Rear-facing seats have a long history since the first Swedish model was developed in the 1960s. However, their adoption as an effective safety system for young children has been more recent. It is only in the last few years that a more widespread use of this type of restraint system has occurred and is being promoted as the best way of limiting serious injuries and protecting the lives of our smallest passengers.
As discussed by Lotta Jakobsson, from Volvo, at the 15th Munich Conference, it was professor Bertil Aldman, in 1964, who designed the first rear-facing seat prototype for babies. This design was inspired by the way in which the Project Gemini capsules landed. The astronauts traveled in such a way that they landed on their backs, thereby distributing the impact forces across the back, neck and head and minimizing the possibility of injury.
This idea was directly applied to the Aldman project and was launched on the Swedish market in 1967. As we can see, rear-facing seats existed more than 50 years ago although it has only been in the last few years that we have been extolling their virtues in our country.
In fact, apart from the Swedish case, there is general resistance to the use of rear-facing child seats once the child has reached the age of two, with seats being placed in a forward-facing position much earlier than is advisable when considering the rate of a child's development.
Transporting children in rear-facing child seats is currently a growing trend. The fact that the UN ECE R129 standard regulates this up to 15 months old is proof of this, although it is not enough. Ideally children should be traveling in rear-facing seats as long as possible and up to 3 or 4 years old in order to ensure maximum protection. Nevertheless, one of the main reasons for placing seats in a forward-facing position has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with comfort.
This is the biggest safety concern associated with the direction in which we position the child car seat. By thinking that the child will be uncomfortable because of their size and the apparent lack of space if they are seated in a rear-facing position leads a lot of parents to choose to turn the seats around and have the children facing forward too early on.
Why does this not happen in Sweden? It is a combination of education, awareness, and even tradition.
There are currently a wide range of studies into this and experts affirm that the best way of transporting children by car is in a rear-facing position for as long as possible. This method offers the best level of protection for both head-on collisions and side impacts.
It is important to have child car seats that guarantee the protection of young children, and which efficiently distribute the forces exerted on them in a collision, whilst also ensuring they are comfortable and easy to use long-term.