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Dec 31, 2014

It might surprise you to learn that the safest spot in the car for a child is the middle of the backseat as long as it has a proper seatbelt.

Why is the backseat so much safer than the front for children? It’s pretty simple—being in the backseat lowers risk of injury or death. There’s more space between your child and the dashboard, and being further back behind the front seat provides extra protection against projectiles.

Airbags are designed for adults, not children

There’s also the added factor of airbags. Although modern airbags can be lifesaving for an adult, the incredible force of an airbag deploying can severely injure or kill a child. Since a child’s muscle and bone structures aren’t as strong as an adult’s, an airbag poses a significant threat to a child. Even for a minor collision where injuries should otherwise be minimal, a deployed airbag could still kill a child.

For children older than 12 who are tall enough to safely wear a seatbelt without a booster, the backseat is still the safest option—but if it’s absolutely necessary that they ride in the front, it may be safer to turn off the passenger side airbag if possible.

Age and height guidelines for car seats and boosters

According to the CDC, the age and height guidelines for car seats are as follows:

  • Age 2 and younger: Rear-facing car seat in the back seat (a rear-facing car seat should never be placed directly behind an airbag).
  • Age 2 to 5: Forward-facing car seat in the backseat. Follow your car seat’s guidelines for height and weight, but in general a child has outgrown his seat if his head goes above the top of the car seat.
  • Age 5 to 12: Booster seat, depending on your child’s height. A properly-fitting seatbelt should lay across the chest, not the neck, and lay across the lap, not the stomach. Once your child is over 57 inches tall, then she should be OK to wear a seatbelt without a booster.
  • It’s recommended that all children age 12 and younger sit in the back seat.

For more car safety tips and car insurance information, check back with our blog regularly. 

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