The center of the back seat is the safest place in the entire vehicle. It’s not just safest for kids – it’s safest for adults too. Research from real crashes shows that kids sitting in the center are 43% safer than those sitting on the side because you can never take a direct hit in the center.
True for most vehicles!! LATCH was designed specifically for child safety seats, yet the safest place for the child safety seat usually doesn’t have LATCH. But…. just because there is no LATCH doesn’t mean you can’t install the child safety seat in the center. You will need to use the vehicle’s safety belt to secure the child safety seat in the center. (Just remember, there is almost always a tether anchor in the center – so if you are putting a forward-facing safety seat in the center, use the vehicle’s safety belt AND the tether.)
Since the center is the safest spot, try to put the person who is least protected in the center. For example, a rear-facing child (even a 4 pound preemie) is 5 times safer than a forward-facing child or adult simply because they are riding rear-facing. So, put the forward-facing child in the center and the rear-facing child on the side to “even things out.”
Of course there are times when this may not work. When there is only a lap belt in the center, things get complicated. A child in a booster or an adult should NOT ride with just a lap belt. Therefore it would be safer for the booster child or adult to sit on the side with a shoulder belt.
The most important thing is to use the child safety seat properly. So, if the safety seat doesn’t fit securely in the center, install it on the side. Or, buy a different safety seat that will fit securely in the center.
As a parent there are many things to worry about, and many parents worry about this. But as the Car Seat Ladies, we are going to tell you not to worry! If the child safety seat is used properly, you don’t have to worry about anyone going through the windshield. A properly used child safety seat is belted tight to the vehicle and the child is strapped tightly in the harness.
The only people who go through the windshield are those who forgot to wear their safety belt or kids who were VERY loose in their harness straps.