These days we’re all about informed choice; it started before Isaac was even conceived, as we started to explore making better choices about the way we lived, and trying to balance our knowledge and our choices with our available income - always a tricky one that, but I digress. So when it came to buying Isaac’s first car seat we spent a lot of time researching, looking up crash-test scores and all those sorts of details as well as customer feedback ratings.
Our first car seat was not cheap; including the ISOFIX base it came to around £300, so we made it last as well as we could. Isaac made it to about 21 months before it became absolutely necessary we upgraded; whilst he is still well within the weight limits of his first car seat, he’s just too long and his head was just about to leave the safe limits of the car seat. Of course we didn't leave it this long until we started researching, we started that in earnest around his first birthday.
The very first thing we found in our research was that we wanted Isaac to continue rear-facing as long as possible. At first it was hard to find the correct information, but thanks to RearFacing.co.uk we were able to find out that it could be up to five times safer for children 4 and under. As they put it themselves:
Did you know that it's five times safer for a child to be rear facing? Scandinavian children are rear facing until they are 4–5 years old (25kg or 55lbs), which has resulted in a much lower number of children injured or dead in car accidents compared with other countries, as for instance the UK. So why is rear facing safer? On this site you will get the facts and figures to show you why rear facing is safer. Then it is up to you to decide what is best for your child.
It’s strange, because this just doesn't seem to be widely publicised in this country. The current UK guidelines suggest that from 9kg (19lb 13.5oz) your child can forward face in a car seat - according to the WHO growth charts for boys this could be anything from as early as 3 months!
Although there are obviously different crash scenarios that can happen, the most risky to life is front-on collisions; these also happen to be the situations where rear facing car seats can out-perform forward facing seats. I’ll let this video do the talking for me:
The most amazing thing we found out is that the same companies making forward facing seats in this country are also making the rear-facing seats for Scandinavian countries, but don’t generally sell them here! Crazy! And whilst they state the advanced safety of their rear-facing models over there, over here they simply don’t mention it.
The only reason seems to be that they don’t believe there is much of a market here. Personally I think that if one of the manufacturers stepped forward saying that despite the regulations in this country they believe rear-facing to be safer and they will be selling rear-facing models through major retailers, they would've got my vote. I'm surprised they don’t try it, do a combined advertising push with a selected retailer, they’d make a killing!
We found a few online sellers over here, but we wanted to make sure the one we spent such a large amount of money on was well suited to Isaac, us and our car - by the way, expect to pay around £300, regardless of model, not that there are a huge amount to choose from. We were fortunate to find a real life stockist close to Lucy’s parents, so we took a visit one weekend we were up there.
That’s where our story should end, but the adventure just carried on… when we got there we found out that cars like ours with under floor storage for the back seats, an increasingly common feature these days, are problematic for rear facing car seats. Rear facing seats typically feature a supporting leg to help prevent too much motion during a crash, but the plastic lids on the storage compartments are not strong enough to withstand the force. So no car seat, unless we can find one with a leg that stretches to the true floor or find something to fill in the compartment. Although, we are told, that they’re not sure how safe filling it in actually is.
That prompted a quick internet search whilst we commiserated ourselves in Ikea restaurant. Via the rear-facing site I mentioned before we found another company not too far away from Bristol and after a quick call it became clear that they had fitted the seat we had been looking at in other cars like ours. They weren't able to see us that weekend, so we planned to go the following weekend we were up in Bristol.
And so it was that a couple of weeks ago we went to see Kirsty from Securatot. The folks at securatot have been doing this a while and started when they chose rear-facing for their own children, they’re passionate and well-informed. What’s more, they also have it in writing from Be-Safe, the manufacturer of our chosen car seat, that filling the storage compartment with polystyrene blocks/sheets is sufficient to allow the lid to withstand an impact from the leg.
So the car seat was tried in the car; it was a good fit and Isaac loved it. None in stock, though, so it was put on order and we waited and got prepared with some polystyrene (some free scraps from Jewsons, thanks!). Although we didn't have to wait long, it was delivered pretty quickly (free delivery too)!
Isaac loves his new car seat (we went for a BeSafe iZi Combi, by the way) it’s slightly higher than his old one so he gets a much better view out the back window! What’s more we heard from Kirsty that her 4 year old fits fine in the car seat, so we’re looking forward to another 2 years or so before we need to replace it again!