Babies are safer in a rearward facing seat up to the age of at least 15 months. Maxi-Cosi even recommends to transport toddlers rearward facing for as long as possible. But why is rearfacing travel exactly safer?
Although babies might look like small adults, the proportion and development of their bodies is very different to grownups. The baby’s head is proportionally large and heavy compared to the rest of the body. And the neck bones and muscles are not yet as strong as older children, especially up to the age of 15 months.
When a baby travels in the car facing forwards, the relatively heavy head is unrestrained in a forward collision. Therefore the head will be thrown forward, and bends significantly causing a lot of stress on the neck muscles. Because these neck muscles are not yet fully developed, this can cause serious neck and head injury.
When the same baby travels facing rearwards, the back of the protective car seat shell protects the head and spreads the forces of the impact over a greater area of the baby’s back. The neck is kept in line with the spine of the child and thereby the vulnerable neck is better protected and withstands much lower forces.
When the baby is over 15 months old, the neck muscles have matured and are better able to withstand the impulsive force of an average forward collision. That’s why the new i-Size (R129) regulation requires using rearward-facing seats for all babies up to the age of at least 15 months. Although it is safer to transport children up to even 4 years rearward facing, the biggest leap of safety benefits is achieved by extending the rearfacing period up to 15 months.
Watch the crash test with 2Way Pearl in rearward and forward position
What about rear impacts?
While around 70% of all accidents on the road are forward collisions, rear impacts occur much less frequently. Additionally, the speed and impact of a forward collisions on average is higher than rear impacts where cars usually travel in the same direction. Severe rear impacts are rare. This is also reflected in crash testing, where rear impacts are usually tested at a maximum of 32 km/h and front impacts until 64 km/h.
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