1 Year Old Car Seat Safety Dilemma - Forward Middle or Rear Facing Side?

Updated on April 11, 2010
K.M. asks from Eureka, CA
22 answers

My daughter is about to turn 1 year and is 22 lbs. I would like to keep her rear-facing as long as possible, but she has almost outgrown the height of her infant car seat. We have previously purchased a Britax Boulevard. Because we purchased it a year ago no exchange or return is possible at this point. Purchasing a new car is also not an option. The problem is that we cannot fit the Boulevard in our car rear-facing in the middle seat. Our options are to put her forward-facing in the middle of the back seat or to put her rear-facing on the passenger side of the back seat next to the door. We have a small Subaru Impreza, which puts her right up against the door panel. The Boulevard does have True Side Impact protection, which is more protection than some other models, but if we were hit she would take on the full force of the impact. So...I've heard statistically more collisions are forward impact rather than side impact and that it is now recommended that a child be rear-facing up to 2 years. I was leaning towards forward facing in the middle, but with the latest info on holding out til two I just don't know. She has been walking since she was 9 months and is a very strong baby, but I don't know if that makes a difference. OMG...How do I ever decide?

Any info, opinions, statistics, or advice is greatly appreciated!

Thank you,

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for your quick and informative responses!

Just a short clarification: When we initially tested the Britax Boulevard in the middle of the back seat rear-facing, the position of the driver's seat would not allow for to fit. If we push the seat far enough forward for the car seat to fit then my husband and I are too close to the steering wheel in order to drive. The front seats on our Subaru have a strange curve to them that makes it nearly impossible to fit even an infant seat properly. Our infant seat (Graco Snugride 32) has a smaller foot print than the Britax and was the ONLY infant seat (at least locally) that would fit in our car. Thus, as far as I could tell, we would need to put the Boulevard rear-facing on the passenger side and any front passenger would have to sit scrunched or sit in the back. We will try to see if there is a safe recline option that will make the Boulevard car seat fit rear-facing in the middle. I am also trying to find a child car seat safety specialist locally.

UPDATE: We were able to fit the Britax Boulevard in the middle rear-facing! The Boulevard needs to be in the fully reclined position for rear-facing. I believe when we tested it in our car previously it was in the upright position. We will keep our daughter rear-facing until she is at least 2 and probably longer.

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answers from Fresno on

Rear facing is safer, but I would rather have my kid in the middle facing forward if that is the only way. We waited until 16 months with my 1st child and my 13 month old is already sitting facing forward in the middle. I like that I can see her and the air conditioning can actually get to her now. We have a big SUV so I feel a little safer anyway. With a small car I would maybe ask the CHP for advice.


answers from San Francisco on

It is my understanding that rear facing is best (rear ending is a very common thing). I hope you get some links to good info on which side works best. In terms of a car seat fitting, I believe most fire and police stations have someone trained to do this.

Best wishes!

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answers from Gainesville on

Strong baby or no she can not withstand the impact of a forward-facing collision. Google internal decapitation if you need more convincing. Look at the crash test video on this site:


The impact and trauma they experience in a forward-facing position is incredible and difficult to watch.

My daughter is a strong 25lb, almost 22 month old and she will stay rear-facing in her Britax most likely till she is well over 2 since her seat will accommodate up to 35lbs rear-facing.

I agree, rear-facing on passenger side. Statistically, the driver's side is hit more often with side impact crashes.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Hands down, rear-facing wins out over forward facing - here is a handy list prepared by a certified child passenger safety technician/instructor with numerous references and videos: http://carseatblog.com/?p=5168 . The key issue is the support of the head, neck, and spine that rear facing provides.
As for the installation issues - typically a rear-facing convertible should take up the same amount of front-back space as an infant seat because the convertible can be installed a bit more upright (the 45-degree angle necessary for infants is not required for 1YO's).
http://www.seatcheck.org can help you find a certified tech near you
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Same dilemma here, though my daughter was close to 15 months when she outgrew the infant seat.
We are going forward facing in the middle in my car, and left her rear facing in my husbands van, which has more space.

My analysis went like this: side impact collisions have the highest fatality rate among children (something like 40 %) and most older cars (like my 2001 Kia) nor even the highest rated car seats offer REALLY good protection. I also was never able to get a REALLY good snug fit on the convertible without a tether - and those only work forward facing in my car. So I felt traveling forward in the middle was preferable to rear-facing on the side for our Kia.
There is no one size fits all! I correctly installed forward facing seat is safer than an incorrectly installed rear facing one. You have to do what works for your seat and your car.
Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

can you sit it more upright
i agree with the rear facing
my dd is in a radian in my vehicle middle seat

in my dh's she is in a scenera behind the passenger rear facing
in my inlaws and my mom's in a scenera behind passenger
cannot get good center installs in them and don't think she is big enough to forward face yet
14 months and 20 pounds


answers from Minneapolis on

Ask yourself this question... .what are you going to do when you have two + kids and you can't put both in the middle?

The best place for a car seat is where you get the best install. Its likely your vehicle doesn't support LATCH for the center position, so if you were using it, you were using it wrong this whole time. READ your vehicle manual, most center seating positions do not allow th use of LATCH, you have to use the seat belt to install.

What isn't fitting? The seat doesn't fit there? The base doesn't fit there? Bad install? What exactly isnt' fitting. Because if you can get it on the side, you can surely fit it in the middle. And if you had an infant seat in the middle, you can fit a convertible. For an older child, you don't need it reclined fully. the SEAT needs to be in teh recline position, (per Britax requirements) but you don't need to roll towels for the front to make sure its at a 45degree angle. That angle is for newborns, older kids can be at a more upright position.

www.safekids.org and find a CPST in your area to help you. She's not ready to forward face, there is not one good study or argument for forward facing a child before 35lbs. You have a great seat, so use it to its potential. Install it on the side rear facing until you can find a CPST in your area to help you install it in the center if you choose. But for what its worth, my boys haven't ridden in the center, ever, and I'm very confident in their seating positions.



answers from San Francisco on

Call your local CHP office and set up an appointment. They have officers certified in car seat safety. They will help you insall your car seat correctly and safely.



answers from Modesto on

Keeping your child rear-facing until 2 is a recommendation, not the law. My daughter turned 1 and was over 20 lbs before this recommendation came out (she's 2.5 now). I turned her forward-facing at that point because she's very tall for her age (off the charts) and could no longer sit comfortably rear-facing. She loves facing forward and does just fine! We've never been in an accident, and we drive two vehicles: one without a back seat so she has to sit in the passenger seat, and in the middle of the back seat in the other. I have a very safe car seat for her (a Britax as well) and I install it carefully and correctly every time. I don't worry about her safety in the car; I do all I can to keep her safe while we're driving, and there are plenty of other things to worry about that I have much more control over!




answers from Dallas on

Hi, its alot to consider. I have my daughter forward facing in the middle of the backseat. I keep her in the middle as I have read side impact collisions are alot more common than head on collisions.


answers from Barnstable on

My husband is a mechanic and I agree with Ina. It isn't simply the car seat - you need to take into account the car as well and how tightly you can get the seat in. Middle offers the most side impact protection. Can you imagine your child, rear facing on the side seat and someone connecting with the side of your car at 40mph? In today's vehicles, there is very little protection the the backseat passenger side-seated positions. People in the front at least have the firewall of the engine, the wheel well and the frontal frame bars of the car and well as the engine. How a car takes an impact also depends on the crumple zones of the vehicle.

Your best bet is center, rear facing. If you can't do that, go center forward facing, but see if you can angle the car seat in a reclined position (some car seats do this brilliantly, but others don't. I have no idea how well the Britax reclines). I remember my husband working on a minivan and the outer skin was off the slider door. There was literally this thin, single bar in the middle of the door. I asked him, "is that safe in a crash?" He goes, as long as you are not against the door and hit in the side.

You could even go to a body shop and ask where the rollbars are in your vehicle. You may even be able to pull the frame specs and crumple zones for your vehicle online.

What about selling the Britax to buy one that does fit rear facing? What do you drive?



answers from Salt Lake City on

My daughter is 13 months and although only 18lbs and not the weight limit to turn forward facing, I really dont plan to turn her forward facing until closer to 2 yrs. I feel she is 100% safer rear facing. I also have to put her on the passenger side so that her convertible seat fits in my jeep. I suggest you keep her rear facing as long as possible because yes, forward collisions happen more often. Best of luck with your decision!! :)



answers from Columbus on

Check the weight limit for rear-facing in the Britax & keep her rear-facing until she hits that weight. And, get it installed by people who are certified. It's not about how strong she is. Rear-facing is best & safest!



answers from San Francisco on

I kept both of my kids rear facing until about 1 1/2 yrs old. I'm surprised the Britax doesn't fit rear facing in the middle. That was the only way we could do it in our Toyota Matrix for our son. Once our daughter came along we no longer had the delima of middle or side. They both had to be on the side since there were 2. Yes it would be nice to keep her in the middle but she's better off rear facing and behind the passenger seat. She's in more of a laid back position. If she was forward facing she'd be more upright which will make you want to pull over as soon as she falls asleep and turn her rear facing again. Their little heads fall forward while asleep. I don't want to imagine what would happen in any collision.



answers from San Francisco on

Go on craigslist search for a free car seat less then 5 years old!



answers from Chico on

According to the infant child seat laws, I'm pretty sure she can be forward facing once she turns 1yo and is at least 20 lbs. So put her in the back seat and she'll be fine =) Britax makes some of the best seats and that Boulevard is great and good till 65 lbs (I think). So she'll have the 5 point harness for quite a while, or until she's too tall as the straps go over the shoulder on forward facing seats.



answers from Los Angeles on

I would put her in the middle. Thats what I did with my daughter I think its better to have them in the middle then right by a door.



answers from San Francisco on

Hi K.,

If you still wind up with the two choices you note above, I'd go with forward-facing in the middle. As you noted, if on the side she'd take the full force of an impact -- it just makes me nervous to have a car seat so close to the border of a car. If it helps any, our daughter was on the tall side, so we had to put her in her "big girl" carseat at about 10 months, which would only fit forward facing in our car. And honestly at the end of our rear-facing time, her little legs were bent and/or climbing up the seatback -- there was nowhere else for her to put them. If we had an impact while she was in that position, I can't see how her little legs wouldn't have been broken. So that made me feel a little better about turning her forward-facing earlier than prescribed. Good luck, and don't worry too much -- before you can blink she'll be past all the rear-facing parameters anyway. Just my two cents!




answers from Missoula on

I would definitely go with rear facing in the side seat. No question.



answers from Washington DC on

We turned my son forward facing at 15 months and 24 lbs. He is in the center seat in both of our vehicles and he's in an Alpha Omega seat. We had planned to keep him rear facing longer, but his legs were uncomfortable and he got car sick (hasn't happened once since switching him). Our car seat does recline in the forward facing position, which offers him some more protection and makes sleeping comfortable.



answers from Nashville on

I am in no way an expert, but I have read the same as you- keep them rear facing as long as possible, most accidents are not side impact and are the type that will injure them forward facing more likely. We chose side instead of middle because of that, plus the LATCH system is not meant to be used with the middle of the seat. Also, can you use the tethers with your car? Those are very important, and I think if only one position worked with the tethers, that would be what I would choose. I don't think walking has anything to do with it, but I could be wrong. Their spines are not strong enough to withstand a forward facing accident, and I don't think it would matter when they walked or what kind of head control they have, it is a matter of bone formation. I'm interested to see what your other responses are, all this stuff is so confusing! It took me weeks and weeks just to make a decision about a carseat last time. I am dreading the next one.



answers from Provo on

I had some people install my car seat for my son that had gone through the car seat safety class. The reason that it is so important for a child to remain rear facing for as long as possible is that their little neck is not strong enough to handle the whip-lash associated with the impact associated with a front collision. My son was rear facing until he was 2 and by that time his knees were bent up to his chest.

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