Extended Rear Facing

Keeping Little Ones Safer For Longer

When it comes to the safety of our children during car journeys, understanding and adhering to car seat regulations is paramount. In the United Kingdom, the law mandates that all children must use an appropriate child car seat until they are either 135 centimeters (4 feet 5 inches) tall or 12 years old, whichever comes first. Beyond this threshold, children are required to use a seatbelt.

The rationale behind these regulations is clear, the correct use of child car seats significantly reduces the risk of injury or death in the event of a collision. However, with a huge ammount of car seat options available on the market, selecting the most appropriate seat for your child can seem like a daunting task. Factors such as your child's age, size, and developmental needs play a crucial role in this decision-making process.

For infants and young children, rearward-facing car seats offer the highest level of protection. These seats are designed to shield the child's head, neck, and spine more effectively than forward-facing seats, particularly in the event of a frontal collision. Despite this, many parents are eager to switch their children to forward-facing seats as soon as possible, often under the assumption that it is more comfortable or preferable for the child.

The UK acknowledges two sets of regulations concerning child car seats: R44, which categorizes seats based on the child's weight, and the newer R129, also known as i-Size, which bases its standards on the child's height. Under R44 regulation, children can legally be moved to a forward-facing seat from as early as 9kg (approximately nine months old).

In contrast, i-Size regulations require children to remain in a rearward-facing position until they are over 15 months old. Regardless of these specifications, experts agree that keeping your child in a rearward-facing seat for as long as possible is the safest option. This approach minimizes the risk to the child in the event of a collision by distributing the impact across the entire back of the seat, rather than directly onto the fragile head and neck.

Choosing the correct extended rearward facing car seat for your child is a critical decision that impacts their safety during car journeys. Understanding the different categories and standards, such as R44 and R129 (i-Size), can help ensure you select the most appropriate and safest option for your child.

R44 regulations categorise car seats into groups based on the weight of the child they are designed to protect. For parents considering extended rearward facing seats, the relevant R44 categories include:

Group 0+1

Suitable for children weighing 0-18 kg, these seats are designed to accommodate infants from birth up to approximately 4 years of age. They offer the flexibility of being used rearward facing for the entire duration they are in use.

Group 1

These are for children weighing 9-18 kg, roughly from 9 months up to 4 years. While primarily forward-facing, many models in this group can also be used rearward facing, providing extended protection.

Group 1+2

This category covers children weighing 9-25 kg, extending the age range up to around 6 years. Seats in this group are particularly versatile, allowing for extended rearward facing use beyond the typical 4-year mark.

The R129 regulation, commonly referred to as i-Size, represents a newer standard that focuses on the child's height rather than weight. i-Size seats are designed to enhance safety through stricter testing, including side-impact protection and improved installation methods. Key aspects of i-Size seats include:

Height-based Selection

i-Size seats require children to remain rearward facing until at least 15 months old, with many models designed to accommodate children rearward facing up to 105 cm in height (approximately 4 years old). This standard encourages extended rearward facing use, which is shown to offer superior protection in the event of a collision.

ISOFIX Installation

i-Size seats predominantly use the ISOFIX system, which reduces the risk of incorrect installation—a common issue with seatbelt-installed seats. This standardized attachment system ensures a more secure and straightforward fitting process.

Enhanced Safety Features:

In addition to mandatory side-impact testing, i-Size seats are designed with advanced safety features to protect the child's head and neck more effectively. The rigorous testing criteria under the i-Size standard provide parents with greater assurance of the seat's safety performance.

Addressing Common Concerns About Extended Rearward Facing Seats

When considering extended rearward facing (ERF) car seats for children, parents often have several concerns regarding safety, comfort, and practicality. Here, we address some of the most common concerns to help make an informed decision.

Safety in Rear Impacts

One common worry is whether children are safe in ERF seats during rear-impact collisions. Research indicates that ERF seats offer effective protection in all types of collisions, including rear impacts. Although rear impacts typically occur at lower speeds, the design of ERF seats ensures that the force of such collisions is distributed across the seat, minimizing the risk of injury to the child. In fact, in the event of a rear or side impact, the dynamics of the collision tend to push the child into the seat, enhancing protection, unlike in forward-facing seats where the child might be pushed out of the seat alignment.

Comfort and Legroom

Concerns about comfort, especially regarding legroom, frequently arise. Parents worry that ERF seats might restrict leg space, causing discomfort for the child. However, children are generally more adaptable and flexible than adults, often finding comfortable positions even in limited spaces. Most modern ERF seats are designed with adjustable features to improve legroom, and children can comfortably sit cross-legged, bend their knees, or hang their legs over the sides of the seat. It's important to remember that the safety benefits of ERF seating far outweigh any potential discomfort from less legroom.

Travel Sickness

Another question is whether ERF increases the likelihood of travel sickness. Travel sickness results from a mismatch between visual motion cues and the body's sense of movement. It's less about the direction of travel and more about the brain's processing of motion. Children's balance and sensory systems continue to develop well into their toddler years, and there's no conclusive evidence that ERF positions contribute significantly to travel sickness. For some children, not seeing the fast-moving landscape might actually reduce sensory overload and the risk of feeling unwell.

Children's View

Parents also express concern that children might become bored or frustrated if they can't see out of the car as well in a rearward-facing position. However, children in ERF seats have a wide angle of view out of the side and rear windows. The elevated position of many ERF seats allows for ample observation and engagement with the outside world. Accessories like mirrors can also be used to maintain visual contact with the driver or other passengers, addressing concerns about interaction and engagement during travel.

Our Service

We are proud of our Smalls Install Plus service which offers a tailored car seat installation service designed to ensure your child's safety and comfort.

The service includes a bespoke consultation to discuss your child's and vehicle's specifics, a fit check to test recommended seats in your vehicle, professional installation by experts, and lifetime after support for any further needs as your child grows.

Priced at £30, this fee is waived if you purchase your car seat from them, effectively making the personalised installation service free. This comprehensive approach ensures your child travels safely, providing you with peace of mind.