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Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 6:43 EDT

New Recommendations for Child Safety Seats

May 12, 2008

A recent study suggests that positioning child safety seats in the center of the back seat could cut infants’ and toddlers’ injury risks by nearly half.

Crash data was examined from 16 U.S. states where researchers found that children younger than 3 years old were 43 percent less likely to be injured when their seat was fastened in the center of the back seat rather than one of the side seats.

The current findings support the advice recommending parents position car seats in the center of the rear seat, according to Michael J. Kallan and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The report notes that, unfortunately, only 28 percent of children in their study were sitting in that position at the time of the car accident.

Kallan’s team acknowledges that there are obstacles to placing a car seat in the center position.

It can be more difficult to secure a child, especially a heavier child, into a center-positioned seat. It can also make if difficult for other backseat passengers when the child is positioned in the rear of the vehicle.

This center position is the safest place for babies and toddlers to ride, according to the current findings.

Data from 4,790 car crashes involving children ages 3 and younger that occurred between 1998 and 2006 were the basis of the studies results. At the time of the accident, 41 percent of the children were in a car seat positioned in the right-hand back seat, while 31 percent were in the left-hand seat.

According to Kallan’s team, the center position was the least popular, but the safest. The reason, in part, was that children in a centered seat were better protected during a side-impact crash.

The researchers concluded that recommendations should continue to encourage families to install child-restraint systems in the center of the rear seat.

Several resources for parents who need information on installing child safety seats can be found online. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia maintains such a site.

Inspectors can offer advice for parents on properly using the seats at any local child safety seat inspection station. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration maintains a searchable database of inspection stations.

On the Net:

University of Pennsylvania

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Installing Chaild Safety Seats

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – Child Passenger Safety Program