According to a study into car seats for children carried out by the FUNDACIÓN MAPFRE in 2011, the safest position for a child is when the CRS, positioned on the rear seats facing backwards. This position offers the best protection for a child’s neck and the head in a collision as opposed to travelling forward facing. During a collision, a child under four years old will have a much increased chance of suffering an injury to these two sensitive areas if they were travelling forward facing than if they were travelling backward facing.
This can be demonstrated in many ways. The first reason to consider is that small children are at much higher risk of suffering an injury to the head and the spinal cord because their bones and ligaments are still developing. Their heads are proportionally bigger than the neck and so the support to the head is quite weak. For this reason if they are involved in a collision while facing forward there is a higher risk to them than if they were facing backwards.
There is a much greater awareness of the safest position for a child to travel, which is why the position of a seat is now regulated by law, according to the age of the child. If we talk about i-Size we can see that the new regulations “guarantee that all backward facing seats should be used up to at least 15 months of age. This encourages the use of backward facing seats “. In Spain, the law does not stipulate that a driver must install a CRS backward facing, except when it is installed on the front passenger seat and then only when the airbag can be deactivated and the seat cannot be installed on the rear seat (article 117 of the Road Safety Law). However, in brochures and information distributed by the DGT it is recommended that a seat should be installed backward facing.
In other countries it is customary to advise the use of a backward facing seat “for as long as possible” Some agencies such as the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), have proposed that it should be a legal obligation up to four years of age. In Germany, the German Road Safety Council (Deutscher Verkehrssicherheitsrat, DvR), note that even if the feet stick out from the seat it is much better to travel backward facing because “it is more important to protect the head “. In Sweden, (a country known for it’s involvement in road safety issues), the SNRA, (Swedish National Road Administration), confirms that backward facing is best. “Up until approximately four years of age, children are safer travelling backward facing. A backward facing child safety seat will absorb the most violent forces and will protect the head and the neck of a child”
These are the main reasons for us to advise that children should travel backward facing. What matters is safety, although comfort is important too. Comfort is not incompatible with safety and there are seats of all sizes available that are designed to be used backward facing, as responsible parents we must always put the safety of our children first.
From the 1st of October 2015, in agreement with the changes to the Highway Code, in respect of the use of seatbelts and Restraining Systems, the front passenger seat can only be occupied by children under 18 years of age and under 135cm in height, if the rear seats are already occupied by children under 18 years of age and under 135cm in height, that are using a restraining system.