Confused about the rear facing car seat debate? Are they safer and are there any disadvantages to a rear facing car seat? Here's all you need to know
In the UK, you need to use a rear facing car seat for your baby from birth until they're at least 9kg in weight. Rear facing seats offer greater protection to the under-developed head, neck and spine of very young children, especially in a head-on crash.
You shouldn't rush to move on to a forward facing car seat. You'll find rear facing Group 0+ car seats are suitable for babies from birth up to 13kg, so there's no need to move your baby on to a forward facing choice until they reach the maximum weight for their baby car seat, or the top of their head is higher than the top of the car seat.
On the market, there are now even car seats that allow your baby to stay in a rear facing position up to 4 years. Two examples are the BeSafe iZi Combi X3 car seat and the Brio Zento car seat.
Research in 2009 by the Baby Products Association (BPA) showed that rear facing car seats are much safer and can offer up to 75% more protection if you and your child are involved in an accident. This is because the most dangerous car accidents are frontal collisions (head-ons). They represent the accidents where the highest speeds and the greatest forces are at play. When your child is forward facing and a frontal collision occurs, they get flung forward in the seat, being caught by the harness. This puts pressure on their neck, spine and internal organs. Their neck is completely unprotected when their head is catapulted forward. This means that it is vulnerable to the great force it's being subjected to.
In a rear facing car seat, your child is flung into the back of the seat and the force of impact is distributed along the whole back of the seat. Their neck, spine and internal organs aren't subjected to the stress of the force and are much more protected. In a forward facing seat the neck is subjected to a force equivalent to 300kg-320kg, while in a rear facing seat, the force on the neck is equivalent to 50kg.
However, if your child has a forward facing car seat, there's no need to panic! Forward facing seats have passed the same set of safety tests as rear facing ones and still offer a good level of protection for your toddler or child. As with all car seats, the key is making sure you've fitted the seat correctly and your baby is secure.
Rear facing child seats do result in you having less interaction with your child, as they're not only in the back of the car, but they’re also facing away from you.
Keeping your child in a rear facing car seat also becomes difficult once your child’s legs become longer, and your toddler is much more likely to get bored of facing backwards.
It's also worth remembering that the extra safety of travelling backwards doesn't just apply to children. It applies to us adults, and is also the case when you travel by other transport modes, such as train.
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