By royal appointment to Britax – and a parent’s guide to rear-facing car seats
Here’s an appropriately regal announcement; we have been appointed to the Britax ‘Mumbassador’ parent blogger panel. Britax is the maker of Prince George’s Baby-Safe car seat – the one that millions of people worldwide watched Prince William put into a car, shortly before he drove away from the Lindo Wing where Kate had given birth (the pressure!).
I met the Britax team at BritMums Live. and I had a really interesting chat with them about the forward / rear-facing car seat debate. I have read so many conflicting options about the best stage 2 car seat to get, and it’s difficult to know what advice to take.
If, like me, you’d like a bit more clarification about the car seat debate, here’s some information from Mark Bennett, Car Seat Safety Expert from Britax. Mark is constantly asked questions about the benefits of rearward facing and the safest travel solution for children. Here’s his responses to the most commonly asked questions to help parents make an informed decision. So; should children be rearward facing or forward facing?
Firstly, what does rearward facing actually mean?
Rearward facing means that the child is facing away from the direction of travel. The current legislation (ECE R44/04) dictates mandatory rearward facing transportation for children until a minimum weight of 9kg. After that, parents can either use a forward facing car seat or extend rearward facing travelling up to 25kg (approx. six years).
Why is rearward facing becoming so popular?
For over 30 years in Scandinavia it has been a matter of course for children to remain rearward facing until at least the age of four years. Evidence here suggests that children sitting rearward facing in the event of a frontal collision experience greater protection and less risk of serious injury*. A lot of attention was also brought to the rearward facing debate in 2012 when the American Association of Paediatrics changed their recommendations to say that they recommend all children should remain rearward facing until 2 years of age.
A new car seat regulation called ‘i-Size’ has started to raise awareness of keeping children rearward facing for longer. It comes into force mid July 2013 and promotes rearward facing in an ISOFIX fitted seat for all children up to the age of 15 months.
*Henary B, Sherwood, C P, Crandall J R, Kent R W, Vaca F E, Arbogast K B, Bull M J. Car safety seats for children: rear facing for best protection. Injury Prevention 2007; 13:398-402.
Why should children travel rearward facing for longer than required by law?
Physics dictates that in the event of a frontal collision it is safer for a child to travel in a rearward facing car seat as crash forces are directed to the back of the seat whilst the remaining energy is spread evenly across the head, neck and upper body. In a frontal collision with a forward facing seat, more energy is placed on the child’s body, head and neck. Below 13kg the baby’s neck is not yet strong enough to support the relatively heavy head, so keeping your baby rearward facing for as long as possible (ideally up to 15 months old) will help to protect their vulnerable neck in a frontal crash situation.
What does BRITAX recommend, forward or rearward facing?
We believe that parents should sit children rearward facing for as long as it is realistic for their child, car, and family situation. The best seat is the one that fits your child, car and lifestyle. BRITAX informs and guides parents to find the optimal solution and make the most informed choice.
To help make choosing the right seat clearer and easier, BRITAX has created an excellent online resource called ‘Fit Finder’ which informs and guides parents to find the right car seat for their car and child.
What is the PLUS Test?
The PLUS Test is a voluntary test, which measures a seat’s ability to provide protection of the head and neck in frontal collisions. Currently, the PLUS Test is carried out on seats designed for the Swedish market which is the only country in Europe where parents transport their children solely rearward facing up to four years. Not all child restraint systems have been able to pass the test since its introduction in 2009. Only nine car seats have passed the PLUS Test successfully. Two of these are BRITAX products: MAX-WAY, MAX-FIX.
What is the current law when it comes to car seat safety?
The law requires all children to travel in an appropriate child restraint until they reach 135 cm tall or their 12th birthday (UK, NL, DEN) or 150 cm tall or their 12th birthday (GER, AU, CH, IT, CZ) – whichever comes first. It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure this is the case.
Under the existing laws, parents could switch their baby from their rearward facing Group 0&0+ seat into a forward facing one when they reach 9kg (around nine months old).
With the new regulation, called ‘i-Size’, that came into force in July 2013, parents that purchase a child car seat approved under i-Size will have to keep their baby in a rearward facing seat until they are 15 months.
There will be no change to the overall law about child seats being compulsory to the age of 12 or 135 cm.
Why are there so few rearward facing seats available in Europe (apart from Scandinavia) and what is BRITAX doing to address this?
Historically rearward facing seats have been a less popular or available choice for parents in many European markets possibly due to: a perception that they are more complex to install; the space a rearward facing seat takes up in a car; the desire for parents to be able to see their children while travelling; and concerns that children may feel uncomfortable with cramped legs or travel sickness. Consumer testing organisations highlight that the complexity of installing rearward facing seats has been a big barrier to parents demanding these seats. This has obvious knock-on effects for retailers who may as a result not want to stock many of these seats. Currently in many markets outside of Scandinavia, only specialised retailers offer rearward facing seats outside Group 0+.
In many EU countries, parents are sometimes keen to move their child into a forward facing car seat as soon as possible, believing their baby will be happier. Many switch when their baby reaches the minimum weight for a Group 1 seat (i.e. kg), rather than waiting until the child has actually outgrown the rearward facing one by height or weight.
However with the growing trend for rearward facing seats, the support of the EU wide ‘i-Size’ regulation and manufacturers such as BRITAX helping to inform parents about extended rearward facing transport beyond Group 0+, the demand in the market will increase and seats will become more readily available.
To make rearward facing seats even more accessible, BRITAX is selling its rearward facing Group 0+&1 seat, the MAX-FIX online.
Are rearward facing seats more expensive than forward facing seats?
BRITAX’s rearward facing seats stagger two groups, either Group 0+&1 (from birth to approximately four years), or Group 1-2 (from nine months to approximately four years rearward facing, then forward facing to approximately six years), offering parents great value for money as there is no need to buy a new seat between the stages.
Are rearward facing seats bigger than forward facing seats?
Rearward facing seats are not on the whole larger than forward facing seats. They appear larger as they take up more space in the car due to the position of the seat in situ against the direction of travel.
Thanks for having us, Britax! Being on the panel means we’ll be able to share news, updates, product reviews and competitions over the next year. P.S. doesn’t the word ‘Mumbassador’ remind you of that amazingly 90’s Fererro Rocher advert? x