The devastating reason this mum’s urging parents to use rear-facing car seats for longer

After a car accident left one of her children badly injured and the other practically unharmed, Angela Brown has taken to Facebook to share her experience

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The mum who shared the story a year ago of a devastating crash that injured her baby has told of how they won’t know for 7 years if her child will fully recover from her injuries.

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Last year, Angela Brown, from New South Wales in Australia, was driving home from a dentist appointment in her SUV with her two young daughters in the back, her car went into a tree at 60mph and flipped over.

Both her girls were strapped into their car seats but, while the baby was in a rearward-facing car seat, her other daughter, then nearly 2 years old, was in a front-facing one.

And the differences in their injuries were substantial. The daughter who was in the rear-facing seat had a small bruise on her shoulder, while the girl in the front-facing seat broke her back in 2 places.

And, as you can imagine, that’s made Angela pretty evangelical about keeping your child in a rearward-facing car seat for as long as possible.

Angela took to Facebook to tell other parents her story. Here’s her post in full:

“PROOF REAR FACING FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE IS IMPORTANT!!

“I write this sitting next to my nearly 2 year old (she is 2 tomorrow) in her hospital bed finally asleep after yet another rough day. And my almost one year old asleep in her pram at Westmead Children’s hospital.

“On the 26th February my happy normal world shattered and I woke up to my new nightmare life.

“Travelling home from a dentist appointment in the middle of the day in Rural NSW our SUV slammed into a tree head on at 100km p/hr. The impact caused our car to flip forward over its bonnet and onto its roof. At the same time the large tree snapped and landed on top of the car trapping us in it.

“When I came to we were upside down in our car, Miss 1 and Miss 2 were screaming. We turned to see miss 2 had quite a large laceration on her forehead. She was forward facing at the time of the crash. The aircon control vent above had flown off and hit her in the head. Miss 1 was rearward facing with no visible injuries.

“Me and Miss 2 were picked up by Careflight from the crash sight and flown to Westmead. Where our nightmare just got worse. They had discovered she had broken her c2 c3 and tore all her ligaments in her c1. She was one of the youngest to be fitted with a Halo Brace the doctor told us that most children with her injury don’t normally make it.

“Miss 1 and her dad went via ambulance to another hospital. Miss 1 had no injuries just a small bruise on her shoulder.

“So, as you can see, two children in the same car crash, restrained properly: one with life threatening injuries, and the other with non.

“I was always unsure about when to turn my babies around [in the car] but after our crash and the hard evidence we are presented with, I will forever rearward face my babies as long as I possibly can. Don’t make the same mistake as I did. It could cost you your babies’ life.

“So far, we have been treating her injury for 3mths with no idea of when she will be fully recovered.”

So should you not use a front-facing car seat, then?

Angela’s story is tragic and very extreme, so it’s no surprise her strong advice is to keep using a rear-facing car seat with older children.

Here, in the UK, under current laws (ECE R44/04), parents are required to have a rear-facing car seat for babies weighing up to 9kg (around 9 months), after which time you can choose to put your baby into forward-facing car seat if you’d like to.

But recent EU legislation (the i-Size or ECE R129 legislation) has meant a new law has now been introduced that requires little ones to sit in a rear-facing position until they are at least 15 months old.

Confusingly, both laws are running concurrently – so you can follow either – until 2018, when the i-Size law will be the only law that applies.

What every parent needs to know, though, is that, although both forward-facing and rearward-facing car seats are perfectly safe, in recent safety tests conducted by the Baby Products Association, rear-facing car seats were found to offer up to 75% more protection if your child is involved in a car accident.

MadeForMums spoke to ROSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), who told us:

“It’s best to keep your baby in a rearward-facing seat for as long as possible because it provides greater protection for their head, neck and spine than a forward-facing seat.

“Most rearward-facing seats in the UK keep the baby rear-facing until they are 13kg – which works at about 12 to 15 months – but some have a lower limit of 9kg (about 9 months), and some larger ones go up to 18kg (about 4 years). If you’re using an i-Size seat, you keep your baby rearward-facing until they are at least 15 months old.

“You should only move your child into a forward-facing child seat with an internal 5-point harness once he or she has exceeded the maximum weight for the rearward-facing seat you have bought, and can sit up unaided.”

I have a forward-facing car seat. What should I do?

ROSPA goes onto say that you shouldn’t worry once your child is ready to go in a forward-facing seat. “These seats are very effective at protecting children if there is a crash,” their spokesperson says. 

“Whatever seat you use, make sure that it can be securely fitted in your car before you buy it, and check that it’s properly fitted and that your child is securely held in the seat, every time it’s used.”

So, if you do use a front-facing car seat for your baby (after 9 months), don’t panic as it’s still safe – and you are acting within current EU guidelines.

Here at MFM, we know every parent is different and can have their own reasons for wanting their child to be forward-facing, and of course, this should be your choice, once your child is big enough.

But it’s always worth knowing all the safety facts, especially as they can change from year to year.

If you’re thinking of getting a rearward-facing car seat – or swapping your forward-facing car seat for a rearward-facing one – we have some great options for you to check out, and you can take heart from the fact that, though they were once much more expensive, they’re coming down in price all the time. 

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