Did you know that if your child’s car seat was forward facing and you were to have an accident their neck would be hit with the force of between 180kg-220kg? Whereas if they were to be rearward facing that force would reduce to 40kg-60kg?
Without exception, rearward facing is the safest way for babies and children to travel in a car. While Australian law states that children can legally move to a forward facing restraint from 6 months onwards, this legislation also states that children can be kept in rear-facing car seats until they are four years old. It is safest to have children continue to rearward face for as long as the car seat allows. The law is the minimum and a guideline only, not a rule. Lets face it – who wants to aim for the minimum safety for their child?
The choice to go with extended rear facing or switch to forward facing is a personal one that it is different for every family and every child however as professional restraint fitters we will always recommend rear facing for as long as possible.
Benefits of Extended Rear Facing
The benefits of extended rear facing really come down to safety. If you were in a collision your child will be safer in a rear facing position. This is because of the way the car seat cushions the body in a rear facing versus forward facing position.
Rearward facing restraints are better designed to support a child’s head, neck and spine in the event of a crash. Upon impact, your child’s body is cocooned in the restraint while the forces of the collision are distributed across the shell of the seat. In a forward facing seat, a child’s head and body is thrust forward with the crash forces, and the harness is the main point of contact.
In children, this forward motion has the potential to cause serious injury as their muscles and bones are not yet developed enough to support themselves from the impact, unlike an adults body. Many parents turn their babies forward facing at 6 months old believing it’s a milestone, however it is always much safer to keep them rearward facing for as long as you can.
A video showing the difference between rear and forward facing can be viewed here:
Neuroscience Research Australia and Kidsafe recently released the National Guidelines for the Safe Restraint of Children Travelling in Motor Vehicles report, which outlined why rear facing options are safer for children up to the age of four.
“Rear facing restraints are highly effective in preventing injuries if used correctly because they fully support the child’s head and neck in the event of a crash,” the report says.
Rear facing height limits
When considering when to turn your child’s seat forward facing, your child’s height is more important than their age. If your child’s shoulders do not yet reach the shoulder height markers on their car seat, then they must stay rear facing. Once their shoulders reach the upper height markers, it is time to turn the car seat around or consider an alternative restraint if you wish to continue rear facing. There are quite a lot of seats on the market that allow for extended rear facing including this range from Infa Secure:
All of our Extended Rearward Facing Car Seats!
Where do their legs go?
Many parents worry about their child being uncomfortable or unable to find a safe position for their legs when they are rear facing. It is perfectly safe for their legs to touch the back of the seat in front. Children will find a comfortable way to sit and their legs are not at any greater risk in this position.
If you have any questions or need guidance about carseat choices or installation you can speak to one of our accredited restraint fitters by phone on 1300 859 775.