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View Poll Results: Do you use a booster seat for your 4-10 year old child?
Booster seat in the front (car has airbags) 1 3.70%
Booster seat in the front (no airbags) 2 7.41%
Booster seat in the rear 21 77.78%
Regular seat belt in the front or rear 3 11.11%
No seat belts for my child, thank you 0 0%
Voters: 27. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 17th September 2018, 00:55   #1
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Default Front vs Rear seat placement for child seats?

As usual with Sunday nights, I got into an unnecessary whatsapp argument. This time on front vs rear seat as the appropriate place for children. Make no mistake - around the world, the "standard" recommendation esp in US / parts of EU like Sweden is that children below 12 are better off in the rear seat.

If you're not the curious type, I suggest you close this tab now!

In my case, my son (now 7 years old) has been sitting in the front seat with booster seat for the last 3-4 years out of sheer necessity. I often had to pick him up from daycare myself, and he would be happier / more engaged sitting next to me. I was unsure if I had risked his life due to convenience. My quick research seems to indicate I had only done so marginally - atleast its not conclusive either ways. What do other BHPians feel / practice?

Here's what a few articles I dug up (all in the top 10 Google results / highly cited) say:
#1 cited paper. Passenger seating position and the risk of passenger death in traffic crashes: a matched cohort study

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Here's the interesting part for which I'm not even sure if they had enough quality data (more on that in the #2 study) - because in most parts of the US, small child in front seat = BIG ticket from the cops. Since most countries which study such data explicitly force little children in the back seat, you are unlikely to get perfect comparison across front/rear.

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Here's my takeaways from this piece:
- Even for unrestrained passengers - airbags significantly reduce risk of death.
- For ages 0-12 they do show lower risk in the rear seat but I would rather compare ages 13-29 where they'll have comparable volumes of data on both. Restrained passengers (my case) - that relative risk varies from 0.88-1.06 with an average of 0.96. So mildly less risky in the average in the rear seat.
- For most adults, you're better off in the front seat with airbags than the rear. Even if you have a driver, sit in the front. For YOUR own sake.

The #2 cited article - Arbogast. Front versus rear seat injury risk for child passengers: evaluation of newer model year vehicles.

This is quite pertinent since it looks at more recent models in the US which had less aggressive airbags, that are truly supplementary restraint systems, i.e analogous to situation today.

Front vs Rear seat placement for child seats?-whatsapp-image-20180916-23.57.47.jpeg

As I surmised earlier, this study simply does not talk about kids below 12 in the front seat - hence my doubt over that data in the previous study. But let's look at the front vs rear comparison.

Risk of significant injury / death is clearly much lower in the front vs the rear.

Lastly, this paper from Australia - Current child restraint practice in Queensland, new legislation and future challenges. The conclusion is practically self explanatory:
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Their explanation for the variance was that their crash data set had far less fatalities. That makes a bit of sense to me since in my ~3 months in australia I didn't see a single vehicle speed, while in America (4 trips, 5-6000 miles), in places like Arizona and Utah, I think enough folks were even hitting 100 mph in a 75 mph zone.

Coming to me - since I barely exceed 100-105 under any circumstance, much less day to day driving, I would be inclined to agree with the Australian data. However, I'm curious and happy to change my opinions with conclusive data.

What about you? What do you practise? Why?
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Old 17th September 2018, 09:46   #2
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Default re: Front vs Rear seat placement for child seats?

Just sharing the link to the main child seat thread here. This new thread can exclusively focus on the front vs rear debate only.
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Old 17th September 2018, 11:15   #3
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Default re: Front vs Rear seat placement for child seats?

I use a booster seat for my 3.10years old daughter in the rear seat. I prefer to use this booster seat in rear seat only. But then kids always want to sit in the front seat and observe the driver(and road).

In rare cases( where my daughter is alone with me), I use a booster seat in the co-pilot seat. My car ( MS Brezza) has dual airbags and keeping a kid in the front seat is comparatively safe( due to airbags). However, I never liked the idea of a kid in the co-pilot seat.
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Old 17th September 2018, 11:24   #4
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Default re: Front vs Rear seat placement for child seats?

I use a booster seat and a regular seat for my 7 year old (2 cars). I always place her in the rear and she is also used to it now. This is because I somehow fear the airbag activation may harm the child more than protect her due to her size.

As you said, the research is minimal, but I go with the research as I don't see much issues in enforcing it as my kid is happier in the rear seat. Your kid, on the other hand, may not always agree to be alone in the rear seat, which then becomes a problem
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Old 17th September 2018, 11:33   #5
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Default re: Front vs Rear seat placement for child seats?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SJM1214 View Post
I use a booster seat for my 3.10years old daughter in the rear seat. I prefer to use this booster seat in rear seat only. But then kids always want to sit in the front seat and observe the driver(and road).

In rare cases( where my daughter is alone with me), I use a booster seat in the co-pilot seat. My car ( MS Brezza) has dual airbags and keeping a kid in the front seat is comparatively safe( due to airbags). However, I never liked the idea of a kid in the co-pilot seat.

I may be wrong: but if a child seat is placed in the front are we not supposed to deactivate the airbags.
Coming back to the OP, I have the child seat in the rear.
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Old 17th September 2018, 15:05   #6
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Default re: Front vs Rear seat placement for child seats?

I remember reading multiple articles (such as this https://blog.esurance.com/safest-seat-in-the-car/) that the safest seat in a car is the middle of the rear bench. So I guess that is the safest place to put the booster.
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Old 17th September 2018, 15:25   #7
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Default re: Front vs Rear seat placement for child seats?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Iyencar View Post
I remember reading multiple articles (such as this https://blog.esurance.com/safest-seat-in-the-car/) that the safest seat in a car is the middle of the rear bench. So I guess that is the safest place to put the booster.
Most of the middle seats in the rear bench of our cars do not have a 3 point seat belt, so I don't think it will be as safe as the rear left seat.
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Old 17th September 2018, 15:45   #8
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Default re: Front vs Rear seat placement for child seats?

The problem with the booster seat is that the child would be wearing the (three point) seatbelt over the hips and chest, with no restraint for the head.
In the event of a head-on collision, the little head would move forward - the child's neck is not sufficiently strong enough to restrict this (unlike the case of an adult). This would result in a severe neck injury and risk paralysis.

The best option would then be a rear facing seat, where a typical head-on results in the child's head pressing against the seat.
Unfortunately it is not possible to set up a rear facing seat in the front due to the presence of airbags (A forward facing child in the front seat is also risky anyway, due to the risk of being in the path of a deploying airbag).

So my vote goes for the back seat with a rear facing child seat, and if that's not possible, the back seat with a front facing booster seat.

Last edited by jinojohnt : 17th September 2018 at 15:50.
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Old 17th September 2018, 15:51   #9
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Default re: Front vs Rear seat placement for child seats?

I have used booster seat both at the front and rear and I prefer the latter because...

on a front seat
1. Child is too close to airbag in case it pops
2. Kids on front seat tend to lean forward and block your view of left ORVM
3. They are endlessly curios to play with their surroundings, audio/video settings, AC, gear lever etc., They would even place feet behind the lever preventing you from moving it when you need it the most. Enough distractions to make mistakes.
4. Many cars do not have ISOFIX mounts on the front seat

while at the rear
1. They have more space to do activities, for example, notebook and highlighters so they can sketch, Play doh, IPAD/tablet (hung on seat organizers).

Last edited by Thermodynamics : 17th September 2018 at 15:55.
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Old 17th September 2018, 17:28   #10
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Default re: Front vs Rear seat placement for child seats?

Our 8 year old son always rides in the rear left seat on his booster. He has been riding in that place since he was two months old. He is happy there and so are we. Both our cars have two front airbags with no airbags at the back.
Keeping children at the back is generally recommended by all car owner's manuals and regulatory guidelines. I have at times thought of the possible additional protection of air bags in the front, but am not convinced. I remember reading two possible reasons for additional safety at the back:
1. Rapid airbag deployment at the front can be dangerous if the occupant is too close to the airbag at time of deployment (zone of deployment). Generally, it is advisable for front seat passengers to be seated as far from dashboard as possible and lean back into the seat with head in line with headrest. Children are at greater risk as they may be leaning forwards into the zone of deployment.
2. Children may play / interfere with controls like gear shift, hand brake, indicator stalk etc, thereby posing unexpected dangers / distractions.

A mature kid who stays in safe position in a well pushed back front passenger seat and can be trusted to be not fidgety / distracting MAY be safer in a airbag protected front seat. But by and large, I think rear seat is safer even without an airbag.

By the way, a regular three point seat belt without booster seat (one of the options in the poll) is positively dangerous. This is because, for a short child, the chest belt will pass over the neck and strangle the child in case of a crash that snaps the seat belts into restraint action. In the absence of a booster seat, using a two-point lap belt maybe safer than a "regular" three point belt.

I often see kids, even infants riding on the drivers lap inches away from the steering wheel (which may or may not have an airbag). I find this horrifying. Such drivers should be charged with criminal negligence.

Last edited by cogWheel : 17th September 2018 at 17:35.
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Old 19th September 2018, 13:55   #11
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Default Re: Front vs Rear seat placement for child seats?

Controversial topic across the world, with different researchers using different parameters to determine the safety aspects of child seats vs. booster seats vs. adult seats.
Quote:
Originally Posted by phamilyman View Post
...around the world, the "standard" recommendation esp in US / parts of EU like Sweden is that children below 12 are better off in the rear seat.

In my case, my son (now 7 years old) has been sitting in the front seat with booster seat for the last 3-4 years out of sheer necessity.
First off, we need to understand why we need child seats or booster seats, and what are the consequences of using them inappropriately to the height and weight of a child.

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The child safety seat is one which has its own restraint system, while it is placed on the vehicle's seat and fixed to the vehicle using Isofix anchors or the main seatbelt itself. In many countries including the USA it is recommended that these are placed in a rear-facing position, at least till the age of 1 year or 20lb.

Front vs Rear seat placement for child seats?-booster-seat.jpg
The booster seat simply raises the child to an appropriate height to allow the vehicle's OE seatbelt to fit correctly, without risk of neck injury, especially to the carotid area.

The OE seatbelts are designed to accommodate a person (child or adult) above a certain height and weight.

Most research related to usage of child restraints and related injuries focusses on the age of a child, without taking into consideration the height (and to some extent, the weight) - this is mainly because the data collected from crashes does not include these details.

Ideally, determination of seat placement and choice of seat type should be based on height criteria, and not on age. Some points to note:

1. No child should be placed in a rear-facing child safety seat in the front passenger seat in a vehicle equipped with front airbags - unless the front passenger airbag can be switched off, and it is absolutely impossible to place such a child in the rear seat (such as, when the child is unwell, and you are the only adult in the car).

2. It is said to be 5x safer for a child up to 2 years of age to be seated in a rear-facing child safety seat, than in a forward facing one. Part of the reason being, infants have underdeveloped neck muscles, and can actually snap their own neck if seated facing forward during a crash.

3. A child should be deemed to have outgrown the child safety seat when the child's shoulder is above the shoulder strap slots. This is usually when the child is 2'6" to 2'8" in height. Additionally, such seats would have a maximum weight limit marked on the seat, which should not be exceeded - a seat with a heavier weight rating would then be required in case the child is healthier than usual.

4. A booster seat is recommended when a child is above 2'6" to 2'8" in height, but less than 4'5" to 4'9' in height. Seating a child on a booster seat in the front passenger seat in an airbag-equipped car is less safe than the child being seated in the rear seat. To minimise chances of injury from an exploding front passenger airbag, the seat bearing the child in a booster seat should be set back as far as possible.

5. In cars with side curtain airbags, children (and even adults) must be taught not to lean on the door (such as when sleeping), since an exploding side curtain airbag will cause major scalp and face injuries to them. It is safer to seat a child on a booster seat in the middle of the rear seat, only if the middle seat has a 3-point seat belt.

6. For children (or adults) with height above 4'9" (145 cm) and weight above 40 kg, no booster seat is required, and they can use the OE seat and belt system that the car is already equipped with.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 19th September 2018 at 14:06.
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Old 19th September 2018, 20:42   #12
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Default Re: Front vs Rear seat placement for child seats?

Adults have:
1. seat belt retractor to lock and hold the occupant in place during an impact
2. seat belt pretensioner to reduce the slack and hold the occupant in place without being thrown forward
3. seat belt load limiter to release the belt slightly (opposite of pretensioner) to reduce seat belt related injuries/cuts.
4. multiple airbags

Child seats only offer #1 above and most parents don't know how to install child seats without slack - slack is very dangerous. Kids also have very fragile bodies, especially their weak neck supporting a relatively heavy head. So we have a situation where the stronger bodies are offered superior protection and weaker bodies get inadequate protection. Rear facing child seat in rear seat can mitigate some of the risks and is definitely preferred. I would also prefer booster seat as soon as they attain the recommended weight/height. Above all else, safe driving matters the most.
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Old 19th September 2018, 23:30   #13
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Default Re: Front vs Rear seat placement for child seats?

My Vote goes for Rear Seat. Safe, secure. Period.

My son, from his birth, till 5 years now, sits on child seat at rear only, and will continue to do so.

As a child, I understand his excitement to toggle with buttons, dashboard, perfume, mobile holder, etc. To accommodate his happiness, only when I move the car reverse or forward, while parking in my garage, I do let him come to the front seat and belt up, for may be 2/3 minutes while I park.

Birth - 1.5 yrs: Rear Facing Child Seat at Rear (In India)
1.5 yrs - 3.5 years: Front Facing Child Seat at Rear (In India)
3.5 yrs till date - Front Facing Booster Seat, using Car Seat Belt at Rear (In USA)

The above were adjusted according to his height and weight.

In all cases, the seat is always placed behind the driver side. This allows for my wife / co-passenger to attend to him when he needs anything.

Here is the law from New Jersey state, USA. There is a reason why this law is in place. Same should be accepted and adhered to by India too.
The rest, in the hands of the parents, what they want, show off or make a safe environment for their child.

https://www.dmv.org/nj-new-jersey/safety-laws.php

Front vs Rear seat placement for child seats?-screenshot_20180919135305__01.jpg

Last edited by Soumyajit9 : 19th September 2018 at 23:34. Reason: Adding a screenshot
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Old 10th October 2018, 11:12   #14
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Default Re: Front vs Rear seat placement for child seats?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jinojohnt View Post
The problem with the booster seat is that the child would be wearing the (three point) seatbelt over the hips and chest, with no restraint for the head.
In the event of a head-on collision, the little head would move forward - the child's neck is not sufficiently strong enough to restrict this (unlike the case of an adult). This would result in a severe neck injury and risk paralysis.
See the video in the below post, to understand what forces affect the child's neck in a forward facing child seat. Watch from 32 seconds:
https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/road-...ml#post4474606 (New Maruti Swift gets just 2-stars in the Global NCAP)
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