Which position is safest for children in the car?

Hardly any child travels in a car without a child seat, but what is the safest position in the car?? From an accident research perspective is clear: if possible, the child seat should be mounted in the middle of the back seat. If there are several children, the back seat on the passenger side is preferable and only the bigger ones belong on the passenger seat.

In switzerland, children up to the age of 12 or a height of 150 centimeters must be seated in a child seat. Important is a suitable child seat and also the correct safety of the little ones. But which position in the car is safest for children? For bettina zahnd, head of the accident research department& prevention of AXA, the answer is clear: "the safest place in the car is in the back center. If there is a three-point belt and a complete seat, the child seat should definitely be installed there. If the passenger compartment is crushed in an accident, the best protection against intrusion – i.e. the penetration of vehicle parts into the passenger compartment – is in the center rear."

Second safest: the right side of the car

If it is not possible to install the child seat in the middle of the back seat, the side behind the passenger should be preferred: "statistics clearly show that the driver’s side is most frequently affected by accidents, so the risk of a side impact is lowest on the passenger side," says Bettina Zahnd.

For older children who are no longer riding in a child seat but in a booster seat, the front passenger seat is also a good position. "the front seats have head restraints, are technically better developed than rear seats and have better protective effects," explains the accident researcher. "rear seats have long been neglected in the development of protection systems, especially in rear-end collisions".

Baby seats in the back seat

"very small children – i.e. babies up to about two years of age – must be secured in a baby car seat, which should be mounted facing the opposite direction of travel – but not on the passenger seat," advises bettina zahnd. If a baby car seat is placed on the passenger side, the airbag must be switched off, explains the accident researcher. However, it is often forgotten to switch the airbag back on as soon as the baby seat is no longer on the passenger seat. "in the event of an accident, this has devastating consequences for the passenger," bettina zahnd points out.

In addition, babies in the passenger seat are too much of a distraction for drivers: "distraction is still one of the most common causes of accidents, and the danger of focusing on the baby in the passenger seat instead of on the traffic is great."for bettina zahnd, the safest solution is clearly to position the baby at the back on the passenger side, because that way the driver is forced to stop to take care of the child.

On the road with several children

If you are traveling with several children, it is advisable to install one child seat in the back in the middle and the other child seats on the passenger side of the car. "if you are traveling with a smaller and an older child, it is best to position the older one in the booster seat on the passenger side," explains the accident researcher and mother of two. "if the children are even smaller, then it is ideal to fit the second child seat in the rear on the passenger side – however, this is only possible in large cars". In smaller cars, there is often no space to position two child seats directly next to each other – in which case one child should sit behind the driver.

and for all seats: "we strongly advise to install child seats with a fixation system – i.e. with isofix. Thanks to these systems, child seats stay where they are in the event of an accident and don’t fly through the car," explains Bettina Zahnd.

The AXA accident research& prevention

From minor paint damage to fatal road accidents, AXA receives numerous claims reports from policyholders every year. In order to analyze how and why the most frequent accidents happen, AXA set up the accident research department in 1981. An international success story that is unique in the swiss insurance market.


Christina ratmoko

Christina ratmoko is press officer and topic manager in AXA’s newsroom. She reports on topics from the human resources and corporate responsibility departments of AXA Switzerland.

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