Please watch our feature video above which includes crash test footage comparing the difference between the rear-facing and forward-facing positions for children in a motor vehicle crash.
Crash test footage courtesy
Rear-facing is safer than forward-facing for children under the age of four. This is largely due to the anatomy of a young child, combined with the forces placed upon their body in a crash. Young children have heavy heads which are large in proportion to their bodies. The head of an infant makes up 25% of their body weight, compared to the head of an adult which only makes up 6% of their body weight.
The skeleton of a young child is soft and still developing. The bones in the neck and spine are connected by cartilage rather than solid bone. The hardening process of these bones does not begin until after age 2 and can take many years to complete.
In a motor vehicle collision, everything inside the vehicle is thrown violently forwards upon impact, including the heads of all forward-facing occupants. Their bodies are restrained by seat belts, but their heads are unrestrained. The harness straps on children's car seats hold their bodies back, however their heavy heads are thrown forwards with tremendous force.
When their heads are thrown forwards in a crash, all the force of the collision is placed upon the child's immature, delicate spine. The soft bones in the neck of a young child are not developed enough to protect the spinal cord under such forces.
Forward-facing child's head is thrown forwards in a crash.
Rear-facing protects children from sustaining serious injuries. In the rear-facing position, a child's head, neck and spine are kept fully aligned and their head is not thrown forwards upon impact. The rear-facing car seat supports the child's head and absorbs the force of the crash and cradles the child. This is a much gentler way for a child to ride down a collision. It is gentler on their entire body, not just the head and neck.
Forward-facing VS rear-facing crash comparison.
Rear-facing beyond toddlerhood is practised around the world with undeniable safety results. In Sweden children have been using rear-facing car seats until the age of 4 for the past 50 years, and they have a near zero child road crash fatality rate each year.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children remain in rear-facing car seats until the age of 2, as they will be 75% safer in the event of a collision compared to sitting in forward-facing car seats.
According to Kidsafe Australia, more children die from injury in Australia than from cancer and diseases of the nervous system combined. The main cause of child deaths from unintentional injury in Australia are car crashes and driveway run overs. Most children who die or are injured in car crashes in Australia, were not properly restrained in the car.
According to the Kidsafe Child Restraint Guidelines, infants are safest if they remain in their rear-facing restraint as long as they still fit in their rear-facing restraint.
Why this is important:
Rear-facing restraints are highly effective in preventing injuries if used correctly, because they fully support the child’s head and neck in the event of a crash. This is important as infants have relatively large heads and weak necks which put them at particularly high risk of serious injuries if the head and neck are not supported.
Rearward-facing restraints support the child’s head and neck in severe frontal crashes better than forward-facing restraints.
If you have any questions about rear-facing or car seat safety in Australia, please join the Child Restraints Group where you will find professional child restraint installers, parents and carers with years of experience to share.