Did you see this? A new study in the British Medical Journal says that rear-facing seats are safer than forward-facing seats for children under 4. “In rear facing car seats, the head, neck, and spine are kept fully aligned, and the crash forces are distributed over all of these body areas,” it says.
This is quite a shift from current practice in most places, where babies are moved from rear- to forward-facing seats at about 20 pounds, usually 8 months for a boy. I think we waited until a year with our boys, but no longer than that.
The authors, Elizabeth A. Watson and Michael J. Monteiro, acknowledge the difficulty of even finding rear-facing car seats for older kids. “In North America, no rear-facing seats are available that are suitable for children over 35 pounds,” the study says.
Here’s another interesting tidbit: 70 to 75 percent of Swedish children under 3 ride in rear-facing seats, and crash data say that’s a good thing. The study cites an analysis of crashes reported to Volvo’s insurance company from 1976 to 1996. Once again, rear-facing seats performed better on the “injury reducing effect.”
The study doesn’t say that forward-facing seats are unsafe, just that rear-facing seats are safer. So I don’t think it’s a reason to panic for those of us using forward-facing seats, but it is clearly a call to do things differently. Maybe our bankrupt car companies should start offering good car seats to parents. There’s a market there.