Astronauts and rear facing car seats: what’s the connection?
The first baby car seats were little forward-facing chairs that hung from the back seat on hooks. Maxi-Cosi introduced the very first rear facing baby car seat in Europe in 1984.
The benefits of rearward-facing travel were known even earlier in Sweden. This was due to the pioneering work of Professor Bertil Aldman, who, in the early 1960s, noticed that astronauts on the Gemini space mission faced the opposite direction of travel.
The spacecraft’s chairs and positioning were designed to spread the substantial forces over the astronauts’ whole backs. Professor Aldmann saw that the same principle could be applied to develop the first rear facing safety car seat for toddlers.
So why is rear facing travel safer for babies and toddlers?
You’ll notice that your baby’s head is proportionally much larger and heavier than the rest of his body. The bones and muscles in his neck have not yet developed enough to support his relatively heavy head.
If your baby travels in a forward-facing car seat and you have a frontal collision, his head can be thrown forwards. This puts stress on his head and neck, potentially causing serious injury.
But a rear facing car seat protects your child’s head and neck by spreading the forces over the whole back – just like the astronauts.
In July 2013, i-Size (R129) car seat safety legislation came in. This says that babies and toddlers must travel in rear facing car seats until they are at least 15 months old. By then their neck bones and muscles are more developed.
Although the biggest safety gains have been made by extending the period of rear facing travel to 15 months, it’s actually safest for children to travel in a rear facing car seat until they are 4 years old.
What if we have a rear impact accident?
Research shows that most road accidents (around 70%) are frontal collisions. Also, the impact of a rear collision tends to be less as vehicles are colliding in the same direction, rather than head-on. Severe rear collisions are rare.
See how rear facing travel works (Source: Trygg Trafikk)