Why rear-facing is safer
What happens in a crash
Car accidents happen every day. Statistically the most dangerous accidents are head-on impacts. They are the most common type of collisions, happen at higher speeds and exert the most severe forces. The best protection in a frontal collision is to be rear facing. At impact there is terrific stress on the neck, spine and internal organs. Rear-facing seats spread crash stress much better.
Children are much more vulnerable than adults to the forces experienced in a car crash. A child’s head is proportionally much heavier than an adult’s, (comprising 25% of its body weight compared to only 6% for an adult). They have weaker neck muscles, soft bones and their spine, skeleton are not fully developed until about 15 years.
A child travelling rear-facing is pushed further into the seat during a collision. The force of the impact is absorbed by the seat and spread evenly across the child’s body. This contrasts with the head of a forward-facing child, which is violently flung forward, with the impact force concentrated on the neck and where the harness touches the chest. Rear-facing seats cushion and limit the head's movement, reducing the force on the neck by up to 600%. They protect the brain, spine and internal organs, particularly the heart and spleen. They also protect the child from flying debris in the car.
Five times safer
Rear-facing car seats are up to five times safer for children. Independent research of actual traffic accidents by Folksam and Volvo show that rear-facing car seats reduce the risk of serious injury or death from 40% to just 8%. They show that for children aged up to four, only eight in every 100 were killed or seriously injured in dangerous accidents when sitting rear-facing. For forward-facing children of similar age, 40 of the 100 were killed or seriously injured. In Scandinavia, rear-facing seats have been used for decades and so child car fatalities are extremely rare.
Research in the British Medical Journal recommends rear facing up to at least 4 years of age. It showed that rear-facing seats provide the best protection for your child against excessive stretching or even snapping the spinal cord, which can result if a child is in a head-on crash. It found that rear facing seats are safer and advised parents to keep young children rear-facing for as long as possible.