I am a huge advocate for extended rear facing car seats. The introduction of i-size seats is beginning to raise much needed awareness of rear facing car seats but I still find that a lot of people (including parents) are very surprised when they see my three year old in his rear facing car seat. So in an effort to try and raise awareness of why extended rear facing might be right for families I’ve popped down my thoughts on the matter.
This blog post is quite a departure from my usual anecdotal posts and, without running the risk of sounding too preachy, I wanted to write it to highlight some options that parents, grandparents, carers, childcare providers may not know exist.
So why do I rear face my pre-schooler?
It may surprise a lot of people to discover I am actually extremely cautious by nature. Yes, I have surfed, rocked climbed, scuba dived and gone coasteering but the truth is I am a complete wimp! I hate this about my personality so force myself to do things that scare me. This cautiousness, coupled with the tendency to over think things, does mean I lap up any safety stats making me the Health & Safety Executive’s number one fan.
I was also involved in a very serious car accident in 2013 when a Land Rover Defender towing a 1.5 tonne mini digger lost control and hit my car head on in a 100 mph impact. Luckily, I was driving a beast of a vehicle (big love for Mitsubishi pick ups!) and I luckily walked away from the crash with only a broken collarbone and bruising.
Needless to say I am all too aware of how quickly a serious car accident can unfold so anything I can do to increase car safety and I’m there with bells on.
5 x safer
Rear facing car seats are 5 times safer than their forward facing counter parts – FACT!
The risk of severe injury is reduced from 40% (forward facing) to only 8% when rear facing. Securatot (more on these guys in a mo) put together this helpful infographic:
Children are physically not small adults. More specifically, their body proportions are completely different with the weight of their heads making up around 25% of their total body weight. Their skeletons are still growing and are soft and fairly malleable. Therefore, in a frontal collision when forward facing the force placed on their necks may cause their neck to over stretch causing major damage to their spine.
I’m not going to list all the safety aspects of rear facing (of which there are many) as the idea here is to just raise awareness but if you want to find out more Which have written a good article here and the Rear Facing UK website has some easy to digest facts here.
Sounds good, so where do I find myself a rear facing car seat?
Well …. this is the big question. If, like me, you got yourself knocked up, then thought “I need to get a car seat for the baby” you’re probably likely to head to Mothercare, Halfords or, if you live near bright lights and inner city pollution, possibly John Lewis.
Perfectly sensible thought process and there’s nothing wrong with these shops but (yes, there’s always a BUT) they can only sell you the car seats they stock. We trundled along to Mothercare to look for Seb’s group 1 car seat only to be told there were no rear facing car seats for toddlers that would fit our car and then given a choice of forward facing car seats.
Er …. hello Mr Rear Facing Car Seat:
Most high street shops choose not to sell tethered car seats. Seb’s car seat is the Axkid Minikid which can keep children rear facing up to 25kg (around age 5 or 6) but it does require the use of a foot prop and tether straps.
The car seat is literally tethered to the seat in front of it as well as strapped in using the back seat safety belt.
Never one to simply accept what I’ve been told, as soon as I was told my child couldn’t remain rear facing in my pickup I began a frantic Google search to find a solution. I was lucky as at the time, Securatot were still in business and a trip to their base near Swindon and I walked away with expert advice and a fab rear facing car seat. Securatot only sold rear facing car seats and offered free fitting advice (in person or via email or phone) and were committed to improving car seat safety awareness. Very sadly, as a small business they were unable to compete price wise with the big boys and last year had to close their doors. There are still a few rear facing car seat experts (I’ve been told the In Car Safety Centre are also very good) but I think the fact that Securatot closed highlights how little awareness and therefore demand there is for extended rear facing car seats. If Securatot were not in business when I was looking for car seats I probably would have had to settle for a forward facing seat as neither Mothercare or Halfords sell the Axkid Minikid. This post really isn’t a downer on these shops as they all stock the Joie Stages and Every Stage seat which are both good seats with rear facing capabilities up to 18kg, my point is simply, the options in these shops are not the only options out there.
Sounds good – so what are the downsides?
The single biggest issue with extended rear facing car seats is their size. The shell of the seats is really big and you can pretty much guarantee you will end up having to move your front seat forward to accommodate the seat. For me, loss of leg room in the front of the car is a small price to pay for the extra safety benefits however, if you have a really small car this may be a big issue for you.
I’m often asked “isn’t he uncomfortable?” and “where do his legs go?” but remember, children are much bendier than us adults and bigger children tend to simply cross their legs.
Providing you comply with the current law, quite frankly which way your child faces in the car and which car seat they’re sat in is no one’s business other than your own. However, I believe many parents are forward facing their children sooner than they would if they knew the safety stats and also the different options available. We need high street retailers to stock a larger range of seats so everyone has easy access to extended rear facing car seats (if they want it) and so that culturally, it becomes the norm. In Sweden most children remain rear facing until at least four and often up until the age of six. Their number of infant fatalities and major injuries in car accidents is lower than the UK’s, in fact it’s practically zero. This seems like a damn good thing to try and copy to me!
If you want to find a retailer with a fab selection of extended rear car seats here is a good place to start.