This Is the Safest Seat in Your Car—It’s Not Where You’d Think

Updated: Nov. 29, 2018

Yes, wearing your seatbelt can save your life in an accident, but so can sitting in the right seat. Check out what researchers discovered.

Back passenger seats in modern luxury car, frontal view, perforated black leather with stitchingGargantiopa/Shutterstock

While you might assume that the act of fastening your seatbelt means you’re safe no matter where you’re sitting in the car, the truth is more complicated. Weirdly, the safest spot to sit depends on your age.

In research throughout the years—including studies at the University of Buffalo, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and other findings, investigators have found that children younger than eight years old had the lowest risk of death while sitting in the rear seat; the risk increased slightly if they were between the ages of nine and 12. (By the way, all the statistics refer to occupants who are properly belted in to approved seating.) From ages 13 to 54, researchers found no difference in risk of fatality in the rear seats versus the front seats. In research involving older cars and all age groups, the overall safest spot in the car seemed to be the middle back seat. Here’s how to handle 11 scary driving situations safely.

However, when researchers singled out people over 55 in newer model cars, the back seat was actually more dangerous than the front. “That doesn’t mean that the rear seat in newer vehicles is less safe than in older model vehicles,” said Anne McCartt, senior vice president of research with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety/Highway Loss Data Institute. “The risk of fatal injury for rear occupants is similar across all of the model years we examined. Instead, the disparity reflects the fact that the front seat is getting safer.”

Seat belts are still the most important—and controllable—risk factor. In numerous studies, people who fail to buckle up are at least eight times more likely to suffer a serious injury: Fasten your seatbelts. Next, don’t miss these 11 driving etiquette rules you’ve forgotten since Driver’s Ed.