Do experts agree that rearfacing is safer?

Yes, experts agree that rearfacing throughout the stage 1 period is much safer for your child. Which Magazine agree in principle but focus on what they percieve as very difficult installations and on the size of the seats and therefore tend to only recommend rear facing group 1 seats with ISOfix installation. ROSPA recommend that parents keep children rearfacing "for as long as possible" and have introduced a new page on their website dedicated to rear facing group 1 car seats. See our page [what the experts say] here for quotes from other experts.

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Aren't all forward facing car seats ECE tested and thus safe?

All seats have to pass tests to be approved for the UK market. The ECE test is developed by the UN. You can read in the facts section about how the test is carried out and what is included in the test. As a quick summary, the current ECE tests do not test the force the neck and head is subjected to in a crash, which means that the seat can pass the test without indicating at all what might happen to your child's neck and head in an accident.

In Scandinavia, rear facing car seats have been used for a long time and crash tests always measure the forces the body is subjected to, including the forces on the neck. These tests clearly show that children in rear facing car seats are subjected to five time less neck force than children in forward facing car seats. The internal organs are also protected to a greater extent.

All ECE tested seats are safe in the sense that they have passed the test but the difference between different seats is sometimes staggering. Research the seat you plan to buy in great depth before you buy it. Make sure that it fits your car and that your child is comfortable and well protected in it. And make sure that your child's head and neck, as well as internal organs, get the superior protection provided by a rearfacing group 1 car seat.

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My child can sit unaided for at least 20 minutes and has outgrown the infant seat. Is this not the right time to turn him/her forward facing?

Muscles control has got nothing to do with whether the child can cope in a forward facing car seat in an accident. The child's spine has not solidified and is soft. It might stretch and snap when the heavy head is flung forward in a collision. This is called internal decapitation. When rear facing, the child's body is caught by the back of the car seat and the head, neck and back are protected as the force of impact is distributed over the entire back area. The difference in force applied to the neck is staggering: 320kg when forward facing compared to 50kg when rear facing.

This crash test film shows the difference between forward facing and rear facing very clearly. Click here

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What about the legs? Will they have enough room in a rear facing seat?

There are no reported incidents of rear facing children hurting their legs. There are a multitude of reported incidents of children hurting their necks (or worse!) in forward facing car seats. Proper rear facing group 1 car seats are positioned so that there is space for the legs. Have a look at the pictures in the gallery to see what they look like.

There are links to research reports about injuries suffered by children here.

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Will my child be unhappy in a rear facing car seat?

Children that are have always been rear facing will not know any different and will be happy and content in their rear facing car seats. You can use the same stimulations you would use otherwise during a journey: toys, pictures hanging in front of the child, playing music or stories etc. If there are adults or older children in the back seat with the rear facing child, they can interact much better than if the child was in a forward facing seat, as they can look at each other and play together (without being able to hit each other as a little added bonus for less parental stress on journeys).

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Can the child see out the window in a rear facing seat?

Children in rear facing car seats can see as much out the side window as children in forward facing seats.

Obviously the child cannot see out the front windscreen, but then on the other hand neither can the forward facing child, unless s/he sits in the middle in the back seat or in the front seat, positions not really recommended when forward facing. The most important thing to remember is that safety is more important than having a good view.

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Can you use rear facing seats with ISOFIX?

Rear facing Isofix seats can be used where there are Isofix fittings in the car. In the back seat, it is mainly a question of space. The European ISO-group (who developed the Isofix standard) has developed a classification system for the available space in the car, and a corresponding size classification for the seats. This classification is included in ECE regulation 16. The biggest rear facing car seats are class "C", and if the car has "C-space", it can fit all existing car seats. "D" is for medium sized rear facing seats, and "E" is for the very smallest seats/cars.

It is more common with Isofix in the back seat but some newer cars also have Isofix fittings in the front seat. WARNING! Car seats can not be fitted in the front seat if there is an activated airbag installed!

Isofix can be used for car seats in ECE group 0, 0+ and 1 (from 0 to 18kg). The ISO-group is discussing increasing it to group 2 as well

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How will you be able to interact with the child?

It's really dangerous to turn around to talk to your child while driving. With your child rear facing, you are less likely to even try. There are special mirrors you can get if you find that you really need to be able to see your child's face. The recommended way to deal with children that need attention in the car is to stop, turn around and deal with them. Many accidents are caused by drivers dividing their attention between the road and other distractions.

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What about the child getting bored?

Just as for forward facing children, there are activity mats and other forms of entertainments that can be hung in front of the child for amusement. The child can also see out the side window, listen to tapes/cds and such likes. If the child is bored in the car, it is hardly because of the direction of the car seat. If the child is rear facing from the start, s/he will not know any different and will not make a fuss.

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Are rear facing seats more expensive?

At the moment, as far as we know, there is only one shop in the UK where you can buy rear facing group 1 car seats. They are advertised for special needs children as the safest alternative. The seats are Britax Nordic seats imported from Scandinavia and they start around £190. Rear facing car seats are a bit more expensive but a lot safer. You can visit their website here.

We are investigating if there are other rear facing seats available on the UK marked and will post more information as soon as we can. If you know of an outlet with RF seats for sale, please contact us and we will post the information

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Can you get rear facing seats in the UK?

It is not easy to get rear facing group 1 seats in the UK but it is possible. The Buyer's Guide lists all retailers that we know of that sell rear facing group 1 car seats. In Jan 2008, the list consisted of 5 retailers. May 2009 we have 17 different retailers and the list is growing. We try to update it as soon as a new retailer starts to sell rear facing group 1 seats. However, the seats are still not widely available on the high street. We want to change that.

With enough consumer pressure from parents, we believe that all high street baby shops will start selling these safer seats in the future. Print the pdf flyer and take it with you to your local shop and ask them to start selling rear facing car seats.

Contact the manufacturers and your local MP and local Road Safety Officer at your county council. Help us make a fuss about this so that the information reaches all parents and we can get these seats on the shop shelves in the UK.

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What about rear ended crashes? Is a rear facing seat in a rear ended crash not equivalent to a forward facing seat in a frontal crash?/a>

No, this is not the case and there are a number of reasons why.

Statistically, frontal crashes tend to happen at higher speeds and involve severe personal injury. They are very serious crashes. Rear ended crashes tend to happen at lower speeds and mainly involve material damage. So from a statistical point of view, it is more important to have the best protection for frontal crashes.

Also, in rear ended and side impact crashes, the driver tend to step on the break just before impact, which creates a brake force with a forward direction. A rear facing child will be pushed into the seat and cradled as in a frontal collision, while a forward facing child will be thrust forward, losing contact with the back of the seat and subsequently making the side impact protection less efficient.

Considering the forces involved, two cars travelling at 70mph colliding in a frontal crash create enormous forces as the car goes from high speed to a complete standstill in seconds. Two cars travelling in the same direction, with one hitting the other from behind, only create a very small differentiating force, making the impact much less serious.

The equivalent is not a typical rear ended impact, but rather someone reversing into a stationary object, which is very unlikely to happen at 70mph!

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Which seat would Rearfacing recommend?

Rearfacing cannot recommend a specific seat for a number of reasons. Which seat is best for you depends on your car, your child and your needs. Also, we are not experts or crash test providers. The information we have is from reading crash test results from other websites and organisations, so our conclusions are based on our personal research and nothing else. We have included a new page with links to different tests. Look at the tests and see which seat seems to suit you best. All seats sold in the UK as well as in Scandinavia and the rest of the EU has to pass the ECE standard, but their performances in tests are staggeringly different so please research all seats in depth before you make up your mind. A car seat is one of the most important things you will ever buy for your child so don't be tempted to cut corners. If you look at Scandinavian test results and have problem with the language, contact us and we will help you with a translation. If you find tests that we don't feature, let us know and we will add them to the site.

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Is it legal to buy a car seat from abroad?

This is a very important consideration. Legally you can import any seat from a different country provided that it meets the ECE standard. It will then be covered by your insurance in the same way as any seat you would buy in the UK. The UK do not have any special requirements above the ones stated in the ECE standard, and if any shop or manufacturer tell you that they do, they are simply misinforming you!

However, if you do buy a seat from abroad, you make to make sure that it complied with the ECE standard, that it is shipped to you in a safe manner so that the seat doesn't get damaged while in transit and that it comes with instructions that you will understand. Statistically, 7 out of 10 seats in the UK are not installed properly, and this is a major reason why so many children are hurt in traffic. Make sure that you will be able to follow the manual! You also have to make sure that the seat will fit in your car.

The best thing would obviously be if these seats were supplied by the high street shops where you live. Help us provide enough consumer pressure for this to happen. Together we can turn things around!

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Do foreign seats conform to UK standards?

All ECE approved seats are automatically approved for the UK market. The UK do not have stricter standards than the ECE standards. Not for the covers, not for the materials used or for any other aspect of the seat. If any retailer, shop or manufacturer claims that the UK have stricter standards than the rest of the EU, they are misinforming you!

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What about combination seats (seats that can be rear facing up to 10 or 13kg, and then turned forward facing), are they as safe?

Safety experts are negative to combination seats. Partly because they advocate rear facing for longer than the specified 10 or 13kg, and partly because the seats have to be more complicated, they have to make compromises for both directions, and there is a greater risk for misuse. If you have a combination seat you can not keep the child rear facing when s/he is heavier than the specified weight limit. It is dangerous as the seats have not been tested at all under these conditions.

The best seat for your child is a rear facing 0-1 seat, or even a 0-2 seat (0 to 25kg). Keep your child rear facing for as long as possible in a seat approved for our child's weight.

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Can I keep my child rear facing in a combination seat even if s/he passed the specified weight limit?

No, you can't. It is not safe to do so. The seats have not been tested for heavier children and in an accident might not protect your child.

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Can I use a rear facing seat if my car is equipped with side airbags/side curtains?

Yes, it is. Side airbags and side curtains are safe with both forward facing and rear facing seats, as well as booster seats, provided that the car manual is not prohibiting the use of a child restraint where the side airbag/side curtain is fitted. The biggest risk with side airbags is for children who are not positioned correctly in their seats and who are therefore leaning on the door, have their face pressed against the window or sleeping with their head resting on a pillow that is propped up against the door or window. This risk is greatest for children who are not in a restraint, of course, as they can get closer to the door.

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Can I install a rear facing car seat where there are underfloor storage compartments?

You should not install a rear facing car seat where there are underfloor storage compartments if the car seat has a support leg. In a collision, the support leg could penetrate the lid of the underfloor storage compartment and the car seat's performance would be affected.

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