The safest seat in the car

As kids we all hated getting stuck in the middle seat of the car. The blasted floor hump, the lack of personal space … there’s no doubt the game of “shotgun” was invented solely to help us avoid the dreaded middle seat. But our bullying older siblings may have actually been doing us a favor. Turns out, the middle seat is the safest seat in the car.

You might already know that the backseat is safer than the front, but just how much safer required some investigation. Enter the researchers from University of Buffalo who studied crash-related fatalities in relation to seat location. It turns out the backseat is 59 to 86 percent safer than the front seat. More astounding (at least to us) is that the middle seat is 25 percent safer than the window seats in the back.

Why is the middle seat safest?

The middle seat offers the most distance from impact during a collision (sometimes referred to as crumple zone). So if you get hit at an intersection, the outer seat will take more of a direct hit, while the middle seat remains relatively insulated.

Interestingly, the researchers in Buffalo noted that the average age of the backseat passengers in their study was 20 years, but the average age of the middle backseat passengers was only 15.4 years. Perhaps this goes to show that no matter how old we get, we can still play the “older sibling” card.

Best place for kids and car seats

According to both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the middle seat is safest for kids too. In fact, the NHTSA recommends that all children under the age of 13 ride in the back — ideally in the center. But there’s a major caveat to this recommendation: the middle car seat is only safest if a full seat belt (rather than just a lap belt) is used. So if you’re driving an older car without a full, 3-point seat belt, your children are better off sitting in a back window seat.

The rear center seat is also recommended as the best place for kids’ car seats. In fact, the AAP found that children in the rear center seat have a 43 percent lower risk of injury than children in the rear window seats. Check your state’s child-safety laws for more info on child restraint requirements.

Applying this safest seat knowledge

Now that you’re equipped with this “insider” knowledge, it’s time to use it to your advantage. Next time you’re riding as a passenger, graciously offer to take the middle seat. You’ll look gallant and be safer too. Granted, if only 2 people are traveling in the car, it may seem weird to climb in the backseat, Miss Daisy-style. Still, wherever you end up sitting, remember always to wear your seat belt. Stay safe out there (and check out our other safety tips to help stay informed)!

Along with protecting yourself and your loved ones, keep your car protected by investing in car insurance you can count on. Get your quote from Esurance today.

Related links

Latest news on child car safety from the NHTSA
3 tips on car seats
The physics of seat belt safety

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about Jessica

During her time as senior copywriter at Esurance, Jessica wrote about everything from automotive trends to insurance tips to driving dogs (it’s a thing!). In her free time, you can find Jessica hiking with her dog (who cannot drive), devouring a good mystery, or very slowly learning Spanish.