Baby Gear Health & Safety

Where Is The Safest Place For A Car Seat?

Whether it’s a short drive around the neighborhood or a much longer road trip, if there’s one thing all parents think about it’s their child’s safety.

So if you are planning to drive with your baby, and have purchased a new car seat, then you are no doubt wondering where exactly is the safest place for it.

The middle rear seat is the safest location for your child’s car safety seat, because statistically this is the safest location in the event of a fatal crash.

But is the middle always the safest?

And what should you do if you cannot use the middle seat for any reason.

Let’s find out.

Where Is The Safest Place For A Car Seat?

Many parents are surprised to learn that not all car seat locations are as safe as others.

In many cases the middle rear seat is the safest place to put a child car seat, because statistics show this position is safer than any other position when involved in a fatal crash.

However, for various reasons the middle seat may not be an option, so below we’ve ranked (by safety) where to position a car seat in your vehicle:

1. Middle Rear Seat

This is generally the safest place to put your baby’s car seat, because in any type of crash, the rear center seat will be the furthest away from impact.

One thing to be very aware of however, is that just because your car has a middle seat, this doesn’t automatically mean it’s the most suitable place for installation.

If your middle seat has a 3-point seat belt (one that goes across the lap and diagonally across the chest) then it’s probably the safest location in your car.

However, if your middle seat only has a lap belt, you should check your manual to see if it’s safe to use only a lap belt.

Most child safety seats require a 3-point seat belt, and if this is the case, then you will be safer using one of the locations below (preferably still in the back seats of the car).

2. Rear Seat Behind The Passenger

Some people cannot safely install a car seat in the center rear seat, or they may find it too difficult to lean over (if mom has had a caesarean for example).

In this instance your next question will probably be does a car seat go behind the driver or passenger side?

The second safest seat in a car is still in the rear – either behind the passenger or behind the driver.

Many parents prefer using the seat behind the passenger for two main reasons:

  • If you park on the street, your baby will likely be on the sidewalk side of the car so getting them in and out will be safer.
  • It’s easier for the driver to keep an eye on their child – this is important if the only adult in the car is the driver and so you can check they are safe and not overheating in their car seat.

3. Rear Seat Behind The Driver

If you cannot use the middle rear seat nor the back seat on the passenger side, then you should opt for the rear seat behind the driver, which is still a safe place.

4. Front Passenger Seat

The AAP recommends that all children under 13 ride in the back of the rear seats of vehicles.

If this is not possible and you need to put your baby in the front seat, you must ensure the air bags are turned off.

This is critical because if the air bag deploys while your baby is in the front seat, it could hit the back of the seat very hard, right where your child’s head is, and cause a serious or fatal injury.

It’s also important not to get distracted if your baby is riding up front with you, as this could lead to a loss of concentration which may have serious consequences while driving.

Is The Middle Seat Always The Safest For A Car Seat?

Parents should note that the middle seat is only the safest for a car seat if it can be installed correctly and safely.

A car seat should always be:

  1. Tightly secured using a latch or seat belt (no more than 1 inch of movement from side to side or back to front)
  2. Face the correct direction
  3. Recline at the correct angle

The middle seat is no exception to the above, and if you cannot get a good fit in the middle rear seat, then it will most likely be safer to use another rear seat instead when installing your baby’s car seat.

Which Side Is Safer For A Car Seat?

Passenger side or driver side – it’s a debate that’s been ongoing for years regarding car seat location.

The safest place for your child’s car seat is in the back seat, ideally in the middle if possible.

If you need to use one of the rear side seats instead, then what’s safer will come down to whether you are traveling alone or with another adult(s), and how or where you park.

As we’ve seen, if you park your vehicle by the side of the road, then whichever side is nearest the sidewalk is likely to be safer, especially if you don’t use a car seat base.

Similarly, if you are traveling alone, then it may be safer to place your child in the rear seat behind the passenger, so you can keep an eye on them.

What Is The Safest Place For A Car Seat In SUV?

Due to their size, comfort and safety, SUVs are very popular with families all across the USA.

If you’re wondering where to position your child’s car seat in your SUV, the good news is that in most cases you can simply follow the recommendations above.

This means the safest positions for a car seat in an SUV are:

  1. Middle Rear
  2. Rear, Passenger Side
  3. Rear, Driver Side
  4. Front Passenger

Related: Deciding What Baby Gear You Really Need – The Complete Guide

Tori is mama to 3 year old Isabella and co-founder of Rockinbaby. She has a BSc in Psychology, is a certified yoga teacher and is a working mom. In her free time Tori loves cooking delicious foods and baked treats, entertaining and working out. Learn more about Tori here.

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