The primary reason to choose a rear-facing car seat for your child is that it is the safest way to travel. Studies based on actual accidents show that the risk of serious injury in a collision increases up to 5 times for children who travel in forward-facing car seats, compared to children travelling in rear-facing car seats.
Rear-facing provides children with the ultimate protection of the head and neck. In a frontal collision, which is the most common type of collision, the impact on the head, neck and back becomes significantly lower in a rear-facing car seat.
Some seats are suitable up to 18kg and some up to 25kg. Depending on the percentile of your child may help determine which seat is most appropriate. Children on high a percentile will run the risk of outgrowing a 18kg seat prematurely, therefore a 25kg seat would be more suitable.
Rear-facing seats can be tested to R44.04 standard, or R129 standard (i-Size) but there is an additional voluntary test called the Swedish plus test, which tests to a higher speed and greater forces that are then measured on the dummy’s head and neck. No forward-facing car seats, combination car seats or booster seats have passed the plus test due to the extreme forces on the head and neck upon impact.
Some seats are rear-facing only and some will offer the option to forward face. Seats must be rear-facing only to be able to pass the Swedish plus test!
As the child is remaining rear-facing, there is less to consider from a safety perspective. Some seats will require tether straps as part of the installation so do seek support on the installation to ensure the seat is installed correctly.
Some seats are suitable from birth but do check there is sufficient recline in the car for a newborn baby. Alternatively, an infant carrier can be used initially and then rear-facing continued thereafter.
If it is an i-Size seat, check the maximum weight of the seat and remember i-Size works on length too so has a maximum height of 105cm, whichever is reached first the child must come out of the seat! If it is a R44.04 seat you will need to refer to the manufacturers manual as to when the seat is outgrown.
What to look for?
Recline – often seats will come with multiple recline positions but do check the slope of your back seat in your car, the greater the slope, the more upright the seat will be. Some seats offer wedges to offset this but they are on seats that are installed with a seat belt rather than isofix.
Crash tests – has the seat been tested to more rigourous crash tests such as R129 (i-Size) or the Swedish plus test offering peace of mind.
Side impact protection – look for seats offering additional side impact protection, this will offer a greater level of protection for your little one
Extendable legroom – does the seat have the option to increase the level of legroom for the child to remain comfortable when rear-facing or is legroom limited?