Frequently Asked Questions
Where Do Older Children Put Their Legs?
Most extended rear facing car seats are installed with a bit of a gap between the base of the seat and the back rest of the vehicle seat. How big that gap is depends on the space between the car's back and front seats. But even when there is not enough space for a large gap, children are happy to sit with their legs crossed or bent.
But Surely That Must Be Uncomfortable?
No, it isn't. Children's skeletons are still largely made of cartilage, and they are far more flexible than adults. Small children naturally sit with their legs bent, and when they are very little this is actually better for the development of their hips and spine. Even older children don't experience any discomfort when they sit like this.
Won't Their Legs Break In A Crash?
You often hear parents of rear facing children say that they would rather their children broke their legs instead of their neck. After all, broken legs can be fixed. But the reality is that there are no known cases of a rear facing child breaking their legs. It is however quite a common injury in forward facing car crash victims.
Don't They Get Bored If They Can't See Anything?
In a forward facing car seat installed behind the driver or passenger seat, all the child can see is the back of the front seat, with a limited view of the side window. In a rear facing car seat the child has a great view out of the side and rear windows.
But I Won't Be Able To See Them...
When you're driving you should concentrate on the road and not turn around to look at your child. If they are in a rear facing seat, you are far less likely to turn around to talk to them, which will make you a safer driver. There are mirrors available that you can attach to the vehicle seat's head rest. That way you can see your baby in the rear view mirror.
If your car's airbag can be switched off, it is also a good idea to put your baby in the front seat next to you. That way you can see each other while you're driving.
Won't They Get Car Sick?
Travel sickness occurs when your brain receives mixed messages, it has nothing to do with the direction of travel. Your body can feel movement, but because your eyes can only see the car's stationary interior, you feel nauseous. The effect is usually worse if you look down, for example to read a book, and when the car goes around corners or over bumps. Looking out of the window at the horizon can help.
A child who feels sick rear facing is just as likely to suffer car sickness in a forward facing seat. In a forward facing seat it may actually be worse, because the child has a more restricted view out of the window.
If Forward Facing Car Seats Are So Dangerous, Why Do They Sell Them?
All car seats sold in Europe have to pass the Standard ECE R44/04 test. This test is carried out by placing a 9kg dummy in a car seat, in a crash test vehicle. A bar is placed 55cm in front of the dummy and the car is crashed at 50kph. If the dummy's head does not hit the bar, the seat passes the test. But that test doesn't look at the loads on the child’s neck.
In Sweden they use an additional test called the Plus Test. It is carried out by the VTI (National Road and Transport Research Institute) and uses the newer Q-dummy that does measure the loads on the neck. Those loads are measured in Newton and need to be below 1300 for the child to avoid injury. This picture shows the results of forward facing seats in blue, and rear facing ones in pink. All forward facing seats tested, measured neck loads of between 1500 and 4500! Whereas all rear facing seats showed neck loads of below 1000. So the reason that they think it is ok to put a 9kg baby in a forward facing seat in the UK and many other countries, is simply that the tests that those seats pass do not show how dangerous they really are.
Is Rear Facing Not Dangerous If You Are Hit From Behind?
Rear end crashes only make up 5% of the total amount of car accidents, and usually occur at far lower speeds than frontal ones. 75% of all crashes are frontal and the remaining 20% are side impacts. You obviously need to use a seat that will protect your child in the most common types of collisions, which are frontal and side impacts. But even in a rear end collision a child is usually better off in a rear facing car seat. In a rear end collision both vehicles are moving in the same direction, which throws the car that is hit from behind, forward. This means that the forces of the crash are far lower than they are in a frontal impact where the vehicle comes to a sudden halt. In a rear facing seat, the child's vulnerable head is positioned towards the centre of the vehicle, away from the point of impact. So rear facing is safer in all types of crashes, the only time forward facing would have the same effect as rear facing, would be if you were to reverse into something at high speed, and that is extremely unlikely.
My Four Month-Old Baby Is Too Big For His Infant Carrier, What Do I Do Now?
Very often the reason that parents give for moving their young baby into a bigger forward facing seat, is that the baby has outgrown the infant carrier. This is however, extremely unlikely. Group 0+ car seats are designed to fit babies up to 13kg and around 75-85cm in length. Even the biggest babies on the top percentiles, won't reach that weight and length until they are around 12 months old. Clothes size 12-18 months fits babies who are 80-86cm tall, so as long as the baby still wears 12-18 months or smaller, they won't be too big for their car seat yet. An infant carrier can be used until the baby weighs 13kg, or the top of their head is level with the top edge of the seat. The straps are allowed to dip down below the baby's shoulders in their highest position, and their legs appearing 'too long' is fine too. The boy in this photograph is 18 months old. He is on the 90th percentiles for weight and height. That means that only 10% of all 18 month-old boys in the UK are bigger than him. And as you can see he still fits in this infant carrier really well.
What is ISOfix?
ISOfix is the International Standards Organisation's system for fitting child seats in cars without using the seat belt. The seat or base simply clicks into anchorage points which are located at the base of the vehicle seat's back rest. ISOfix was designed to make installing the seat quick and easy, and to reduce misuse through incorrect installation.
So Is ISOfix Safer Than A Seat Belt Installation?
For forward facing seats ISOfix is safer, because in a crash the seat belt can stretch, causing the seat to move. But because of the way that rear facing seats are installed, there is no difference in safety between belted installation and ISOfix, as long as the seat belt installation is done correctly.
Do Extended Rear Facing Seats Fit In Smaller Cars?
Yes they do. Some seats take up more space in the car than others, but it is nearly always possible to find a seat that will fit in your car. This picture shows an Axkid Minikid installed in a Mini Cooper.
Which Is The Best And Safest Seat?
The answer to this question is different for everybody. The most important thing is that your child uses a rear facing seat for as long as possible and preferably one which has passed the Swedish Plus Test. The seat's performance depends on two factors. Its compatibility with your car, and correct installation. Not every seat fits in every car, and a car seat will only protect your child in an accident if it is correctly fitted and used. This is why it is so important to try the seat of your choice in your car before you buy it, and to have it fitted by a trained car seat adviser.