When installing my son’s infant car seat before he was born, my husband and I looked at it, looked at the back seat and then at each other a bit bewildered. We knew the car seat had to go in the back seat… but was it safest behind the driver? Behind the passenger? In the middle? We had no idea! Mind you this was our first child and I’m sure there were a lot of first time parent nerves coming into play here. But since then, I’ve had a number of friends who are expecting babies text me and ask the same question.
So, I did a little research and found that researchers have repeatedly found that the middle seat in the back is the safest one.
In 2006, researchers at the University of Buffalo studied all car crashes involving a fatality in the U.S. between 2000 and 2003 where someone was sitting in the back middle-seat. They found that those in the back were 59 to 86 percent safer than passengers in the front seat. In the back seat, the person in the middle is 25 percent safer than those sitting next to them.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend seating a child up to the age of 13 years old in the middle if there is a full seatbelt. If your child is in a car seat, researchers say the middle back seat is still best.
For more information about child car seat safety, check out this article from the Mayo Clinic.