According to Safe Kids Worldwide (2016), the back seat is best! Children are shown to be safer in an appropriate back seat position, whether a vehicle has conventional airbags, advanced airbags, or no airbags at all. The back seat is the safest place to ride for all children under the age of 13.
Ideally, the center seating position in the back seat is the position of choice as long as you can get a proper installation/fit for your specific car seat, and you have no restrictions from your vehicle manufacturer (some vehicle manufacturers do not allow center LATCH installation and others prohibit center seating position for car seats altogether).
However, in the following instances, you might consider placing the child on the rear passenger side.
- Multiple car seats to install
- Can’t get the car seat to install properly in center
- Have a compact vehicle with difficulty fitting a rear-facing car seat in center
- You prefer LATCH installation and have vehicle manufacturer restrictions in the center seating position
- You have physical limitations and don’t feel you can lean over to put baby in the center seating position
Installing your seat on the rear passenger side means the child can be unloaded/loaded curbside rather than streetside if you have to park on the street. It is also easier to glance at your child on the rear passenger side than the rear driver side.
NEVER place a child rear-facing in a seating position with an active frontal airbag. This can result in serious injury or death.