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Thinking Through Car Seat Placement

How do we put more than one car seat in the back of the car? …. Our car is small.

Let’s start to answer this question by sharing that statistics show 73 percent of crashes are from either the front or rear or the vehicle and the other 27 percent are equally dispersed between the left and the right.

So, for safety sake, many parents choose to place the baby in the middle of the back seat.  The rationalization is that the center of the vehicle is away from either side in case of an impact, and is a good choice if you only have one child and your car can accommodate a seat in the middle safely.

Others choose to place the car seat on right passenger side.  This is a good choice because the driver can easily turn around and see the baby. 

If you have two children in the car, many moms place the new baby in the center of the back seat and the older brother or sister on either side.  There are several pros to this configuration, especially if you choose the right side.  If the toddler is on the right side, mom can see her/him just by looking around while stopped at a light or sign.  It is important to note that if the toddler is placed on the left passenger side, they will be more likely to be on the traffic side of a street when exiting the vehicle.  If the toddler is on the right/passenger side, they will always get out on the curb side and are more likely to be away from moving traffic.

Furthermore, if you choose to place your toddler next to the baby, remember toddlers like to share things, food, toys, sippy cups, etc. and also like to touch and point.  Many toddlers do not yet fully understand why brother or sister does not or cannot have their things.  If the baby is placed on the passenger side and the toddler is placed on the driver’s side, they are separated and you may be less likely to have undesirable attention or food placed into your new baby’s mouth, ear or nose.

In all cases, when there is an unused seat belt in the back seat, it should be hooked together to prevent it from flying around in case of a crash.

Regardless of where you decide to place your baby, remember car seat techs never recommend those little mirrors that (sometimes) strap on the rear seat so mom can look in her rear view mirror to catch a look at the baby.  If there is an impact, the first person the mirror will hit is YOUR baby.  As a retired police officer, I would much prefer your attention be on the road and not on the rear view mirror while driving. 

Rosy Rosenthal is a certified car seat specialist and works with WakeMed Campus Police.