The low down by missdashboard

What happens at the moment:

Like many of us, after our little bundles of joy start getting bigger we think they’d like to be able to see more – and moving to a forward facing car seat is often seen as a developmental next-step. But, please, for the sake of our children, think again.

According to Which? magazine, in the UK baby deaths in car crashes are relatively low, but worringly after the age of about one, when many babies are moved to forward facing car seats there is a significant increase in the death rate

The worst accidents are “head on” – where you’re hit at the front of your car. These are also the most common and tend to take place at the highest speeds. In such an accident, a child in a front facing car seat will be propelled forward significantly before being thrown back, hitting their head and neck on the back of their seat. Figures suggest that the equivalent force of this is approx. 300kg, as opposed to 50kg if the child is rear facing.

UK Law

The guidelines on the UK government website  are purely prescriptive and offer no advice or statistics on the benefits of rear facing car seats for young children. They do at least state that rear facing baby seats must be used for babies whose average weight is that of a child aged 12-18 months.

They state that:

  • rear facing baby seats (Group 0+) must be used for babies up to 13kg (two stone) – approx. 12-18 months
  • from 9-18kg (1 stone 5lbs to 2 stone 11) rear or forward facing seats can (Group 1) be used – approx. up to 4 years
  • from 15kg -25kg of weight (Group 2/3) forward facing car seats (booster seats) are used – approx. sup to six years

Chances of change

In the UK, change seems to be happening slowly. Initially, the only rear facing seats available from manufacturers were in the Group 0+ category, but it is now possible to choose from a wider selection of “extended rear-facing seats” in Group 1 and Group 2.

It is still very much “a chicken and egg” scenario, as manufacturers won’t market car seats that are not being endorsed as being required by law.

In July 2013 a new child car seat regulation umber 129 was introduced, stating that children must remain forward facing until they’re 15 months old – which is three to six months longer than many parents currently use such seats. But – this is only law for ISOFIX car seats – in other words, if you secure your car seat purely with a seat belt, there is no legal requirement to upgrade.

i-size car seats

The seats that adhere to the new regulation 129 are known as i-size car seats. They do still have problems, mainly due to the fitting, but also in some cases due to lack of leg-room – either for the child, or the adult in the front seat. I’d never recommend buying online, as they need to be properly fitted to work effectively. Again, Which? Have done a lot of testing on this, which you can read about here: www.which.co.uk/baby-and-child/baby-transport/guides/rear-facing-child-car-seats/rear-facing-child-car-seats—the-cons/

Manufacturers comments:

Best selling brand Maxi-cosi recommends that “Whilst [children] are still growing and the spine developing, it is recommended that baby travels in a rear facing travel seat.”

Britax says: “Rearward facing car seats offer the best protection in the event of frontal collision.”

So, extended rear facing…or not?

My advice would be to use your common sense, do your research and not just wait to follow new law. After all, bicycle helmets in the UK are still not a legal requirement, but who would let their child on a bike without one?

Follow Miss Dashboard on Twitter @MissDashboardUK for loads of useful blurb about cars. 50% of car drivers are women. It’s about time we wrote about them.