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Placing Car Seat in the Middle – My Story

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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.

Placing Car Seat in Center

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.

Placing Car Seat in Middle

The garbage truck that had hit us

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.

Placing Car Seat in the Middle

The view from the broken window

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.

Placing Car Seat in the Middle

Broken glass on the driver’s seat

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.

Additional reading and sources on placing car seat in the middle, or any installation:

Car seat safety checklist

Car Seats for the Littles guide to installing a new car seat

The Car Seat Lady on the safest spot for your child’s car seat

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karen boyd

Sunday 11th of January 2015

This is so true! When our children were small, myhusband was in an accident while driving alone. He was broadsided. The passenger side of the car was mashed so badly that my husband's head hit it as he sat in the driver's seat during the impact. Our baby's car seat was in the middle, intact but full of glass. If our children had been in the car, the child by the door would have been dead Ni often think about i as we almost went with him that day!

menucha@outlook.com

Monday 12th of January 2015

Wow, thanks for sharing your story! It's such an unknown part of car seat safety and it can clearly save a life... !

Linda Manns Linneman

Saturday 8th of November 2014

This is a scary situation. Thank God all went well and no one was hurt. Thank you for sharing this useful iformation

Shannon Stubbs

Monday 15th of September 2014

I remember when my daughter was born, I had her in the middle seat, and when I had an expert look at it, it was determined that in that vehicle, with that seat, that wasn't the best place for the carseat to be installed. It stressed me out so much at first, and then I realized that when I had more kids, only one could be in the middle seat, and while the center was safest, having a great install was even more important. Now, we have a new vehicle, and she is in the center seat again. Her brother and the baby will be on the outer seats regardless of how we move things around, but at least I feel better now knowing that I Have them all in the safest spot possible. I have always been surprised that more carseat safety things don't even include using the middle seat when possible.

menucha@outlook.com

Monday 15th of September 2014

Thanks for sharing your experiences! Of course, the main thing is a safe install... It's amazing that this subject is so neglected - so many people have told me that they had no idea it was ideal. Where it's possible, it's the easiest switch to make, no?

Natalie Kane

Wednesday 27th of August 2014

I'm so sorry that happened, but grateful for the lesson it inspired you to share! One of my good friends is expecting, and I'll definitely pass this valuable info onto her. I honestly had never thought about the middle being safer; it makes perfect sense, but most people I know have their kids' seats on either side in the back. Thanks!

Marilyn

Tuesday 26th of August 2014

Glad everyone was ok, that must have been scary. I always placed mine in the middle, for me it was just easier to see if the child needed attention for such things as choking or anything like that.