Forward or rear facing?

Why rear face?

A Childs head makes up 25% of their weight compared with just 6% for an adult. So when they come to a sudden stop their extremely heavy head is thrown forward putting extreme pressure on their neck.
Consider having your body pinned back to a seat in a harness and having your head (weighing 18kg) thrown forward in a sudden stop… this is the effects on a child forward facing in a harness.

Research has shown that,

  • just 1/4″ stretch in a Childs neck is enough to sever the spinal cord
  • when forward facing in a crash the loads exerted on the neck are 180-300kg compared to 40-80kg rear facing
  • children are 75% less likely to suffer severe injury when rear facing
  • children are 90% less like to be fatally injured when rear facing

Why forward face?

Their legs have nowhere to go / it must be uncomfortable / surely their legs would break in a crash?
This is not the case. Children are far more flexible than adults and are generally much happier sat with their legs crossed than with them hanging out in front of them. Take a look at how your child sits at home when they are most comfortable, they are likely not sat with their legs hanging over the edge of the sofa. Consider yourself sitting on a bar stool with your legs just hanging down with nothing to rest your feet on, this is uncomfortable and what happens to a child when they are forward facing.
Research has shown that there are more leg injuries in forward facing children as a result of legs flying into the seat in front of them. Even if legs were to get slightly damaged or broken in the event of a collision, this is much better than a broken neck from forward facing.

We can’t fit a rear facing seat in the car – the car is too small or the driver / passenger is too tall
A common misconception is that forward facing is better for small cars as rear facing seats take up too much space or prevent you from being able to push the drivers and passenger seat back enough for comfortable leg room. However, what is often overlooked is that there is a minimum distance required between a forward facing car seat and the seat in front of it (55cm). This distance is what is needed as this is the space allowed for the dummy to be thrown forward during the crash testing. Without this gap children are at significant risk of being crushed by the seat in front of them.

Also, whilst there are many rear facing car seats that do take up significant room, there are many that do not require as much space. It is important to look around for the best and safest fit for your car and passengers.

It wouldn’t be legal if it wasn’t safe
You’d like to think if it wasn’t safe it wouldn’t be legal… however research has proved time and time again that rear facing is much safer and that forward facing in a harness or forward facing in an adult seat belt at a young age is not safe!
There are many other examples of things that are legal that are not safe (cigarettes & alcohol) so please do not be fooled in to thinking the law around car sears is adequate.

It’s easier to get the child in and out
Maybe, compared to some rear facing seats. However, there are plenty of rear facing options that have lower sides or more space to get the child in and out easily enough. They are also generally quite easy for children to climb in and out themselves once they are mobile.

We can’t afford a rear facing car seat, they are more expensive
Not all rear facing seats are in the higher price range. There are some budget seats that rear face and are much safer than a forward facing alternative.
Here at Bijou Baby we are on hand to help you make the safest decisions within your budget.

See our section on ‘why multistage seats are not what you think’ to understand more about why this is not a reason to forward face.

Forward facing seats have better designs / patterns
Sometimes yes they do… however you must ask yourself, “is a pretty pattern worth the risk that is associated with it?”
Also consider just how quickly children can change what they like…

Other people do it
One of the most common things I hear is that everyone else forward faces already, all the other kids at school forward face, my family all have their children forward facing.

Maybe they do, but why does that matter?
The more people that start to rear face to a safe age, the more normal it will become. Other kids may make fun of them in a ‘baby’ seat
I doubt other children will even notice if no one is making a big deal out of it or drawing attention to it.

I was always forward facing / my other children have all forward faced and everyone is OK
Thank goodness! Yes, many people have forward faced for a long time and thankfully never been in a serious crash to deal with the consequences of forward facing too soon. But that doesn’t mean it is any safer to do.
It is very easy to think that it won’t happen to you, but it could!

My child hates rear facing / they can’t see me / they can’t see out of the window / surely they’ll get bored
This is a really common one and can be difficult to deal with. Often a child has been told they can turn around like an older sibling at a certain age so going beyond that age can be tricky. Trying to make sure you explain why they are going to rear face can be helpful here. You can also sweeten the deal by pointing out how much more comfortable it is to have your feet up in a rear facing seat.

It is also common for children to dislike rear facing if they can’t see out of the windows, most rear facing seats actually give a much better view out of the windows than forward facing seats. This is because they sit higher and facing the back window which is unobstructed. Making sure you have a good seat / car combination can really help here. Another reason it is important to try out different seats in your car before picking one.

What about rear end collisions?

Rear facing in a rear end collision is not the same as forward facing in a frontal collision. This is due to the difference in forces being applied.
When travelling forward and coming to a sudden stop you are thrown forwards as you have not stopped moving but the vehicle has. If you are travelling forward and someone crashes in to the back end of your car you are still going forward and the force is the same, similarly if you are stationary and someone crashes in to your back end, you will still be thrown forwards.
Not to mention the fact that rear end collisions generally happen at much slower speeds and rear end collisions only make up about 5% of all collisions resulting in serious injury or death.

The only rear end impact that would have the opposite effect would be when reversing into something, and hopefully you are not driving around in reverse at 30+mph…

But where do their legs go?

Absolutely anywhere they want!

When is my child ready to forward face?

At Bijou Baby we recommend rear facing for as long as possible, until your child is ready to move in to a high back booster with an adult seat belt.

So when is this?

We believe a golden age to get to rear facing is 6 years, however we appreciate this is not always possible based on a child’s size and not everyone wants to rear face that long.

So the earliest we would recommend moving to a HBB is 5 years.

This is based on two things,

  • Development. Children’s bones are not fully developed until 4-6 years old meaning their pelvis cannot withstand the pressure of a seatbelt. This could lead to a child submarining (this is where they would slip underneath the lap part of the seat belt).
  • Maturity. Sitting with an adult seatbelt requires a cild to sit still, without slouching, leaning or fiddling. No playing with the seat belt, undoing the buckle, pulling the belt loose etc.. It also requires them to stay sat up right if they’re dozing off and not lifting their legs up and folding them. This is a great undertaking for any child, particularly under the age of 5.

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