Should Car Seats Always go in the Rear Seat? Seat Back Danger

For decades we’ve all heard that the rear seat of a vehicle is the best place for a car seat. And, in most cases, this is true. There are however, some vehicles which have rear seats which can collapse and injure or kill a child in the rear seat. It’s terrifying, but more than one family has lived through this nightmare. It happens in both family sedans and minivans.

Every day, hundreds of children are injured in auto accidents. In one devastating collision, a 2010 Honda Odyssey was rear ended. After the auto accident, the driver of the car, the father, realized his toddler was dead. She was in the back seat. The back of his seat had broken in the crash and fallen backwards, hitting the little girl in the face. This part of the seat is known as the “seat back”.

This horrific accident was mentioned in the CBS News Investigates article: NHTSA standards fail to protect from car seat fatalities, experts say.

In a separate incident, a family in Texas was awarded $124.5 million after suing Audi when the same type of accident occurred. Tragically, the child in this accident was left with permanent brain damage.

The attorneys at have a page dedicated to defective seatbacks which states “Although auto safety experts have warned of the risk posed by flimsy seatbacks and lax federal safety standards for years, weak seatbacks continue to pose a serious danger to rear seat occupants, particularly small children sitting in car seats.” The page goes on to mention that automakers may attempt to defend themselves as their vehicles meet minimum safety standards but mentions the Audi case where that simply didn’t hold up in court and held the manufacturer liable for the child’s injuries.

So, should car seats always go in the rear seat?

In general yes, the rear seat is probably the safest area for your child. If you’re riding alone with your child, consider placing them in the rear passenger seat. That way if you do get rear-ended and your seatback fails, the back of the car seat does not injure the child in the back. Depending on your vehicle, you may want to consider the middle of the rear seat as well. At least you are now aware of this potential issue. While we won’t tell you where to put the car seat, you can now make a more educated decision.


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