Where Should I Install My Child’s Car Seat?
Whether you’re a first-time parent or an old pro, it’s important to learn all there is to learn about car seat installation before taking your child out on the road. Research shows that three out of four car seats are installed incorrectly, endangering the lives of children across the country. Luckily, there are numerous resources online that help you learn the correct way to install your child’s car seat, but the question remains: where in my car should I install the car seat?
Middle is Safest
The answer actually varies. Modern cars come with a LATCH system to make installation of car seats easier than ever, but often these LATCH anchors are only on the side rear seats, not in the middle. (Front seats are never an option for children under 13 years.) But studies show that the middle of the rear seat is the safest place for your child—in fact, your child is up to 43% safer when seated in the middle seat, because he is much less likely to suffer injury in case of a side collision.
A Snug Fit Wins
If your car doesn’t have LATCH anchors in the middle seat, you might be tempted to install your car seat in the left or right rear seat instead. But attaching an infant or convertible seat to the center position using a lap-shoulder belt, or even a lap-only belt, is perfectly safe, provided that the car seat base doesn’t move more than one inch front-to-back or side-to-side when installed. The lap belt only becomes a problem when your child transitions to a booster seat. When in an infant or convertible seat, your child is secured with a five-point harness, which is much more important when it comes to child safety than whether your car seat is installed with a lap belt, lap-shoulder belt, or LATCH anchors.
Where to Install?
So what’s the conclusion? The safest place to install your infant or convertible car seat is in the rear middle seat—but only as long as you can get a snug fit. If you install here and your car seat moves more than one inch in any direction, it’s better to switch to one of the rear side seats to ensure you have a good install.
Once you’ve installed your car seat in your chosen spot, take your car to a Child Passenger Safety Technician so he or she can check and make sure your seat is installed correctly. You can find your nearest tech here.