Airbags are incredibly helpful in protecting adults in a car accident, but they have a specific design. As an adult, you must use a seat belt to get the full benefit of an airbag because that is how the manufacturer’s intended them to work.
Manufacturers did not make airbags compatible with children. The height and other factors of how an airbag works are for adults and adult bodies. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia explains a child sitting in the front seat of a vehicle could face serious injuries from the airbag because of these design details.
A car seat increases the danger of the airbag. Rear-facing seats can fold up on the child when hit with an airbag. In addition, the force of the airbag will hit directly on the back of your child’s head. You should never put a rear-facing seat in the front seat or in front of any airbag in your vehicle.
Beyond keeping kids under the age of 13, especially those in car seats, in the backseat of your vehicle, you also need to be aware of other airbags. Many vehicles will have side and rear airbags. Know where they are. Try to set children as far away from them as possible. Also, make sure your child never lays against a panel containing airbags.
A good rule of thumb for airbags is to turn them off, if possible, when your child must sit near one. Many vehicles have this option for the front passenger seat airbag. Check your vehicle manual for instructions on how to do this.