RAC Cars News


Forward Facing Child Seats And Safety Issues

By raccars Published

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Concern is growing that British parents start using forward facing child seats too early.

Current government recommendations in the UK suggest children can safely use forward facing seats from the age of nine months or 9kg in weight and when they can support their own head safely. But a new European standard recommends that rear facing child seats be used until at least the age of 15 months. Crash testing organisation, Euro NCAP, trials a variety of car seats using dummies representing 18 month old and three year old children. As a result of its testing procedures, it advises keeping children in rear facing seats until three years old.

In Scandinavia, parents take the safety standard even higher by using extended rear facing child seats until the age of four. Car manufacturer, Volvo, famous for its emphasis on safety, also believes it makes sense to delay using forward facing child seats as long as possible. It cites a German study, showing a rise in child passenger fatalities at the age of 12 months, which Volvo believes is at least in part attributable to the fact that German parents tend to adopt forward facing child seats at this age.

It seems British parents' reluctance to keep their older infants rear facing is due to a combination of factors, including a fear that the children will get bored, will not have enough legroom and cannot be easily seen by the adults in the front. Rear facing seats are also unpopular as they are notoriously difficult to fit correctly. However, it's hard to argue with the safety advantage. The British Medical Journal has published research, claiming that forward facing child seats subject the infant's body, particularly the spine and neck, to extra stress in the event of an accident, as a result of a younger baby's disproportionately sized head. By contrast, rear facing child seats offer better alignment for the spine, neck and head and distribute crash forces more evenly.

Fortunately, more rear facing child seats are becoming available in the UK, including some labelled 'i-Size,' which means they are compliant with the new European standard. At this stage, however, parents are obliged to search out suitable models as shops do not appear to be actively promoting the i-Size system. Look for models which can be used with an Isofix base, which are slotted into anchor points in cars for easy fitting, and ask the seller for fitting advice. Check that any seat you plan to buy is compatible with the amount of space in your car.

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