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One of the great things about living in our country is that we have fairly robust governmental regulations and safety standards for automobile and car seat manufacturers. We’re not saying we couldn’t be doing better, but we could surely be doing a whole lot worse.  

Safety Sells

This means that we are living in a time when we’ve managed to make the incredible act of a human moving 60 miles per hour faster than they were ever intended to, relatively safe. Significantly safer than even 10 years ago! So luckily for us, automobile travel in general, as well as car seats, are only going to continue to evolve and get safer and safer. 

First Things First

Ready for another truth bomb? The back seat is the safest place in the car. BOOM. Not even worth debating, much like rear-facing versus forward-facing. Actually, if you can drive from the back seat of your car, you should. Seriously. We, as CPSTs, want your children in the back seat. Forever. Seriously. OK, we realize that’s probably not ultra-realistic these days, but please keep your kids in the back seat until they’re at least 13 years old.

The one other no-no we need to talk about is using a rear-facing car seat in front of an active airbag. There are several universally accepted no-nos in our world today: don’t wear white after Labor Day, don’t order a ribeye well done, don’t eat yellow snow. These pale in comparison to this request: Please, Please, Please, for the love of all that is holy in the world, DO NOT EVER put a rear-facing car seat in FRONT of an active airbag. We hope we were clear on this on. Really, really bad things happen, seriously.  

Now, as with most things in life, sometimes we have to make exceptions to most rules to solve specific situations. There may be a time when you have no other option other than to put a child in the front seat of your car. Maybe you have a sedan that seats five and you have four children. Or your only vehicle is a single cab pickup truck. Scenarios pop up when sometimes placing a child in the front seat is simply unavoidable. In instances like these, CPSTs can help you put a child in the front seat safely. If you ever run into any of these situations, please contact us and set up an appointment. We will help you figure out how to make everyone as safe as possible. It’s what we’re trained to do.  

Let’s Get Down To Brass Tacks

Statistics tell us that the safest position in any car is the rear middle seat. According to one study published in the AAPs journal, Pediatrics, the rear center seating position is up to 43% safer than either outboard seating position for children ages 0-3.  

Since we as CPSTs always recommend best practice, we will usually start by recommending the center seating position for a single child. However, just because the center seat may be safer, that doesn’t make the outboard seating positions unsafe, just less safe. So, while we would love to have your child in the center seating position, it’s ultimately your decision. If you decide that an outboard seating position works better for you, that’s perfectly OK, and we’ll be delighted to help you make that happen.

Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of each rear seating position. 

Rear Passenger

Rear Passenger

Pros
  • When parked on the street child is away from traffic and on the curb side
  • Parents better able to see the child from the front driver seat
  • Ability to use LATCH to install a car seat in most cars newer than 2001
  • With more than one car seat, outboard installs are generally easier with more room
Cons
  • Less safe than the center seating position
  • Your child can see you, so you might have to share your snacks
Rear Center

Rear Center

Pros
  •  Center position may be up to 43% safer than an outboard position
  • Often more room, front to back, for a rear-facing car seat
Cons
  • Harder to access than outboard positions
  • Most cars do not have a dedicated anchor position and disallow anchor borrowing
  • Depending on the car, a good installation can be hard due to seat and belt geometry, or not possible at all
  • When two car seats are needed, a center seat can interfere with an outboard installation
Rear Driver

Rear Driver

Pros
  • Parents better able to see the child from the front passenger seat
  • Ability to use LATCH to install a car seat in most cars newer than 2001
  • With more than one car seat outboard installs are generally easier with more room
  • The best position for snack sharing immunity from child
Cons
  • Less safe than the center seating position
  • When parked on the street, child unloads into traffic

Let’s Sum It Up

So what did we learn? We hope you said, “The center seat is the safest, but that doesn’t make the outboard position unsafe.” If you did, fantastic. We also hope you remember our plea to you to never, ever, ever, ever, ever, … you get the point, we hope, put a rear-facing child seat in front of an active airbag.
Now it’s time to get to the fun part, installation! This is where it can get really interesting, especially if you have a car that was built in the 90s! So click the button below, and let’s walk through installation together.

check-it-out

Get An Expert Opinion

All right, you did a great job! However, did you know that up to 90% of the car seats that we see here in the Inland Northwest are installed incorrectly?!?! We’re almost sure yours isn’t, but hey, it never hurts to get a second opinion. We’re talking about from an expert, not your Uncle Frank, Set up a car seat check with one of our nationally certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians just to be sure. And hey it’s free! But unlike Uncle Frank, we actually know what we’re talking about!