Rear Facing is the safest way to travel, even for adults. Think about the next time you travel on a train, when you pull into a station what happens to your body as the train rapidly slows down if you’re standing up or sitting the direction of travel? Your body moves forward and it can be difficult to maintain your balance, you may even come out of your seat! If you’re sitting against the direction of travel then the back of your seat holds your whole body in place much more effectively!
By travelling rear facing, the childs body is cradled by the seat, significantly reducing the amount of stress put on their delicate neck and spine. In the event of an accident, even though their body is thrown towards the front of the car, they are pushed back into their car seat, allowing it to absorb a lot of the energy and spreading the forces over a larger area.
Compare this to the same accident where the child is forward facing; In this instance the childs body is thrown forwards, but as the harness holds the upper body in place, the head continues to move further forward exerting huge forces on the neck due to the fact that a childs head is disproportionately heavy in relation to the rest of their body, resulting in a increased risk of serious injury as the spinal cord stretches, causing something called internal decapitation which can be life changing.
Rear Facing = 40-60kg of forces to the neck
Forward Facing = 180-220kg forces to the neck
This is the main reason why our children should be travelling in a rear facing car seat for as long as physically possible and until an absolute of minimum of 4 years old. It’s a fact that the most common type of collision is a frontal impact and they are also the most dangerous due to the higher speeds involved. The mass of anything in the car is multiplied by the speed at which you are travelling so if a child is forward facing, the forces placed on the neck are 5 TIMES higher than if they were rear facing. This is why it’s considered 5 times safer to keep children rear facing and the risk of serious injury or death is reduced by up to 90%! There are many common misconceptions surrounding extended rear facing seats outlined here;
Won’t my child be bored rear facing?
The truth is that the child doesn’t know any different and at the age of approx 1 year old when this transition typically takes place, they can’t express a preferance either way. You can use a mirror to keep an eye on them (you’ll probably find they also like looking at themselves too!) Also, they will have an excellent field of vision out of the side windows and the rear window, particularly in thee more elevated and upright position of ERF seats. Many can often be installed safely in the front passenger seat providing the airbag can be switched off and the vehicle manual allows. This can be particularly useful if you’re the only adult in the car or you’re embarking on a long journey
Where will their legs go?
A lot of people think a baby is outgrown an infant carrier when their legs begin to creep over the edge of the seat and so therefore often go straight into a forward facing seat as soon as the law allows thinking it’ll be more comfortable. Childrens skeletons are mostly made of cartilage and so are much more flexible than adults. Think about when your child is playing on the floor, they don’t typically have their legs outstretched and prefer to sit with their legs crossed or feet underneath them. Similarly when they’re in a highchair, you will often have a foot rest to stop their legs dangling uncomfortably which is exactly what could happen in a forward facing seat, especially on long journey’s. In a rear facing seat, children will usually find a comfortable position which fully supports their legs and in larger extended rear facing seats there is often the option of having them in a position which allows them to bend their knees over the edge of the seat like an adult would on a chair.
I have a small car, a bigger rear facing seat won’t fit will it?
This is also a myth, the larger rear facing seats typically sit in a more upright position as they cater to a higher weight and often designed for older children who don’t require the more reclined position that infant carriers offer. Forward facing seats actually need more room than you may think to prevent injury to a child in an accident. To ensure the child doesn’t end up hitting the seat in front of them, there needs to be a reasonable gap between the back of the child seat and the seat in front (55cm to be exact). So, if you have a tall person in the front, they’re more likely to be able to have their seat further back when using a rear facing seat as most allow the vehicle seat to rest lightly on the back of it.
I only go on short journey’s or the seat is only used occasionally, surely i don’t need to worry?
Sadly, many accidents happen within 5 miles of your home at low speeds so it’s very important to always protect your child in the safest way possible on every single trip.
Won’t my child be more likely to get travel sick if rear facing?
Some people are naturally more susceptible to motion sickness and will suffer from a young age into adulthood. It occurs when the brain receives mixed messages as the car is moving but they are still. This will still happen if they’re placed in a forward facing seat. Children’s sense of balance isn’t fully developed until round 4 years of age so if they’re going to suffer from direction related sickness then it’s likely to be later when it is safer to use a forward facing seat if necessary.