While reading up on car seat safety soon after my baby was born, I leaned that usually the best place for the car seat is in the center. This is not as mandatory as other things, such as placing a child in the back seat. However I thought I’d share my personal experience with the importance of placing car seat in the middle whenever possible, as I feel this is a much neglected topic in the issue of car seat safety.
My Story on Placing Car Seat in the Middle
It was a snowy day this past January, and we were on our way to print something important for my grandparents’ 50th anniversary celebration. My four month old baby was in the back seat, in the center, and I was seated on the right, next to him.
The roads were narrowed due to the snowdrifts, although the roads themselves were clear. We were driving on a narrow but busy two lane street with a steady flow of traffic in both directions.
A garbage truck was sitting and collecting garbage from a nearby alley. It’s back was in the alley and it was facing the street, blocking a whole lane, plus a few inches of the next lane. There was no one directing traffic.
With snow on one side and a truck on the other, we had a somewhat narrow space to fit through, but we knew our Camry could do it. My husband took the drive slow, but in middle the truck started moving. It had barely touched us when, thank G-d, it noticed us and stopped.
It’s frightening to think about what almost happened. From just a small bang, the front door was badly dented and the window smashed. But even worse to think of, had it happened a second earlier, it would have hit the door near the baby.
But wait – did I mention that the baby was in the center? To be clear, the window smashed into the car. Most of the glass reached only the seat near the door. To think what could happen to a baby EVEN IN A MINOR ACCIDENT who is situated near the door frightens me.
The reason for placing car seat in the middle:
The center offers the most protection from outside impact. In the case of a side impact accident, the middle is safest. Where there is broken glass, the center is bordered by the fewest windows. Research shows that the rear center seat is 43% safer than other seats in the car – a small but possibly lifesaving statistic.
When and for whom should you be placing car seat in the middle:
There are additional considerations to take into account when installing your car seat.
- Is it possible to install it safely in the center? Does it fit? To determine this, either hire an expert, or follow the safety tests stated in the manual.
- Are there other children involved? When possible, the least protected child should be in the center (for example, forward facing before rear facing; booster seat over toddler seat). The exception to this is where you have only a lap belt and no shoulder belt in the middle. Do not put a child in a booster, or someone without a seat at all in that position.
- If the middle is not accessible enough in the even of an accident (i.e. a very wide vehicle or disabled driver) it may not be the safest position.
- If you’re having trouble installing your car seat without LATCH, and your car only has LATCH in the outer seats, a proper installation is priority.
Remember: Secure installation is more important than placing car seat in the middle! This article is meant to show the importance of doing this when possible, as many people are unaware of this fact. However, when otherwise safe installation would be prevented, this article would not apply.