Why children should travel rear facing as long as possible

Children’s bodies change as they grow. Different types of car seat and booster seats are made to support the child’s growth.


Note: Many child passenger safety body or organisation recommend children remain in rear facing car seats for AS LONG AS POSSIBLE and until they reach the top height or weight limit allowed by the car seat manufacturer.
  • While great strides have been made in reducing child fatalities and injuries since the 1970’s, over half of children killed are either improperly restrained or unrestrained (FARS: Fatality Analysis Reporting System, NHTSA, 2007)
  • Rear-facing only seats are engineered to distribute the forces of a crash across the entire head and body of an infant and young child. The harnesses are attached snugly to keep child from sliding up the back of the seat and from flying out of the seat in a crash.
  • A rear-facing car seat supports the entire head, neck, and back of a child in a frontal crash. A young child’s head is larger and heavier in proportion to his body than that of an older child. In a frontal crash, the head moves abruptly forward placing increased forces on the neck but when a child is properly restrained rear-facing, the head moves with the seat reducing the risk for a neck and spine injury.
Children’s head to body proportion
  • It’s a common myth that when a child’s feet or legs reach the back of the vehicle seat, he or she is at increased risk for a lower-extremity injury. Lower extremity injuries are rare for children who ride rear-facing. Children can easily sit with their legs crossed or on the back of the seat. Lower extremity injuries heal more easily and completely than injuries to the brain and spinal cord.
  • In a frontal crash, the rear-facing car seat cradles and moves with the child. It is the shell of the car seat itself that absorbs the forces.
  • Children in the second year of life are five times less likely to die or be seriously injured in a crash if restrained rear-facing (Henary B, Sherwood C, Crandall J, et al Car Safety for Children: Rear-Facing for Best Protection. Injury Prevention, 2007). The forces of the crash are completely distributed throughout the torso and head and the seat appears to provide a cocoon effect for the child.
  • Parents are reminded that they do not watch their child every minute while sleeping, and that, if there is great concern about not being able to see the child when rear-facing, they can arrange for another adult to sit beside the child in the back seat. Drivers should drive and they cannot simultaneously perform child care.

Check the respective car seat specifications in terms of the rear-facing weight limits. Each car seats are different and has different specifications. It is very important to read the car seat manual and car owner manual so that you use the car seat correctly and installed it at the right place.

Remember, the best way to protect children in the car is to put them in the right seat at the right time, and use it the right way!

Check this video to see the difference between rear-facing and forward-facing position in a frontal collision.

Reviewed by Theresa J

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