Front seat of a car is sometimes called "suicide seat", "death trap" and "child killer" by parents on various internet forums. The Swedes, widely recognized as being 30 years ahead of other countries in car seat safety, use the front seat extensively with airbag deactivated and have an unbelievable safety record for children. What's fact and what's fiction? Is the front seat safe?
We often say that a child is as safe in the front seat as in the rear seat as long as airbag is deactivated. In reality, a child is likely even safer in the front seat when considering all the various factors.
Contrary to popular opinion, the front seat is an excellent place for a child as long as airbag is deactivated with key or switch. Trusting deactivation with a sensor, except perhaps the Mercedes solution, is something we don't feel so comfortable about. Can you trust deactivation with key or switch? Absolutely! Some of the finest and most safety conscious car brands in the world use this solution andhave done so safely for many years.
What makes front seat such a safe and practical place for a rear facing child as long as airbag is deactivated? A few reasons below:
- Optimized front seat: Cars are optimized for safety in front seat. We don't know how and when a crash will take place but we do know there will always be someone in a front seat
- Strength of dashboard: Dashboard, or what's on the inside, is the strongest point in a car. Frontal collisions account for about 75% of all accidents, protection is therefore very important and a high priority.
- Leg space for child: Parents are often (unnecessary) concerned about leg space for their child. It's a common car seat myth that children are uncomfortable or unsafe if legs are bent. Parents therefore often turn children around forward facing way too early. Using the front seat is practical and increases leg space for a child while also leaving space in the back for a passenger. We know for a fact rear facing is 500% safer than forward facing, parents using front seat often keep their child rear facing an additional year which makes a huge difference in safety.
- Less distractions: Research has shown keeping a child in front seat is less distractive than rear seat. Children are calmer, especially smaller babies, since they can see mom/dad. It's easy to communicate with a child in the front seat. Parents can also see their child in peripheral vision and focus on the road. Is your child screaming when alone in back seat? Using front seat next to mommy/daddy is likely to work much better.
- Flexible placement: Larger families, three or more young children, often struggle to find good and safe seating arrangements for their kids. Using front seat means children are more likely to sit properly restrained.
- Leg space for parents: Long rear facing time is great but not if parents are cramped in front seat or it's unusable. There are some rear facing seats in other countries which have taller seat shells and slightly higher weight limit (nothing like 25 kg. or 55 lbs though) but these seats often require an enormous amount of space. One example is the US seat Radian which has a taller seat shell than other seats but often needs so much space it makes front seat unusable. Being able to use front seat is practical and provide good leg space for child in front and also for a person in the back.
Research has shown ages ago that front seat is an excellent place for a child. Safety conscious brands such as Volvo also state very clearly that front seat is just as safe as the rear seat for car seats. Research and theory is one thing, how does rear facing in front seat work in real life? It works amazingly well.
Swedish fatality rates for children in traffic accidents aged 0-6 years are close to zero each year largely thanks to keeping children rear facing until age 4 or longer. Sweden started keeping children rear facing in 1965, a large percentage of Swedish children today sit rear facing in the front seat with airbag deactivated with fantastic results.
Using the front seat for a rear facing child is practical and very safe, this has been shown by research and real life experiences. Please remember to always deactivate airbag with key, switch or service center! Next time someone tells you front seat is "dangerous" you know it's just fiction:-)
Enjoy your weekend!