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Should the child be seated in the direction of travel or against it?
Long-term international experience with results of both research and crash tests show that children up to the age of 4 sit five times safer facing rearward than children sitting facing forward. Leading authorities in road safety research such as the VTI Linköping, the Swedish road authority Vägverket, the Swedish Traffic Safety Association (NT) and the German Insurance Association (GDV) recommend that children be placed in cars facing rearwards until reaching the age of three.
Small children are not just miniature adults. In the event of an accident, a child's small, vulnerable body is subjected to extreme forces. Forward impact is a particular threat to the child's head and neck. In a strong collision the child can be pressed into the seat belt with a force that can cause internal injuries to the liver, spleen and kidneys. Forward-facing child seats reduce injury by 60%.
Rearward-facing car seat.
If a child is seated against the direction of travel, the child's entire body is pressed against the back support of the child seat. This distributes the force over a greater area and minimises the stress. The head and neck are exposed to no more extreme stresses. Additionally, the child seat serves as a protection against fragments and protects the child from being injured by small parts that may enter the vehicle. When a child is seated rearward-facing (against the direction of travel), the injury-reducing effect is closer to 90%.
Volvo did a study of 13,000 car accidents. 800 of these accidents involved children between the ages of 0 and 4. Forty percent of children facing forwards were injured, with varying degrees of injury that required either doctor's treatment or hospitalisation. Only 8% of children facing rearwards required medical treatment. This statistic means that it is only logical to transport a child facing away from the direction of travel for as long as possible.
Volvo's accident study shows that:
21 % of head/neck injuries occur with forward-facing seats.
7 % of head/neck injuries occur with rearward-facing seats.
Neck injuries can be the cause of dramatic and permanent damage.
Road and Traffic Research Institute,
Linköping University, Sweden
Children in cars. Research of fatal traffic accidents in the years 1992-1997
The Road and Traffic Research Institute in Sweden conducted a study of child fatalities in car accidents. One of the study's conclusions is:
"As a subjective estimate, 25 of 79 children (32%) could have survived if they had been properly secured. This study also found that 62 children (of 79 fatalities) were seated facing forwards..."