Australian parents, if you found out there was a way to keep your young child FIVE TIMES SAFER in the car in the event of a frontal collision, wouldn't you want to? Well, you can! By keeping babies, toddlers and young children rear-facing in the car for as long as possible, they will be FIVE TIMES SAFER in an accident than sitting in a forward-facing position.
Why is rear-facing safer than forward-facing for children under the age of four? Let us compare the proportions of a child and an adult. Young children have heavy heads that are large in proportion to their bodies. The head of an infant makes up 25% of their body weight, whereas the head of an adult makes up 6% of their body weight.
In a frontal collision - the most common and severe type of accident - everything inside the vehicle is thrown violently forwards upon impact, including the heads of all forward-facing occupants. Their bodies are restrained by the seat-belts, but their heads are unrestrained. Adults have front-seat air-bags to prevent their heads from flying too far forward. Children in the back seat have no such protection. The harness straps of their car-seats hold their bodies back, however their heavy heads are thrown forwards with tremendous force.
The skeleton of a young child is still soft and under-developed. The bones in the neck and spine are similar to cartilage. When their heads are thrown forward in an accident, all the force of the collision is placed upon the child's delicate spine. It does not take much for a child's undeveloped spine to stretch and snap, putting the child at risk of serious spinal injuries.
Rear-facing protects children from spinal injuries. In a rear-facing position a child's head, neck and spine and kept fully aligned and their head is NOT thrown forwards upon impact. The rear-facing seat cradles the child and this is a much gentler way for a child to ride down a collision. It also protects them from sustaining internal injuries because their body is not being flung forwards against the harness straps.
What you are not being told by the Australian government, safety regulators and child-restraint organisations is that your child will be safer and have greater protection when sitting rear-facing for as long as possible up to the age of 4. This is common knowledge around the world and extended rear-facing is practised in many other countries. In Sweden all children are kept rear-facing until the age of 4 or older, and they have a zero child road accident fatality rate. Only 5 children have died on Swedish roads in 50 years. In Australia, we have around 80 child road fatalities per year.
In the U.S., the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children remain rear-facing until the age of 2 as they will be 75% safer in the event of a collision than sitting forward-facing.
Unfortunately Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world on this important safety issue. Our children deserve to have the best safety technology made available to them, and Australian parents deserve to be made aware that there is a safer way for their children to travel in the car. Please spread this information to friends and family. It could literally save the life of someone you love.