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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Inflatable car seat

Imagine how lovely it would be not to have a big, bulky car seat in the car.  But instead have an inflatable car seat that is easy to transport, doesn’t take up much room, keeps your child even safer by having them rear facing… and you can pack their car seat up in a little back pack when not in use!


Introducing a new concept from Volvo!



Inflatable Car Seat 1


This incredible concept is a rear facing inflatable car seat that is easily inflated or deflated in just 40 seconds!  It can pack up into a small backpack and weighs just 11 lbs - no more hulking around heavy car seats!  As it is a rear facing seat it even provides far greater protection to children than front facing seats!

Inflatable Car Seat 2


The possibilities of this seat are endless - it will be perfect as a spare seat for taking friends' children in the car, or you can pack it up and send your little one to nursery with it if they are getting picked up by someone else.  It is great for families who don’t have a car but want their child to have a car seat in a taxi.  It is also brilliant for holidays, hire cars or for family members vehicles, who perhaps don’t take the little one out enough to warrant their own seat - but enough to make transferring your seat a pain!

This seat is a concept in the US, Volvo UK do not know if it will be available for the UK market when and if it goes into production - but if this seat is just as safe as other rear facing seats, wouldn’t it be a great option!

Parents will naturally have a few concerns about a car seat that inflates.  The material will have to be puncture proof, and the button to inflate/deflate will need to be child proofed.  As well as it passing all the tests.

How would this make your life easier? Would you want to see this in the UK?  Comment below!

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Recent Comments
Guest — ERF Mama
I'm excited! We already have the 'bubblebum' so I'm very interested in following this if or when it goes into trials. ... Read More
Monday, 14 April 2014 18:27
Guest — Sofia
We just got a new car so that it would be safer when the baby comes. Now we have to fine the perfect seat! Do all seats fit in all... Read More
Friday, 29 August 2014 17:30
Guest — Good Egg Safety
Hi Sofia, see yesterday's blog post which touches on this question Read More
Thursday, 04 September 2014 13:48
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