Rear-facing child seats could be safer

* Rear-facing seats safer, says study * Toddlers up to four could benefit * Less neck and chest injuries...

Rear-facing child seats could be safer

New research suggests that children should be left in rear-facing child seats for longer.

The report, for the British Medical Journal, was written by Dr Elizabeth Watson, a GP at the Sunny Meed Surgery in Woking, and Dr Michael Monteiro, a special registrar at the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford.

They analysed existing data on car seats and concluded that rear-facing seats are more effective than forward-facing seats in protecting children aged 0-23 months for all crash types.

The report also uses evidence from Sweden, where using a rear-facing seat for children up to the age of four is common practice. Studies there suggest that children that died in accidents in front-facing seats could potentially have survived in rear-facing seats.

Dr Watson said: 'Rear-facing seats cradle a child in an impact with any frontal component, and align the head, neck and spine, spreading the crash forces over all of these body areas.'

'In a forward-facing car seat, a child's body is held back by the straps, while the head keeps moving forwards, and the relatively large head mass and differences in the cervical spine in young children can lead to exessive stretching of the spinal chord.'

The report recommends that official guidelines should advise parents to keep their children in rear-facing seats for as long as possible.