Rear facing is much safer to the child during an impact than forward facing, due to the way in which the child rides out the accident. When a child is rear facing and an accident occurs the child's body moves into the back of the seat shell and the head, neck and spine are supported. A young child's head equates to 1/4 of their total body mass, as shown on the chart below. By travelling rear facing the head is protected within the seat shell, and less strain is placed on the child's head and neck.

Children riding in rear-facing infant car seats have the lowest risk of injury among all children, according to Partners for Child Passenger Safety.

body proportion

What about their legs? Wont they get squashed? Will they break in an accident? They have to turn forward when their legs touch the back seat, don't they?

The answer to that is no. Children are happy to sit with their legs bent when rear facing, and there have been no reported cases of legs breaking when in a rear facing accident. Children who touch the back of the seat with their legs are not in danger from broken legs, poor circulation nor are they going to do any long term damage to their development or walking skills.

Rear facing is not only designed for infants. Plunket recommends rear facing children until they are 2 years old. If your child's car seat carries a child rear facing to 12kgs, then use it until rear facing until your child is 12kgs. Rear facing is said to be up to 70% safer than forward facing.

If you are concerned that your child may become upset by not being able to see you remember that you can talk to your child. Some parents have even placed a photo of themselves on the back seat of the car for their infant to see. If you are worried that you cannot see your child you can purchase a rear view mirror to attach to your car that allows you to see your child.

Rear facing isn't only for babies, its perfectly safe for toddlers too, as long as your seat allows it.