A: According to a University of Buffalo study that examined 33, 318 fatal crashes, the middle of the back seat is the safest spot. After controlling for factors such as the age of the passenger, vehicle type and airbags, the middle of the back seat turns out to be at least 16 percent safer than any of the other seats, and up to 86% safer than riding shotgun in the front seat.
However, new research has complicated this situation. A 2015 study by the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety found that in newer cars, rear seats are actually more dangerous than front seats now, because the new technology for front seats that isn’t included in the back. In this study, those riding in the back seat were 46% more likely to die than those in the front. The primary cause of injury in crashes was seat-belt loading, which occurs when extreme force is exerted by the belt against the passenger. A 2013 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NATSA) found front seat passengers wearing seatbelts wAith pretensioners and load limiters (which reduce the force exerted against a passenger) had a 12.8 percent lower fatality risk than those in the front wearing seatbelts without them.
That said, young children still shouldn’t ride in the front seat because of the danger posed by airbags, which can deploy with enough force to kill a child even in an otherwise minor accident. Kids have been killed in fender-benders that otherwise wouldn’t have caused any injury at all, because they were riding in the front seat when an airbag deployed.