system specifically to the passenger seat and the child riding in it
  • Child should be present when buying a seat and sit in it for a test drive
  • the use of baby seats/reboard seats with rearward facing restraint with activated front airbag is prohibited, § 35a para. 8 S. 1 StVZO
  • Baby tubs/stroller attachments: Often approved/provided for rear seat carriage only
  • Smaller children up to approx. 13 kg: Secure with special belt systems, normal three-point belt is sufficient v. a. on the front passenger seat is not
  • Mounting / belt systems must also or specifically be approved for transport on the front passenger seat
  • Older children in approved booster seats: Passenger seat with head restraint often safer than rear seat without head restraint
  • Read the operating instructions for the vehicle: Some manufacturers prohibit installation of child seats on the front passenger seat

Tip: If children are not yet 150 cm tall at the age of 12, they fall outside the standard range of the StVO special regulation. However, they should of course be additionally secured if this is necessary for a safe ride – after all, parents are also responsible for the safety of their child outside of special child protection standards.

Child in the front passenger seat – expert recommendations

Laws regulate minimum requirements for average citizens, because scientific studies must be based on the average and burdens imposed by law (here: purchase of an age-appropriate child seat for the car) must be reasonable for most citizens.

Who can, may and should of course do more. Information about the safe riding of children in the passenger seat is available from many organizations in our country, which (also) deal with the promotion of road safety, here are some all-round informative contributions:

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