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What are the results of side impacts on rear-facing child seats?

Side impacts in rear-facing child seats: what is the outcome?


Frontal impacts are the most common type of accident. Cars are especially designed to cope with this type of impact, as are all the other safety systems. Obviously this is also the case with child restraint systems. Indeed, rear-facing child seats primarily protect the neck area of young children in these kinds of accidents. But are child restraint systems also safe in side-impact collisions?

The infographic "All the information you need about rear-facing child seats" addresses the advantages of children using these seats for as long as possible, especially up to the age of four. The most important thing is that they protect the head, neck and spinal column in frontal collisions, which are the most common type of accident.

In the article "Does a CRS react in the same way to a side impact as to a frontal impact?" we highlight the fact that side collisions occur half as often as frontal impacts and yet the consequences can be much more serious. In this respect, many experts disagree as to whether it is better to use a front-facing or rear-facing child seat, alleging that it depends on the angle of impact.

At the 14th International Conference on the Protection of Children in Cars in Munich last December, Bérenger Le Tellier, from Strasbourg University, spoke on the head protection offered to newborn babies in approved side impact tests with R129-approved equipment.

They are currently using Q-dummies in these impact tests. However, according to Le Tellier, "research work has demonstrated that the regulatory assessment criteria are not properly correlated with head injuries."

Consequently, the study they presented showed how various crash tests were performed with two child restraint systems, one with R44 and the other with R129 certification, taking biomechanical criteria into account to assess the damage to the head and neck of a newborn baby. The fact is that these are the most vulnerable spots. A baby's head is particularly large and heavy and the cranium is still in the process of ossification. In addition, the neck's ligaments and muscles are not yet sufficiently robust to keep the baby's head upright.

We should remember that the R129 regulation was introduced precisely to improve the outcome of side impacts, and stipulates that babies should face backwards until at least the age of 15 months. The test consists of a collision of 6.8 meters per second with an intrusive door of 250 mm. For the child seats to pass the test, they needed to achieve a figure below a certain target that would show the resulting injuries (for Q0 to Q1.5, of 75g and 600, while for Q3 and Q6, 80g and 800). In addition, tests were conducted to evaluate these potential injuries with even more precise models.

As we mentioned above, two child seats were chosen for children of under one year old, affixed with the ISOFIX system. One was positioned facing forwards, with R44 certification, and the other facing backwards, with R129. The figures show a result of 115g for the R44 child seat and 70g for the R129. In this case, it was shown how the rear-facing child seat with R129 certification achieved better results.

In this respect, the Plus Test stamp certifies that the child seat in question has passed the stringent Swedish tests with regard particularly to frontal collisions. These tests call for a higher safety level, primarily to protect the neck area. Consequently, only rear-facing child seats have been approved. However, you can also check to see if the side impact has been tested on these CRS.

Whatever the case, you should always remember that if a child seat has the relevant certification it is because it has passed the required safety standards, whether forward-facing or rear-facing. Having said that, you must always follow the manufacturer's instructions, because if the seat has only been approved for use facing backwards, it could be particularly dangerous for the child's safety if it is used facing forwards.

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