Extended Rear-Facing Car Seats

Extended Rear-Facing Car Seats Explained: The Ultimate Guide

Are you a new parent needing a car seat for your child, or simply looking to learn more about extended rear-facing car seats? This is the perfect read!

Extended Rear-Facing Car Seats Explained: The Ultimate Guide

Are you a new parent needed a car seat for your child, or simply looking to learn more about extended rear-facing car seats this is the perfect read.

The World of Car Seats

Navigating the world of car seats can be overwhelming, with a huge variety of options and brands all claiming to be the best for your child. The abundance of information can make it challenging to decide which car seat truly ensures your child's safety. This blog post aims to simplify your decision-making process by providing factual, data-backed insights. We will delve into the importance of extended rear-facing car seats and present evidence showing why keeping your child rear-facing for as long as possible is the safest choice. Why not check out our blog on the Myths About Extended Rear-Facing Car Seats too! Welcome to the ultimate guide to Extended Rear-Facing Car Seats, where safety is our top priority. If you don't have time to read the full blog click here to see our poster on the 6 reasons to keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible.

History of Car Seats

Car Seats were simply designed to lift children up to be able to look out of the window and keep them occupied and in one spot in the car. Historically car deaths from motor collisions were 4-5x higher than in recent years and this rate took a steady plunge from the 1970s after safety regulations, laws and enforcements were brought in.

The Evolution of Car Seats

The Origination of the rear-facing car seat (1964)

Rear-facing car seats were first invented by professor Bertil Aldman in Gothenburg Sweeden (see photo below). He came up with the idea from seeing austronauts travelling rearwards when taking off into space due to the strong forces. In 1964 he developed the first prototype, and ever since Swedish parents, politicians, researchers and suppliers have worked together to save childrens lives, and hence Sweeden is one of the safest countries in the world for children in cars.

MODERN SAFETY STANDARDS AND GLOBAL PRACTICES (1980S-PRESENT)

The ECE R44 Legislation was frist introduced in the 1980's, which was based on a child's weight, it was a legislation tested for rear and frontal but not side impact crashes. Innovations such as ISOFIX were introduced in in 1997 by Britax Romer. In the early 2000s most cars were fitted with ISOFIX by 2013 and all new cars since were required to be fitted with ISOFIX. Later in 2013 the ECE R129 Legislation was introduced to provide better protection for side-impact collisions and keep children rear-facing for longer. ECE R129 legislation is based on a childs height rather than weight. Legislation and technology have converged to offer advanced protection for child passengers, highlighting a significant evolution in car seat safety.

Professor Bertil Aldman

The Importance of Rear-Facing Car Seats in Child Safety

Rear-facing car seats are essential for providing superior protection for young children during car journeys. Unlike forward-facing seats, the back of the rear-facing seat cradles a child’s head and neck, offering vital support in the event of a crash. This is particularly important for infants and toddlers whose spinal cords are still developing, composed of more cartilage than bone, making them highly susceptible to severe injury. In a collision, the strong impact can cause a child’s head to snap forward, potentially stretching or snapping the spinal cord, as your baby’s bone structure is not strong enough to support their head, so the impact puts pressure on the baby's internal organs. Therefore, car safety experts strongly recommend that children remain in rear-facing seats until they reach the seat's maximum height or weight limit.

Rear-facing vs forward facing infographic

Young children are especially vulnerable in car crashes due to their large heads and underdeveloped neck muscles. Research indicates that the strain on a child's neck is five times greater in a forward-facing seat compared to a rear-facing one during a frontal collision. This is because, in a forward-facing position, a child’s body is thrust forward, causing the head to jerk violently and placing immense pressure on the neck, particularly with the proportion of a child's head being much greater than that of an adult. In contrast, rear-facing car seats distribute the forces of a crash across the child's entire back, neck, and head, significantly reducing the risk of injury.

Legs vs Brains

Parents often worry about their children's legs and whether they are comfortable and if they could break in the event of a crash due to extended rear-facing car seats. However, instead of focusing on their children's legs during a crash, parents should be more concerned about their children's heads and necks. Children's joints are not fully developed, which allows them to sit in positions that might seem extremely uncomfortable to adults. If children are not uncomfortable and extended rear-facing has been proven to be five times safer, it makes the decision easier.

 

childs head proportions

Source: Axkid

 

Axkid, a leading advocate for child car safety, emphasises the importance of extended rear-facing travel, recommending that children remain in rear-facing seats until at least the age of 7. Studies show that these seats can be up to five times safer, as they effectively absorb and distribute crash energy, minimising the whip-like motion associated with forward-facing seats. Despite the convenience of transitioning to forward-facing seats as children grow, it is crucial to maintain rear-facing orientation for as long as possible. Axkid even suggests that children could benefit from rear-facing travel up to ages six or seven to ensure maximum protection.

In addition to physical safety, rear-facing seats also accommodate the psychological readiness of young children, who are naturally active and wriggle will find it difficult to remain still in a Highback Booster (HBB) seat, which rely on a child's ability to stay properly positioned against a three-point seat belt, therefore compromising safety. Rear-facing seats provide a more secure environment by restricting movement less stringently than HBB seats.

Crash statistics consistently show that children in rear-facing seats are significantly less likely to be injured compared to those in forward-facing seats. Rear-facing seats provide comprehensive protection by preventing the head from moving excessively, avoiding contact with car interiors, and shielding the child from debris. By distributing pressure over the strongest parts of the body, primarily the back, rear-facing seats offer unparalleled safety for young passengers.

 

Extended Rearward-Facing Brands - Axkid, BeSafe & Avionaut

Axkid: Pioneering Safety

Axkid is renowned for its unwavering commitment to extended rear-facing safety. Their car seats are meticulously designed to meet the rigorous standards of the Swedish Plus Test, one of the most demanding car seat testing procedures globally. This isn't just about meeting standards but about providing parents with the assurance that their children are travelling in the safest possible environment. This dedication to safety ensures that Axkid's seats offer unparalleled protection. By focusing on innovation and thoughtful design, Axkid has established itself as a leading choice for parents who prioritise the utmost safety for their children, allowing them to remain rear-facing for as long as possible.

BeSafe: A Commitment to Protection

BeSafe is another distinguished name in the car seat market, known for its strong emphasis on extended rear-facing travel. BeSafe's car seats are engineered with advanced safety features that adhere to the strictest European standards, providing maximum protection for young passengers. By advocating for rear-facing travel for as long as possible, BeSafe ensures that children benefit from the enhanced safety this orientation offers, making it a trusted choice for parents dedicated to their child's safety.

Avionaut: An innovative brand focusing on the safety and comfort

To ensure optimal protection for the youngest of passengers, Avionaut employ an engineering approach in the manufacturing process of Avionaut seats, utilising cutting-edge technologies and materials. Their focus extends beyond safety to include comfort by working with physiotherapists. This collaboration ensures that Avionaut seats offer children a proper, stable position and maximum comfort during car travel.

 

Axkid and BeSafe dominate the Extended rear-facing car seat market, however, as you can see on the diagram below there are a few other options available. There are many brands that sell rear-facing car seats but in order to keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible these are the current brands that sell extended rear-facing car seats with these models to choose from:

 

extended rear-facing car seat brands and models

The Long-Term Benefits Of Extended-Rear Facing Car Seats

Extended rear-facing car seats offer the significant advantage of allowing your child to travel rear-facing for a longer period. While standard rearward-facing car seats typically accommodate children up to 105cm (around 4 years old), extended rear-facing seats can be used until your child is around 7 years old (see our children's car seat journey chart). This extended use is particularly beneficial for children who fall within higher growth percentiles, as they are likely to outgrow standard combination or toddler seats before reaching the age limit. However, children under 4 are underdeveloped both physically and psychologically to transition to a high back booster (HBB).

This scenario often results in parents having to purchase an additional seat to bridge the gap until their child is ready for a high back booster, which can significantly increase overall costs. To avoid this, consider checking your child’s height percentile to predict if they might outgrow a standard rear-facing seat before age 4. Even children who are average or lower in growth percentiles benefit from extended rear-facing seats, as they provide superior protection and better value by lasting longer before a high back booster is needed.

Car seats designs are based on EU statistics and accommodate up to the 95th percentile in height. However, the average child in the UK tends to be taller than their European counterparts, making it more likely for UK children to outgrow seats quicker than anticipated. Extended rear-facing seats address this height confusion and prediction issue, as they are designed to fit children up to the age of 6-7, eliminating uncertainty about outgrowing the seat too soon.

Although extended rear-facing car seats may initially be more expensive, they ensure that your child remains in a safer rear-facing position well past the age of 4. This eliminates the need for purchasing multiple toddler seats due to unexpected growth spurts, making extended rear-facing seats a cost-effective choice in the long run. Furthermore, rear-facing seats provide significantly more protection than forward-facing seats, offering your child the safest possible environment in the event of an accident.

Check out our height percentile charts below to see if you child is within the lower, average or higher percentile. This can help you determine if an extended rear-facing car seat would be a more cost effective purchase.

Boys Height-age percentile chart
girls height-age percentile chart

How Long Can You Rear-Face A Child In The UK?

Many UK parents often wonder about the optimal duration for keeping their child in a rear-facing car seat. While there is no definitive age for transitioning, the best practice is to keep children rear-facing for as long as possible, adhering to the car seat’s specified height limits, which for i-Size car seats is 105cm or around 18kg-20kgs (dependent on the seat). Once a child reaches one of these limits, they have outgrown the seat, and it becomes unsafe to continue using it even if they are within the other limit.

Extended rear-facing car seats offer larger height & weight limits, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for longer, up to the age of 7 (125cm or 36kgs). Keeping your child rear-facing until they reach these maximum limits provides significant safety benefits that should not be overlooked.

Transitioning a car seat from rear-facing to forward-facing isn’t just another developmental milestone—it represents a decrease in safety. Delaying this switch is crucial, as rear-facing seats offer better protection for your child’s head, neck, and spine in the event of a collision. Therefore, investing in an extended rear-facing car seat not only maximises safety but also provides peace of mind, knowing that your child is protected to the highest standard for as long as possible. This careful approach to car seat transitions ensures that your child's journey is as safe as it can be, making it a worthwhile consideration for any parent.

 

The Risks of Switching to Forward-Facing Too Soon

Although it can be tempting to switch to a forward-facing position as children grow, parents need to understand the risks involved. Forward-facing car seats do not provide the same level of protection as rear-facing seats. Children who are moved to a forward-facing position too early are at a significantly higher risk of injury in the event of a crash.

 

Swedish Plus Test

The Plus Test is a voluntary frontal impact test of a child's car seat with a focus on neck protection of the child and overall robust protection. Consisting of a "higher pulse" than the regulation R44 or R129. If passed, a label will be awarded helping consumers to understand that the child car seat has passed this demanding test.

UN ECE R44 (old regulation) and new regulation R129 are mandatory type-approval of child car seats, while the Plus Test is a voluntary additional test. The Plus Test evaluates neck protection in a high-severity frontal impact test.

The UN ECE R129 and R44 include several tests and other assessments. The Plus Test includes one type of test, which is a frontal impact. Except for the crash test severity, most of the test setup for the Plus Test is similar to the frontal impact test in UN ECE R129. While UN ECE R129 sets the basic approval including testing multiple seat adjustments and crash test dummy sizes, it doesn't focus on the neck forces unlike the Plus Test, creating a superior benchmark for safety.

Understanding the Rigorous Swedish Plus Test for Car Seats

The Swedish Plus test stands out as one of the most demanding car seat crash tests globally. It's specifically designed to ensure that children are not exposed to life-threatening neck forces during a frontal collision. This test is unique because it is the only one that confirms a car seat can protect against excessive neck strain, a critical factor in ensuring child safety.

 

Criteria for Passing the Swedish Plus Test

To earn the coveted Plus Test approval, a car seat must meet stringent criteria under extreme testing conditions, including:

 

1. Higher Impact Speed: The test involves higher speeds compared to standard European tests, making it more challenging for the car seat to withstand the crash.

   

2. Shorter Braking Distance: This test scenario results in a much more violent impact because the shorter braking distance leads to greater deceleration. This, in turn, increases the forces exerted on both the car seat and its occupant. This is the important factor that seperates Plus Test from other car seat safety tests.

 

3. Detailed Neck Measurement: The Plus Test places significant emphasis on the safety of the child's neck. It employs advanced sensors to measure the forces exerted on the neck of the crash test dummy. The stringent nature of these measurements means that forward-facing car seats would fail the test due to the high neck forces generated.

Axkid recognises the importance of utmost safety in car seats, which is why all their rear-facing car seats undergo the Plus Test. This isn't just about meeting standards but about providing parents with the assurance that their children are travelling in the safest possible environment.

The Importance of Choosing a Plus-Tested Car Seat

Opting for a Plus-tested car seat isn't just about following a recommendation—it’s about making a conscious decision to prioritise your child’s safety. These seats not only meet the highest safety standards but also provide peace of mind that your child is secure and protected every time you travel.

By choosing a Plus-tested car seat, you're ensuring that your child is not exposed to dangerous levels of neck force in the event of a crash, significantly reducing the risk of serious injury. Always choosing a Plus-tested car seat can be a life-saving decision.

 

Swedish plus test infographic

What You Need Before Buying a Car Seat

Here at Baby & Co we have been fitting car seats since 1982 and promoting the benefits of extended rear-facing since 2009. Our fully trained staff can offer help and advice when choosing a car seat suitable for your needs and your car. However, here is some information you are likely to need if you go to your local car seat retailer. Use our handy car seat checklist to ensure you get the right car seat for your child and your car.

Car Seat Buying Checklist

Is Extended Rear-Facing Really Better?

Statistics comparing forward-facing and rear-facing, clearly show the increase in safety and decreased risk and injury by rear-facing a child in a car seat. The statistics speak volumes with the force on the body being significantly reduced and the risk of serious injury drastically decreased.

Rear-facing vs Forward facing statistics table

Transitioning to forward-facing: How to Know When It's Time to Switch Car Seats

Even if your child hasn’t reached the maximum weight, you might need to switch to the next car seat stage. For optimal safety, move up when you exceed the maximum length or weight for the seat (R129).

Avoid switching to a forward-facing car seat too early. It is recommended to keep your child in a rearward-facing position for as long as possible, ideally up to the age of 7 using extended rear-facing car seats.

This chart outlines the stages of a child's car seat journey and the corresponding ages for each type. Legally, children must use a car seat until they are 135cm or 12 years old. During this period, a child will typically transition from an infant carrier to a toddler seat and finally to a highback booster. However, as discussed earlier in this blog, children who are on higher growth percentiles often outgrow their car seats sooner than expected. For instance, if a child outgrows their infant carrier before 15 months, they will move to a toddler seat earlier and may outgrow it before reaching age 4. At this stage, the child is both physically and psychologically underdeveloped for a highback booster but potentially too tall or heavy for a toddler seat. As a result, parents often need to purchase an additional seat to bridge the gap between a toddler seat and a highback booster (as shown through the greyed out area on the chart). This can be a very costly addition, as car seats can be very expensive.

Extended rear-facing car seats, may initially more expensive, prove to be more cost-effective in the long run compared to the traditional car seat journey. Some extended rear-facing car seats can even be used from birth, offering a safer, more economical, and sustainable option. By purchasing just one extended rear-facing car seat, you can ensure your child’s safety up to the age of 4-7 before transitioning to a highback booster.

 

Why You Should Keep Your Child Rear-Facing As Long As Possible

In summary here are 6 reasons to keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible:

FAQ's

Is my child too big for an extended rear-facing car seat?

Extended Rear-Facing car seats can be used between 45-61cm up until 125cm. Once your child surpasses 125cm they will need to transition to a high back booster seat.

Why extend a rear-facing seat?

Extended rear-facing car seats allow your child to stay rear facing for as long as possible, therefore increasing their safety in the event of a crash.

What is considered to be rear-facing?

These are infant car seats, combination car seats or extended rear-facing car seats that face the back of the car. All children start out facing this direction. Legally children have to be rear facing until 15 months old. The rear-facing positioning is important for babies as their spinal cord hasn’t yet ossified (turned from cartilage to bone). They need more support of the head, neck, and spine to protect their delicate bodies.

What is safer extended rear-facing or forward-facing?

Rear-facing car seats have been shown to be up to five times safer than forward-facing ones, saving children's lives every day. The evidence is clear: rear-facing seats significantly enhance your child's safety in the event of an accident.

Which is the best and safest car seat?

The answer to this question varies for everyone. The key priority is to ensure your child uses a rear-facing seat for as long as possible, ideally one that has passed the Swedish Plus Test. The effectiveness of the seat depends on two main factors: its compatibility with your vehicle and proper installation. Not all seats fit all cars, and a car seat will only safeguard your child in an accident if it is correctly installed and used. Therefore, it is crucial to test the chosen seat in your car before purchasing.

Can I fit an extended rear-facing seat in a small car?

Even cars with a very small interior space such as the VW Golf can fit an extended rear-facing child car seat like the Avionaut Sky or Besafe Stretch.

BeSafe Stretch car seat in a VW golf car

Is rear-facing not dangerous if you are hit from behind?

A rear facing car seat positions the child further into the vehicle away from any potenial intrusion. Also many rear end collisions are under breaking presenting significantly less force than a head on collision.

What should I do if my child gets car sick rear facing?

Many people believe that carsickness is caused by rear-facing car seats, but this isn't true. Car sickness can occur whether a child is in a forward-facing or rear-facing car seat. Children aged 2-10 years are most prone to car sickness. The primary cause is conflicting signals in the brain, where visual input and balance sensations clash, leading to nausea. Early signs of car sickness include yawning, drowsiness, and a pale complexion. Here are 6 things you can do to avoid car sickness while keeping them in a rear-facing car seat:

  1. Sleep - nausea can be reduced if your child in in a reclined position, relaxed with their eyes closed.
  2. Take breaks - stretch legs and getting fresh air helps.
  3. Aviod big meals -before and during avoid eating large meals, little and often is better.
  4. Temperature - keep the vehicle cool and remove warm clothing.
  5. Drive safe and careful - acceleration and harsh braking with worsen car sickness symptoms.
  6. Don't look down - looking/reading a book or looking at an ipad will heighten the symptoms, look out the window and focus on items further away from the car.

Will their legs break in a crash?

In a collision, a child's legs will move in the same direction as their head: towards the front of the car. While the back of the head is secured and protected by the car seat, preventing any traction injuries, what happens to the legs? The legs flex towards the torso and then stretch out again. Crash test videos show that, in rear-facing seats, the legs do not initially impact any surface. During the return movement, the legs would only break if the seat itself moved backward, which is prevented by safety features specific to rear-facing seats, such as the anti-rebound bar and lower tethers that secure the seat to the bottom of the vehicle.

Where do taller children put their legs?

Most extended rear-facing car seats are installed with a slight gap between the seat base and the vehicle's backrest. The size of this gap depends on the distance between the car's front and back seats. However, even with minimal space, children are comfortable sitting with their legs crossed or bent.

 
AxkidBesafeCar seat safetyExtended rear-facingRear-facing car seats