Why is Rear facing safer when travelling in car seats?

Rear facing has been known to be safer for our children in car seats for many years now - science cannot deny that they will come out of a crash better off than if they are forward facing, or worse not in any child car seat. 

A simple video shows the impact of forces on a child when forward facing and a child when rear facing - it seems the easiest way to show this!

Crash tests are done in multiple countries to show how a crash will impact on babies, toddlers and children as they develop. 

These crash tests have shown time and time again that rear facing reduces the impact on a child's body greatly. It supports and cradles the head, neck and spine - ensuring that the child's body moves with the forces rather than against it. 

While New Zealand does not necessarily have a law regarding rear facing - we do have a law which states you must "follow the manufactures requirements of the child restraint", and many of the convertible seats sold within NZ hold minimums to forward face (age, weight, height etc). 

The most likely crash that a vehicle will be involved in is a frontal crash on New Zealand roads - therefore in rear facing your child for as long as possible you are providing them the safest ride. After all - our roads are the most dangerous place we put our children, and we only get one chance to get it right! 

All convertible car seats come with rear facing limits, these will either be height or weight based, or both. Make sure you know these limits. 
The recommendation is always to continue to rear face your child until they have reached the limits of the seat - and then to turn them around. 

If you speak to Claire she will talk your ears off about the benefits of rear facing - or at least help you to understand. For the benefits of this blog we wanted to  keep it simple. 
The below image from carseats.se show the proportion of weight in a baby and child's body, versus an older child and then an adult - these are what make rear facing safer as they protect the child from the largest weight proportion moving without support. 

benefits of rear facing

This also is relevant for the size and density of the whole bone development system of a child. 

You will see in the image above how the vertebrae become more developed at around age 3-6 years. As a child grows their bones are more developed to withstand forces in a crash. 

So there is no law - what do I do?

Simple as this!

  • keep children rear facing until they reach the limits of their car seat
  • follow the international guidelines of rear facing until at least 2 years old, but preferably until 3 or 4 years old
  • ask a registered Child Restraint technician if you are unsure about rear facing or the limits of your car seat! 

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