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Does a CRS react in the same way to a side impact as to a frontal impact?

Does a CRS react in the same way to a side impact and a frontal impact?


After going off the road, frontal and side collisions are the leading cause of accidents with victims on conventional roads. Side impacts, frontal impacts and rear shunts are also very common on urban thoroughfares due to heavier traffic and congestion. Fortunately, not all serious accidents have equally serious consequences, but many of them do cause serious injuries. Having the right child restraint system is the only possible way of avoiding a more serious outcome for small children.

In 2015, there were 1.8 million minor traffic accidents in Spanish towns and cities, according to data from UNESPA (the Spanish Insurance Business Association). The high number of vehicles on the road mean that frontal and side collisions and rear shunts account for a high percentage of accidents.

Nevertheless, not all the crash tests undertaken take into account the "side accident" factor when analyzing how different child retention systems react. The fact is, we are talking about very different accidents. Braking and hitting the vehicle in front is not the same as being stationary and hit from behind, or another vehicle crashing into the side of your car.

Even so, the approved standard, ECE R44/04, only considers a frontal collision test at 50 km/h and a rear shunt test at 30 km/h. It was not until the "i-Size" standard that the side crash test was introduced (remember that both these standards are currently in force).


These are the most common types of accident, especially in cities, yet the two are very different. In the case of a frontal impact, the vehicle is traveling at a certain speed so there are two key factors to bear in mind in the event of a collision: the acceleration of the body and the impact speed. On the other hand, in the case of a rear shunt your vehicle might well be stationary. In this case, a vehicle going at a certain speed crashes suddenly into a static object.

For this reason, crash tests have had to differentiate between the two types of accident, testing the different child seats in each possible scenario.

It is in these very scenarios where it has been demonstrated that rear-facing child seats are much more effective and offer children much better protection.

This video shows how a child seat and its passenger react to a frontal impact if the child is facing in the direction of travel:

This reiterates the importance of children facing backwards in cars for as long as possible.


Side impact collisions are about half as frequent as frontal collisions. However, their consequences can be much more serious. This is why it is so important that child seats also offer protection in these kinds of accidents.

To address this, there are now special child seats that absorb side impacts and have shown excellent results in this kind of situation.

Nowadays a large number of vehicles have side airbags. We need to consider whether these have been designed with children in mind. This is one of the main recommendations of the Philadelphia Childrens' Hospital, where they are particularly concerned about the idea of a child's proximity to the interior structure of a vehicle. For this reason, one of the best places for children to be seated is in the middle of the back seat.

As mentioned earlier, more and more crash tests are taking side impacts into consideration and assessing how different child seats perform in these kinds of accidents. Having checked the overall performance of the child seat, they are given a score that you can check on our "Comparative Table". In these kinds of accidents, the child's body is displaced.

These days we can also find child seats that take the other occupants into account, such as a child who is thrown against the child seat by a side collision impact. There are seats designed to minimize this impact and even act as a kind of buffer against the blow.

In the case of side collisions, experts disagree about the best position. This is because everything depends upon the angle of impact.

We need to consider the importance of booster seats with a backrest, especially in this kind of accident, as they can reduce the risk of damage in a side impact up to six times (to the neck, vertebrae and head). They help to prevent the much-feared sudden head movement to the side.

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