Most parents require their children to sit in the back seat of the family vehicle. Usually, this is because old wisdom says that the back seats are the safest seats in the event of a collision. However, a recent study indicates that this may no longer be true. The study found that those sitting in the front seats may now fare better a car crash than those sitting in the back.
As a parent, this news may alarm you, but don’t put your child in the front seat just yet. There are a few considerations to keep in mind when determining the safest place in the car for children to sit.
Backseats are just as safe as they always were
Because back seats have historically been the safest seats, car manufacturers have put a lot of work into improving the safety of front seats. Seat belts and airbags are just a couple of the features that have been improved for front seat occupants.
Because there has been such a strong focus on improving the safety in front seats, improvements to the safety of back seats have lagged behind. However, back seats are not becoming less safe than they ever were.
In the back seat, there are no front-mounted airbags like there are for the front seats. Also, seat belts for back seats are less likely to use pre-tensioners to automatically tighten the belt during a crash or force limiters to help reduce chest loads. Lack of these features in the back seat can lead to severe head or chest injuries to those over 6 years old if the vehicle is hit head on.
Proper car seat use improves children’s safety
However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends children continue to ride in the back seat until they are at least 11 or 12 years old. Air bags, like the ones used in the front of the car, can be dangerous for young children and are not compatible with some car seats. Until seat belts fit properly, children should sit in the back seat in a car seat or booster seat, which can provide added protection in a collision.
Properly sizing your child for a car seat can help you make sure your child remains as safe as possible while you are driving. Although you do not want your child in a car seat that is too small for him or her, you do not need to rush your child from one car seat to the next. The style of car seats intended for smaller children offer the most protection in a collision.
It may be especially important to continue using a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible. Many children should not switch to front-facing car seats until they are 2 years old or older. This is because rear-facing car seats provide children more protection in front end collisions than any other style of car seat.
Most people never intend to be involved in a collision, but car crashes are unpredictable by nature. Making sure your children are seated properly every time you drive can help prevent serious injuries if a collision ever occurs. Although safety has improved for adults in the front of the car, most children are still safer when using an appropriate car seat in the back.