Which Side to Install An Infant Car Seat?

After doing loads of research, you picked out the right car seat for your baby on the way. You’ve read the owner’s manual and you’re ready to install it. But where should you put it? If you’re unsure of where to install your baby’s car seat, don’t worry. Read more to learn about where you should and shouldn’t place your infant car seat.

Rear-Facing in the Back

Your baby should always be rear-facing in your vehicle. Infant car seats are created to sit rear-facing, so this should not be a problem. Infant car seats should never be placed in the front seat of a vehicle. They should be placed in the second or third row, preferably on a bench seat. Because infant car seats connect to a base installed in the vehicle, it is best they sit on the flattest spot available. This will make installing the base easier, as it must be tight to the seat.

Placing your infant rear-facing in the back seat is the most important part of the installation. Where you place the car seat in the back seat is of less importance than these two rules.

Finding the Right Spot

Now, you must decide where in the back seat to place your car seat. Research shows that your baby is 43 percent safer sitting in the center seat than either of the side seats. These studies find that your baby has a higher chance of survival in an accident if they are sitting in the center. The center seat absorbs less of the crash energy and is not as vulnerable to direct impacts. So, if you are able to, you should place your baby in the center of your back seat.

Many car seats are installed using a LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system. LATCH systems work by tethering your car seat to anchors found in your vehicle. Many car seats can also be installed using the vehicle’s seat belts, even lap belts. Neither option is safer than the other. The most important piece of installation is ensuring the car seat base is as tight to the seat as you can possibly make it.

If you wish to use the LATCH system, you may not be able to install the car seat in the center of the back seat. This is because some vehicles only come with LATCH anchors for the two outer seats. You may also find that the center seat is not as smooth as the outer seats, making it hard to give a tight installation. If you encounter one of these installation issues, you may choose to instead place the infant car seat in either one of the side seats.

After the center of the back seat, the best location is the passenger side of the back seat. This way, you can easily keep an eye on your baby and check to make sure they are safe. An advantage to placing your baby on the side is that you will be able to easily reach in and get them in and out of the car seat.

Learn More

All infant car seats on the market pass federal crash standards, so they are all safe. The safest car seat, therefore, is one that is installed properly. If you are unsure about the placement of your car seat base or how you’ve installed it, consider having it checked by a professional. Most hospitals and fire stations have staff members who can assist you.

For installation tips and instructions, see more information from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration.

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