The Good Egg Car Safety Blog

Which is safer; extended rear-facing or forward-facing?

One of the most common questions our Good Egg Safety experts receive from parents is in relation to extended rear-facing versus forward-facing and it can stimulate quite a lot of debate.

It's understandable some parents believe it's safe to forward-face their baby from nine kg onwards because seats which are made to the older regulation ECE R44/04 allow this by law.

Newer regulation seats ECE R129 (which includes i-size) makes it illegal to forward face until a child is at least fifteen months old. This crucial difference between regulations can create confusion. 

As a leading child safety specialist, we are primarily focused on 'best practice' which is not the same as the legal minimum. We prefer to look at the evidence and then enable parents to make an informed choice.

The evidence shows us the safest option of travel is to rear-face your child, ideally until they are at least four years old.

The reason is simple and it relates to the physiology of your precious and irreplaceable child.

Babies and toddlers are especially vulnerable in a collision because their heads are disproportionately heavy in relation to the rest of their body and their neck muscles are not fully developed. Frontal impact tests show that the strain on the neck is many times greater when the child is sitting forward-facing compared to when sitting rear facing.

The reason for this is in a collision everything continues to travel towards the point of impact at the speed the vehicle was moving. In a forward-facing car seat, the ISOFIX anchorage or the seatbelt stops the continued movement of the child seat, while the restraints (harness or impact shield), stop the child.

The continued momentum of the child's head is stopped by their neck, and finally the movement of their brain is stopped by their skull.

In a rear-facing seat, the shell of the seat stops the body and maintains the alignment of the head, neck and body, so the forces imposed on the components of the neck and spine are much lower.

In a forward-facing seat, your childs neck would be subjected to a force equivalent to 300kg-320kg (47-50 stone) at speeds of only 35mph, while in a rear-facing seat, the force on their neck would be equivalent to only 50kg.

This is why the gold standard Swedish Plus Test (Sweden are world leaders in child car safety) generally only tests rear-facing seats because forward-facing seats wouldn't come close to passing it.

No matter how well made a forward-facing seat is, in a frontal (head on) collision - which is the most common and the most dangerous - a childs head and neck gets thrown forward with great velocity and the risk of serious head and neck injuries are higher.

The seven vertebrae of the neck provide the main structure around the nerves of the spinal cord, which connect to the brain in the highest part of the neck. The vertebrae in the spine, the spinal cord and the nerves all have a degree of flexibility, but when the immense forces of a sudden impact are imposed on a child's delicate body, there is a significant risk of breakage and injury to the spinal cord.

In rare cases, what is medically referred to as atlanto-occipital dislocation (e.g internal decapitation), can occur.

These alarming news articles explain it more fully:

The use of a correct rear-facing child car seat will almost eliminate the risk of serious neurological damage and death in young children and the evidence for this can be found in the almost zero child occupant casualties recorded in Scandinavian countries where rear-facing is the cultural norm compared to countries where forward-facing from 9kg is more common.

Ultimately, providing your child seat meets the legal requirement, which as you can see differs between concurrent ECE regulations, it is your choice to make. 

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Child seat group stages

For child car seats to legally be sold in the UK, they must pass various tests and gain recognised approval. To be sold, they can be approved to R44.04, which is a regulation that has been running for some years, or they can be tested under the new R129 (i-Size) standard, which was established in summer 2013.

This blog looks at the different group stages for R44.04 child car seats, along with the weight and the height limits that you should take into consideration. There are three main group stages and also combination group stages to create multi stage, longer lasting seats.

Group 0+

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What are group 123 car seats

A group 123 car seat is a combination seat that is approved for children weighing 9kg, and it will last them right through, until they no longer need a child seat. They are often an economical solution, as they last a long time.

Group 123 car seats are generally forward facing, although there are some which now allow your child to be rear facing to 13kg or 18kg. Your little one is safest rear facing for as long as possible.

There are different options to consider when choosing a group 123:

  • ISOFIX or seat belt fitment
  • Harness or Impact Shield
  • Recline

ISOFIX or Seat Belt Fitment

It is more common for group 123 car seats to be fitted with the adult seat belt, however there are some ISOFIX + Top Tether group 123 car seats available. Both methods of fitment are safe, however ISOFIX is considered safer as it reduces the risk of incorrect fitment.

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Extended Rear Facing Car Seats

Extended Rear Facing Car Seats

An extended rear facing child car seat, is a seat which allows a child to travel rear facing for longer, usually up to 4 years of age. These seats have been used in Sweden since the 1960's, and over the past few years, they have become increasingly popular in the UK due to their excellent safety offering.

ISOFIX, or seat belt fitted?

Extended rear facing car seats are available with ISOFIX, and there are also seat belt options available. ISOFIX extended rear facing car seats have an 18kg weight limit (i-Size seats may differ), and some belt fitted rear facing seats have an 18kg weight limit. There are also many seat belt fitted seats which have a 25kg weight limit.

The group stages available to rear face:

Group 0+1 – 0-18kg
Group 1 – 9-18kg
Group 1,2 – 9-25kg

Combination, or rear facing only?

Some extended rear facing seats will allow the option of putting your child rear or forward facing, where others can only be fitted rear facing.


Extended rear facing car seats are currently tested to R44.04. Many iSize child car seats which are approved to R129 will offer longer rear facing, up to approximately 4 years old (105cm). Some rear facing only car seats may also have passed the Swedish Plus Test.

Additional fitment

Leg Room

One of the most common questions asked about keeping children rear facing is "Where will their legs go?" While children are very flexible and comfortable in a rear facing seat, it can look quite odd to adults. There are seats available which have extended leg room options, which is usually achieved by adjusting where the seat is fitted on the vehicle seat.

Three rear-facing children
If children feel the need to stretch out their legs, they can stretch them up the back of the vehicle seat.

What is the best extended rear facing seat to buy?

What is the best seat for you, will depend on your vehicle, your child and your family situation. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Method of fitment – There is no safety difference between a properly fitted belted seat, and ISOFIX seat, however ISOFIX is considered safer as it reduces the risk of incorrect fitment. Belt fitted extended rear facing seats can be more difficult to fit.
    With any method of fitment you choose, be sure to seek professional advice and fitting help, read the manual and practice fitting the seat so you are confident with it.
  • Combination or rear facing only – Do you want to have the option of using the seat forward facing 'just in case', or are you 100% sure that your little one will be rear facing up until the limit of the seat? Take this into account when choosing your seat, if you aren't completely sure you will be rear facing until 4, you may want to opt for a combination seat. Similarly, if you know you definitely will be rear facing to the limit, you may want to consider a rear facing only seat, as these can often be cheaper!
  • Additional fitment – Almost all extended rear facing car seats are classed as semi-universal, and they will have a vehicle compatibility list available online. Before you buy your seat, check that every car the seat will be used in is on the compatibility list.
  • Is your child tall or heavy for their age? – Child seats with an 18kg limit will accommodate most children to around age 4. If your child is likely to reach 18kg long before their 4th birthday, a seat with a 25kg harness limit will give you better longevity.  You may also want to consider a 25kg harness limit seat if you wish to rear face beyond 4 years of age.
  • Where to buy – extended rear facing car seats are becoming increasingly available in major retail stores. However, you are more likely to find them in your local independent nursery retail shop.  Phone up local stores to see what they have in stock, and if they are trained to show you how to safely fit the seat.
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Group 1,2 rear facing car seats


What is a group 1, 2 extended rear facing car seat?

A group 1, 2 car seat is a combination group seat which can accommodate a child from 9kg through to 25kg.  They are called extended rear facing as they typically keep children rear facing to 25kg, around 6 years old.  This stage seat can be used after the group 0+ infant seat has been outgrown, it is an alternative option to forward facing group 1 car seats.

The seat is normally outgrown when the child’s eyes are level with the top of the car seat, although it is important to check the manual for the seat.

Extended rear facing BeSafe iZi Plus, which has a 0 - 25kg weight limit, approx 6 months to 6 years.


Extended rear facing BeSafe iZi Plus, which has a 0 - 25kg weight limit, approx 6 months to 6 years.

Why would you keep a child rear facing after the infant seat?

Traditionally, children in the UK are moved up to a forward facing seat once they hit 20lbs or 9kg, yet they are much safer travelling rear facing. In Sweden, children have travelled rear facing until they are 4 years old since the 1960’s, and they have extremely low numbers of children getting killed or injured in road traffic collisions.

Rear facing car seats after the infant seat allow children to be better protected from the forces of a collision.

In an impact, a forward facing child is restrained by the 5 point harness or impact shield.  The harness or shield stops their body travelling forward when the vehicle crashes, restraining them in their child seat. However, their head is not restrained and continues travelling forward.  A young child’s head is 25% of his or her body weight, and in a collision this puts large amounts of force and pressure on their fragile neck and spine.


A 9kg child in a forward facing car seat.  Although this is legal, it is not as safe as rear facing.


When a child is rear facing, they are pushed back into their child seat, which keeps their head, neck and spine aligned.  This greatly reduces the force their body is subject to, as it is spread through the back of the child seat.


Elena Car Seats 022


Extended rear facing child seats also carry other benefits, such as view, comfort and a reduction in driver distraction.


The view

Many parents and carers are concerned a child will have an obstructed view when travelling in an extended rear facing car seat.  This is understandable, as we are so used to seeing babies in little infant seats facing the vehicle seat.  However extended rear facing seats are higher up and set further back than infant seats, giving a child a fantastic view out of the back and side windows.





Rear facing car seats offer just as much comfort as forward facing car seats, and have all the same features such as great recline options, head support and softly padded covers.  They offer the same comfort and support for younger babies, and for older children, rear facing car seats can be more comfortable as their legs are fully supported, rather than hanging off the end of the seat.  Many extended rear facing car seats leave a gap for leg room.

three asleep




Driver distraction

This is an important safety benefit of rear facing car seats, in that they can reduce driver distraction.  A recent study has shown that children are up to 12 TIMES more distracting in a car than a mobile phone!  The study found that on the average 16 minute journey with kids in the car, drivers took their eyes off the road for a total of 3 minutes.  A rear facing child presents less of a distraction, and a rear facing mirror can help you check that they are OK (when it’s safe to do so, of course!)


Are forward facing car seats dangerous?

No, forward facing car seats don’t put children in danger – they have hugely reduced the number of children who are killed or seriously injured in road traffic collisions in the UK.  However, they are not as safe as rear facing car seats, due to the physics involved in a collision.  It is important to rear face your child for as long as possible, at least until the maximum weight and height limit of their group 0+ car seat – this is when they weigh 13kg, or when the top of their head is level with the top of the seat, approximately 12-18 months.  If your child is outgrowing their infant seat by height, but has not yet reached 13kg, a group 0+1 combination seat can be a good option to allow you to continue the benefits of rear facing.


R129 i-Size

R129 is the newest legislation for child seats, and it is different from standard R44 seats in several ways:

1)    The crash dummy has been updated – the crash dummy can now measure more points of force on a child’s body than the dummy used in R44 testing.  This now includes being able to measure neck loading, which R44 dummies cannot do.  This data has shown that a child who weighs 9kg and is 9 months old is not protected in a forward facing seat, and that they are far safer rear facing.

2)    Children must rear face to 15 months by law in an i-Size car seat – this will eventually apply across all seats.  Even if you don’t have an i-Size car seat, you can still rear face your child for longer in a group 0+1, or group 1, 2 car seat.

3)    A new mandatory side impact test has been introduced.  This is not tested under R44.04.

4)    The seats are selected by height, over weight.

5)    The harness must be easy to adjust, and the covers simple to remove – this will be music to the ears of anyone who has spent a Saturday afternoon fighting the car seat cover!


Are they more difficult to fit? 

Yes, extended rear facing car seats can be more difficult to fit, although it does depend on what seat you get.  A majority of extended rear facing car seats have additional tether straps which must be fitted.  Once your tether straps are fitted into your car however, they simply click to the attachments on the child seat.  If you will be moving the seat between vehicles, we recommend buying a spare set of tether straps to leave fitted in the second car to reduce fitting time to that of a 'regular' car seat.

TWE tethers OL

Axkid tethers OL


Where can you buy them?

Although there is a good choice of rear facing group 1, 2 car seats available, you are unlikely to find them in major retail stores.  Extended rear facing car seats are typically available from independent retail stores.

You will find extended rear facing car seats available online, however Good Egg Safety discourages online buying as you will not have a member of staff to show you how to fit your seat in the car.

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What is a group 1 car seat?

Group 1 car seats

Group 1 car seats accommodate little ones that weigh between 9kg and 18kg.  After reading the previous Good Egg blog on group 0+ child car seats, you may have noticed that there is a crossover in the weight recommendations.  A rear facing group 0+ child seat will last until 13kg, yet a group 1 car seat says it is suitable from 9kg!  So are they just as safe as each other?

The simple answer is No.  Forward facing your baby at 9kg is not as safe as keeping them rear facing to 13kg.

If your child is moving up to a group 0+1 combination seat in rear facing mode, or an extended rear facing group 1 seat at 9kg, this isn’t such an issue as they still have the protection of being rear facing.


So when should you move to the next stage?

The infant seat should be used right up to the 13kg mark.  The only time a child should move to the next stage seat before this weight is reached, is if they have outgrown the infant carrier by height – so when the top of their head is level with the top of the car seat.

If they are moving up to a group 1 car seat and have outgrown their infant carrier by height they must weigh at least 9kg and be able to sit unaided for 30 minutes.


What to look for in a group 1 car seat.

Many people assume that a group 1 car seat has to be forward facing, however there are rear facing group 1 car seats available, which offer better protection for the neck, head and spine in a collision.  Many rear facing group 1 car seats encompass more than one group, covering either group 0+1 or group 1,2.   Extended rear facing car seats will be covered in greater detail in a separate post, due to be released soon.


Forward facing





Rear facing

be safe car seats-533x533

Once you decide which direction you are going to face your child, you need to choose your seat - but there are a few things to do first!  At Good Egg Safety, we recommend you visit a retailer that can offer good advice from trained staff members.  Some retailers offer appointments, so call in advance to make sure there will be someone available to help you.

What information you need to take with you:

1. Your child's weight

2. Your child's height (where their head is in relation to the top of their current seat - do they have space above their head?  Are their eyes level with the top of the seat?) Preferably, have your little one with you so you can try them in seats.

3. Your car details, and details of any other cars the seat will be fitted into (including friends, childminders, grandparents) you will need to know the make, model and year of each car.

4. Do the vehicles that the seat will be fitted into all have ISOFIX?


 Features and benefits:

There are big price differences between car seats, so what should you look out for to make sure you spend your money wisely?

ISOFIX or seat belt fitment?


isofix 2

If you have ISOFIX points in your car, you will be able to consider ISOFIX car seats.   When ISOFIX and seat belt fitted restraints have been tested, with both seats fitted correctly, there is little reported difference in performance and protection offered - both ISOFIX and seat belt fitted restraints perform well.

ISOFIX is considered safer as it dramatically reduces the risk of child car seats being fitted incorrectly.  Many come with indicators to show when the seat is clicked in properly for complete peace of mind.


If you opt for an ISOFIX seat, make sure that you check the vehicle fitting list to confirm that the child seat is compatible with your car.


Tension system and easy to fit.


If you are choosing a seat belt fitted car seat, consider seats that have a seat belt tension system and ones that are easy to fit.  Some car seats are more difficult to fit than others, so don't be afraid to ask to have a go at fitting each seat if you have a few options!  It is important that you are fully confident fitting your child's car seat. Opting for one that is easy to fit will reduce the possibility of it being incorrectly fitted.

A seat belt tension system on a seat belt fitted restraint does exactly what it says - it tensions the seat belt once the seat is fitted.  This extra tension is normally applied by pushing a lever or by operating  a 'ratchet' to tighten the seat belt up.  This helps you get a good, tight fit on your car seat and reduces the risk of the seat belt being too slack - which is why a seat belt tension child restraint is safer than one without.

Side impact protection


Side Wings

Lots of people assume that child car seats provide side impact protection as standard, but it is currently not a legal requirement on the R44.04 crash test and there are seats on the market which do not offer any side impact protection.

So how do you ensure your car seat does offer side impact protection? 

1. Look for child seats that have a full, integrated head rest.  This will help support your child's head and will give another layer of protection in a side impact.

2. Look at child seats that have deep, padded side wings - this is a good indicator that they may offer side impact protection.

3. Check what crash test awards a seat has received.  A seat that has been awarded an ADAC or Stiftung Warentest score has been side impact tested.  These additional tests not only test how the seat performs in a side impact, but it also tests at a higher frontal impact force.  The ADAC and Stiftung Warentest awards give a car seat a score, the lower the score the better the seat performed.  The ratings run from poor to very good.

4. New i-Size regulations and crash testing have now introduced a side impact test, so if you purchase an i-Size car seat, you can be reassured that it has passed the test and offers protection from side impacts.

Adjustable headrest and harness


Child seats come with the 5 point harness which restrains the child, and the harness will have the ability to increase in height as your child grows.  There are two ways this can be done on a child seat.  Either by unhooking the straps at the back of the seat and re-threading them, or by pulling the head rest up which will increase the harness height at the same time.

Choosing a seat with a harness that you can increase simply by pulling the headrest up removes the need to unhook and re-thread the harness.  This is a safety feature as it reduces the risk that the harness will become twisted, re-threaded at the incorrect height, or damaged.

Child seats with a re-thread harness typically only have 3 height options, whereas a harness that adjusts with the headrest normally offers 6 or 7 height options - this will reduce the likelihood that you will end up with the straps at the incorrect height whilst you are waiting for your child to grow into the next slots.

This is also a useful feature for people who will use the seat for a number of children.


Recline option


Most group 1 car seats come with the option to recline the seat.  This offers a more comfortable position for the child to sleep.  It does not make the child safer if they're reclined and there is not normally an age or weight limit on using the recline function.

When deciding which car seat to buy, ensure the recline function is easy to operate and that it does not alter the seat belt routing.  On some child seats, you must preset the recline when you fit the seat, as operating it once the seat is fitted causes the seat belt to loosen off.


Easy to remove, washable seat covers


30 wash

Ensure the seat you are buying has the option to wash the seat covers, but that the seat covers are easy to remove from the seat.  If you have to undo half of the car seat and pull out all the harness to get the covers off, it is possible that the seat will be put back together incorrectly.  Choosing a seat that lets you leave the harness in place when you remove the covers reduces the risk of the harness becoming twisted or incorrectly fitted.

For convenience, check that the covers are machine washable at 30 degrees.

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What is a group 0+1 car seat?


Group 0+1 car seats are a combination of group 0 or 0+ and group 1. They backward face until 10kg for group 0 or until 13kg for group 0+, they then either remain rear facing to 18kg, or can be used forward facing 9-18kg, depending on the seat.  It is vitally important that you read your car seat manual so you are fully aware of how long your seat can backward face.



How are group 0+1 car seats different to group 0+ car seats?

Group 0+1 car seats are different in several ways.  Firstly, they are not portable like the infant carrier seats and generally stay fitted in the car at all times.  When a baby is asleep it would be difficult to remove the group 0+1 seat from the car without disturbing little one, so you’d have to take them out of the seat.  Unlike group 0+ car seats, group 0+1 seats are not used as part of a travel system.  They do however accommodate little ones from newborn right up to 18kg, which is approximately 4 years old.  They are generally well padded with a soft newborn insert and 5 point harness.

Group 0+1 car seat


Why use one?

There are several plus points for choosing a group 0+1 car seat.  They are generally around the same price as an infant carrier, but last much longer – making better value for money!  As they stay put in the car, you also have complete peace of mind that the car seat is fitted correctly on every journey.  Group 0+1 seats are particularly good for grandparent’s cars that may not take the baby out so often.  They can leave the seat fitted into the car so they don’t have to worry about fitting the seat themselves.  They are also a great choice for carers of children who need to use the seat for children of varying ages. As group 0+1 seats are a full sized group 1, it is very unlikely the baby will outgrow the seat by height when used backward facing.  This means that baby can stay in the safest rear facing position right up until they hit the rear facing weight limit for the seat!

Group 0+1 Blackboard



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What is a Group 0+ car seat?


A group 0+ car seat is 1 of 3 options you have for your baby’s first safety seat and can accommodate them from newborn all the way through to 13kg.  They are the most common first stage car seat and often form part of a ‘travel system’.

All babies, toddlers and children are required by law to travel in a suitable child restraint with very few exceptions.

The infant seat is backward facing, and ‘bucket’ like, cradling the baby with either a 3 or 5 point harness to strap them in.  You can expect to see a carry handle on the seat which has the dual purpose of allowing you to carry the baby into the house without disturbing them, and it also acts as a roll bar or rebound bar should you be involved in a collision.

Group 0+ Car Seat


Pros of using a group 0+ seat

There are many advantages of using a 0+ seat, rather than a group 0. Group 0+ seats will last longer than the group 0, as it has a 3kg higher weight limit – they can quite often last a baby until they are 12-18 months.  As they are rear facing, they offer maximum safety right up to 13kg.

The fitment of these seats makes them suitable for a wide range of cars, which is handy if the baby regularly travels in different vehicles.  They are also very portable, making it easy to take the seat between the car and house, or you can often clip them onto the pram.

The '90 Minute Maximum Rule' is the recommended amount of time a baby should spend in their car seat.  Ensure you take this into account when using your seat as part of your travel system.

Your baby must ALWAYS travel in their car seat when in the car, even if the journey is more than 90 minutes long; plan regular break stops so the little one can safely have time out of the seat.

Group 0+ seats also come with sunshades, newborn inserts and the carry handle.

Group 0+ car seat tip

Always check your child car seat's instruction on fitting – especially on the positioning of the carry handle!  The handle quite often acts as a roll bar or rebound bar, and it must be in the proper position at all times when in the car.


Choosing Group 0+ seat

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What is a Group 0 car seat?


The group 0 car seat is the very first stage and has the lowest weight range.


Car seat stages can be confusing at the best of times and trying to understand which seat does what and what that group number means can be very frustrating!


Child seats are grouped based on the weight of the child that they can accommodate.


As an example:  A group 0+ seat is suitable from newborn to 13kg rear facing, a group 1 seat can accommodate a child between 9-18kg forward facing or some rear facing.  Therefore if you wanted a seat that could carry your baby from newborn right through to 18kg, it would be referred to as a 'group 0+1' - as it covers both weight categories!


A group 0 car seat is suitable from newborn up to 10kg – approx. 6 months old.


These seats are generally lie-flat carriers, but there are some old rear facing infant seats and some  0-1 seats that only rear face to 10kg – so it’s very important to check your seat for its weight limit!


You can find your seats weight limit on the orange sticker (below), which will be on your restraint.

Group 0 car seat label


Benefits of a Group 0 car seat


Not only is the lie flat carrier suitable for use in the car, they also clip to the pram chassis – like the more common rear facing infant carrier does.  The big benefit that this has over the rear facing infant carrier is that there is no time restraint on how long baby can be in the seat.


As the group 0 car seat lies flat, it keeps the baby’s spine in the most natural position and also helps keep their lungs open, so they can breathe freely.  Due to this lie flat position, they are particularly good for premature or tiny babies.


Lie flat carriers can also double up as a day bed or as an over night travel bed – so they are very versatile!


The fitment of the seat places the baby’s head in the center of the car – the safest place.


Things to consider


Lie flat carriers can be much heavier than infant carriers so popping into a shop carrying the baby in the seat won’t be a frequent occurrence!  The seat will really need to either stay in the car or be put on the pram chassis.  Some of the seat options are also on the large side, making them too bulky to carry comfortably.


These seats can also be trickier to fit than rear facing infant carriers.  They generally have clips that attach to the adult seat belt, which then clips to the seat, securing it tightly in place (see below).  Some lie flat carriers may have an option of an ISOFIX base.


 Group 0 car seat belt

Lie flat carriers take up 2 seat spaces in the car.  This needs to be considered if you regularly take passengers in the back of the car or if you have other children.

Group 0 car seat


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