Rearward-facing Child Car Seats for Older Children
The rearward facing child seats that are available in the UK are normally Group 0+ seats that are designed to be used by babies and toddlers until they reach 13kg (29lbs) in weight. In some Scandinavian countries, larger rearward facing seats, suitable for children up to the weight of 18kg (40lbs), are common. They are relatively rare in the UK, but are becoming more easily available.
In 2009, the British Medical Journal recommended that children travel in a rearward-facing seat until they are four years old because their relatively large head mass and the anatomy of the spine of young children can lead to excessive stretching or even severing of the spinal cord in a frontal crash when in a forward facing car seat.
Research shows that larger rearward-facing child restraints provide greater protection for older children, and RoSPA supports calls to make these seats for older toddlers more widely available here in the UK so that parents are able to use lhem if they wish.
Advice for Parents
- Our advice is to keep children in their group 0+ rearward-facing child car seat until they reach the upper end of the weight range (13kg), unless they are too tall for their seat (this is usually when the top of their head comes above the top of the seat - check the seat manufacturer's guidelines). Don’t be tempted to switch your child to forward-facing too early.
- The evidence shows that it is safer for children to travel rearward-facing for as long as possible, although that does not mean forward-facing seats are ‘dangerous’. It is important that the seat you are using fits the car safely and securely. Get advice on how to fit the seat when purchasing it.
- As always when buying a child car seat, parents who are considering using a rearward-facing seat for older toddlers should try out one of the seats in their car before buying it to ensure it fits safely and securely. However, this may be difficult because such seats are generally not sold in the UK at the moment.
- Although you may find larger rearward-facing child seat to buy on the internet - our advice is to resist any temptation to purchase a seat online without being able to try it in your car first, unless you are able to find expert guidance about fitting that particular seat in your car.
- Some vehicles may not have enough space to fit the larger rearward-facing seat. If you are thinking of purchasing a larger rearward facing child car seat then ensure you know the dimensions of the vehicles it is being fitted into.
- Consider the needs of all of the people who will be using the seat, how the seat will be used, and whether the size will cause any issues. If the seat is being moved in and out of several vehicles frequently, or being used by friends and relatives who are unsure about whether they can fit the seat, then the chances of it being misfitted are increased.
- If you have bought a larger rearward facing child seat then your local road safety officer may be able to recommend local child car seat check points where someone can look at it to assess its safety.
- Do not be tempted to fit a forward facing child seat to face the rear as the seat will not have been designed to be fitted this way. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how seats should be fitted.
- Although booster seats or booster cushions can be used from 15kg (33lbs), Group 1 Rearward facing seats are designed to last children up to the 18kg (40lbs) so to get the most out of the seat use it up to this point. Do not be tempted to move your child into a booster seat or booster cushion too early. If you think your child is too tall for the seat then always consult the seat manufacturer's instructions initially for further guidance.