Between convertible seats versus infant carriers and how long to keep your child rear-facing, car seat safety is just another area of parenting that brings with it all the questions. But if you recently upgraded to a larger vehicle — because apparently kids come with a lot of stuff — then you might also be wondering, “Can toddlers sit in the third row of an SUV?” Experts say considering the safety of the car seat is the first order of business.
“Vehicle crashes are among the leading causes of death in children in the United States, and it is thought that many could be prevented through proper use of child safety seats,” says Texas-based Dr. Eboni Hollier, who is board-certified in both general and developmental and behavioral pediatrics, in a Romper email interview. “[With that said] I believe that the center seat of the third row of a vehicle is most likely the safest location for a child passenger.”
Hollier says when it comes to assessing the safety of a car seat, choosing one that is appropriate for the child's weight and height, as well as their development (as in their head and trunk control) “are essential to keep your child safe.”
The center seat in the third row is actually considered the safest spot for toddlers because it is the “most impervious to severe frontal crashes, which take the greatest number of lives per year in multiple-vehicle collisions,” noted The Car Crash Detective. The article explained that this is why airplanes keep their data recorders in the tail of the plane — the location has the most protection from damage.
Hollier agrees with this analogy, adding that even when a third row isn’t available, the center seat is always the safest location in the backseat of a vehicle.
“Parents should also be cautioned to keep their children rear-facing as long as possible, because in this position, their child's head, neck, and spine are more protected in the event of a vehicle collision,” she says. Hollier recommends parents use an infant mirror and mobile toys that attach to a car seat in order to entertain your little one while rear-facing.
“Also, your child should remain in each type of car seat for as long as possible — a rear-facing car seat, forward-facing seat with harness, booster seat with back, and finally seat belt only,” she says.
Of course, once your child is secure, there are a few steps you can also take to preserve your sanity when you're on the road. You're welcome.