The centre rear seat is the safest place to carry a child in a suitable child restraint
You've bought the best child seat you can afford and know that it can be fitted securely in the car, but where's the best place to put it? Up-front with you where the child can see what's going on, or behind you in the back seat?
Children are best carried in the rear. The most common type of accident involves an impact to the front of the car which means that the back seat is a safer place to travel.
The centre rear seat is the safest place of all - assuming the child is properly restrained in a suitable child seat - because here they are less likely to hit or be hit by deforming, intruding structures in the most common frontal and side impacts.
Having said that the back is the safest, if it's just you and one child in the car then it might be best for the child to ride up-front - as long as they use an appropriate child restraint. The closer contact may be more reassuring for the child and less distracting for you, therefore reducing the risk of an accident.
If the child is still in a rear-facing seat then this will have to be fitted in the rear if the front passenger seat is protected by an airbag that cannot be switched off. An active airbag will cause severe injury or death to a child lying with its head so close if it fires in an accident.
If you want to use a forward-facing restraint on the front passenger seat check the car handbook for advice first. If there is no specific advice given then in general we would recommend moving the car passenger seat well back on its runners to increase the distance between the child and dashboard/airbag.
You as the driver are responsible if a child is being carried and not wearing an available seat belt or restraint.
(19 June 2012)