There is a family that lives up the road from us. Their oldest child is in one of the other kindergarten classes at Kiddo's school. He is supposed to ride Kiddo's bus, but he hates the bus (he freaked the heck out at the start of the year) so he gets driven to and from school instead. Sometimes one of his grandparents drive him, but most of the time it is his mom or dad.
When I am waiting up at the corner in the afternoon for Kiddo's bus, I often see Dad or Mom driving this little boy home. They even wave as they turn the corner and head up the street, so they're acknowledging that I've seen them drive past.
Here's the thing: the little boy is NEVER in a booster seat NOR is he even in the back seat of the vehicle (they have two, four-door cars). He is always sitting UNBELTED in the FRONT seat. Sometimes he's not even sitting - this afternoon, for example, as his dad skidded a bit around the turn the kid was standing up and leaning against the front dashboard. You know, where the airbag is - the airbag that has all the dire warnings about grave injury or death should a child be in the front seat...
Now, the law for New York state regarding children and seat belts/booster seats is as follows:
Every child under age 16 in the vehicle must use a safety restraint. If under age four, he or she must be properly secured in a federally-approved child safety seat that is attached to a vehicle by a safety belt or universal child restraint anchorage (LATCH) system. A child under age four who weighs more than 40 pounds may be restrained in a booster seat with a lap and shoulder belt. A child of age 4, 5, or 6, must use a booster seat with lap and shoulder belt or a child safety seat (The child and safety restraint system must meet the height and weight recommendations of the restraint manufacturer).
Exception: A child more than four feet nine inches tall or more than 100 pounds is allowed to use a seat belt that has both a lap belt and a shoulder harness. To use the seat belt, the child must be able to sit straight up against the vehicle's seat back with his or her knees bent comfortably over the edge of the seat. The lap belt should be placed low and tight across the upper thighs; the shoulder belt should rest tightly but comfortably across the child's chest and shoulder (collar bone) without touching the throat. If the seat belt does not fit properly, the child should use a booster seat with a lap and shoulder belt.
Okay, so first of all, this kid is not taller than 4ft 9in, nor is he more than 100 pounds. He just turned five years old. Now, the law doesn't require that kids ride in back, but it is strongly recommended by both the DMV, police and the car manufacturers. In any event, the NYSDMV says
Air bags deploy (expand rapidly) from the steering wheel and/or dashboard, and, in some vehicles, from the side doors beneath or above the window. The force of an air bag deploying may injure those who sit too close to it. Make sure to sit with at least 10 inches between the center of your breastbone and the air bag cover. If you are the vehicle's driver, place your hands on the steering- wheel at the 3 and 9 o'clock positions to keep them out of the way of air bag deployment. For maximum protection, children under the age of 12 should sit in the rear seat of the vehicle.
Standing up and leaning on the dashboard sure as shootin' isn't sitting at least 10 inches away from the airbag cover. Heck, Hubby snipes at me when I put my feet up on the dash while he's driving (and it isn't because they're stinky - it is because he's afraid for what would happen if the airbag deployed while I was scrunched down in my seat with my feet on the cover). I highly doubt that the neighbors are just letting their son hop out of the booster seat in back and climb in the front just before they turn onto our street, either - it seems like they let him ride that way whenever. (By the way, on those days when one of his grandparents is driving him, he is always secured in back in a booster seat.) Argh. I hate thinking of what could happen to this kid if the airbag deploys, or if they stop short as he is unrestrained - that windshield doesn't look too soft and safe to hurtle through......
So, what would you do if you were the one who saw this kid riding, unbelted, in the front seat day after day? (By the way, the school is just under three miles away from our street, so this isn't like a "just up to the corner" kind of a drive.) I am not entirely comfortable with saying something face to face to either of the parents; I don't really know them very well at all (I don't even know their name, just which house they live in up the street from us) and on the few occasions when they did try to have him ride the bus at the beginning of the year, they weren't particularly sociable or chatty. (Yes, of course I tried to chat while we stood there - this is me, the one who talks to anyone, anywhere, anytime, and besides it seemed weird to me not to chat as we both waited on the corner.) Should I cowboy up and say something to them? Leave a note in their mailbox - signed? An anonymous note? Call the cops anonymously and report them? Mind my own beeswax and just keep my mouth shut? It just seems SO unsafe, so very dangerous to let this little boy ride unrestrained up front like that.
Anyone with any opinion on the situation, please weigh in - I'm trying to figure out what, if anything, I should do.