One other important issue is the use of the LATCH lower anchors to install a carseat in the center position. In general, the center is the safest position for a carseat as long as it can be installed properly there. Unfortunately, few vehicles have a separate pair of lower anchors specifically for the center position. A few other vehicles may designate that the center position can be used for LATCH because the spacing between the innermost anchors still meets the standard (about 11 inches or 280mm center-to-center). Here is a general set of best practice guidelines to determine if you can install a LATCH carseat in the center of the rear seat, using the "inner" LATCH anchors from the outboard seating positions:
* If either the carseat or vehicle owner's manual prohibits the use of the center position for this type of installation, you should use the seatbelt for installation if appropriate
* If both the vehicle and carseat owner's manuals allow the use of the center position using the "inner" bars from the outboard positions, then you may try install the LATCH seat this way if it fits properly
* You should not attempt this if the center is not an actual seating position, if there is no top tether anchor available for the center, or if the manual otherwise prohibits any carseat placement in the center. Use the outboard seating positions instead.
* Do not attach lower attachments from two child restraints to the same lower anchor!
* If you are unsure because there is conflicting or insufficient information, then err to the side of caution and DO NOT try this type of installation. LATCH is not necessarily safer than using the seatbelts. If your carseat fits well in the center using the seatbelts, then that is still the safest option in most cases.
Note that carseats with rigid anchors must only be installed in designated LATCH positions with the standard spacing. There is a gray area with center placement when one manual approves the use of the center position even if the spacing is wider than the standard, but the other manual has no recommendation. There is not yet enough data to determine if the significant danger of placement in the outboard position (closer to a side impact) is enough to balance the unknown risk of using LATCH anchors with spacing wider than the standard in the center. We do know that side impacts cause the greatest number of fatalities to properly restrained passengers (IIHS), so this important topic is being studied for future recommendations. As with the many other confusing issues on child safety seat installation, you should always check your owner's manuals first. In some cases, the manufacturer's customer service departments may also be able to help. Finally, you can ask a trained child passenger safety technician on our forums or find one for a free carseat inspection in your area.