A couple of years back, Joie sent me a car seat for Fraser. He had outgrown his baby seat, as he had reached the weight limit for it. He has had a (much) larger than average head size since birth, and although he would have met the regulations for a forward-facing car seat, I was keen to keep him rear-facing, as the physics of his large head and immature bones wouldn’t have fared well in the event of a high-speed crash.
Fraser has had a happy life in his Joie i-AnchorSafe since he was 17-months old, and at the age of 3 years and 8 months, he is at the upper weight limit for his Joie seat to carry him rearwards-facing. This seat can carry a child rear-facing until approximately 4-years old, but bear in mind that Fraser is above average in size for his age, and his head carries a lot of that weight. An averagely-sized child would probably be able to use this seat until they were 4, and a smaller than average child could possibly use this seat beyond their fourth birthday.
So I need to think about a new car seat for Fraser. I would like to keep him rear-facing, because of his head size. Young children have very soft bones, and large heads in proportion to the size of their bodies. The forces exerted on their spines in high-speed crashes when they’re forward-facing can cause the spine to snap at the neck internally, gruesomely referred to as ‘internal decapitation’ . In tests, dummies’ necks can stretch up to two inches in a forward-facing car seat in a crash. A child’s spine can only stretch up to half an inch before it snaps. You do the math.
The image below perfectly illustrates just how head size proportions differ from babyhood to adulthood, and if you apply basic physics, you can see where the problem lies.
So I’m back in the market for a further rear-facing car seat which will take a child of up to 25kg. This should last Fraser until he’s around 6-years old, and to a point where I’m more at peace with his safety in the event of a high-speed, forward-force crash.
But it’s rather difficult to research rearward-facing car seats for older children, as the vast majority of car seats on the UK market are forward-facing.
Rear-facing just isn’t the norm here as it is in Scandinavia. I’m still met with ignorant views such as, ‘but his legs are all bent and uncomfortable’, and ‘I’m sure he’d love to see where he’s going’.
The idea that rear-facing children are uncomfortable is nonsense based on how us adults find comfort. We forget that young children have different bodies, physical needs and agility to average adults.
Children are often found sitting in positions that we couldn’t get into unless we were gymnasts. In fact, children’s legs are more protected from injury in rear-facing seats because they are supported from the forwards force exerted on them in a crash, which can cause broken legs.
Indeed, my articulate 3.5yo has never complained of discomfort in his seat. A child should never be in a car seat for longer than 90-minutes, so on a long journey, they should be having ample time to stop and stretch their legs.
I would be lost without expert rear-facing blogs such A Rear-Facing Family and Rear-Facing Toddlers, and resources such as Rear Facing: The Way Forward. These websites offer a wealth of information to parents on the necessity of extended rear-facing car seats, reviews of seats and myth-busters.
A Rear-Facing Family has an excellent list of seats which you can search for by weight. I had a look at seats for up to 25kg, as I will admit that I struggled to find such car seats by using just Google. Therese’s blog has proved invaluable to me for researching seats available on the UK market.
I’ve got my eye on a few.
First is the Radian 5 (5), by Diono. This super seat covers children from birth to around 7-years old, or 25kg. This seat has excellent reviews on the Diono website, where users have found it easy to install, comfortable for the user and sturdy. It is currently (February 2017) discounted from £295 down to a bargain at £225 on their website.
Axkid offer a range of seats for rear-facing children up to the weight of 25kg; The Wolmax (2), The Duofix (8), The Kidzone (9), The Minikid (4) and The Rekid (3). Axkid cater for the European market, with the Scandinavian philosophy of car seat safety in mind. If you look at their products, there is a filter which makes it incredibly easy to select a car seat based on the direction you’d like it to face and the weight of the user. They have five products in the rear-facing, 25kg bracket, and once you click on your desired option, you can list UK retailers of each seat. You cannot purchase straight from the website.
Well-known brand Britax offer two rear-facing seats for up to 25kg which I am interested in; the Max Way (7) and Multi-Tech II (6). Both fairly similar in spec, the Max Way is more compact, ideal for smaller vehicles.
Norwegian company BeSafe offer the iZi Plus (1) seat. This seat looks simple to install, especially with the informative video on the website. Because they don’t sell this seat via their website, you will need to search for the product separately. They do list UK retailers of BeSafe products, but not all of the retailers listed stock the entire range.
It would be an understatement to say that it’s a shame that these seats are not more readily available and inexpensive for the UK market. When you can purchase a forward-facing car seat for under £50 that will carry a child up to 25kg, why would parents even dream of spending around the £250 – £300-mark on a rear-facing car seat, when in their eyes, cheaper products available on the UK market meet the desired requirements?
But you don’t need to dig particularly deep to see the benefits of extended rear-facing car seats. We cannot predict car accidents, and we know that children die from spinal injuries because they were forward-facing too young.
I would not have been able to write this article without referring to A Rear Facing Family, Rear-Facing Toddlers and Rear-Facing: The Way Forward. These websites have a wealth of information on the importance of rear-facing car seats. Do head over and check them out.