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Rear-facing car seats are safest—even if you’re hit from behind, says study

It makes sense that in a head-on or side-impact crash, a rear-facing car seat would be the way to go, but many parents have wondered about the effectiveness of rear-facing seats in rear-impact crashes.


Is a rear-facing seat still as safe if you’re rear-ended?

A new study out of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center has proved that the answer is yes.

Rear-facing car seats are the best bet for babies in all kinds of crashes, even rear-enders.

“It’s a question that parents ask me a lot, because they’re concerned about the child facing the impact of the crash,” says Julie Mansfield, lead author of the study and research engineer at Ohio State College of Medicine’s Injury Biomechanics Research Center. “Even though the child is facing the direction of the impact, it doesn’t mean that a rear-facing car seat isn’t going to do its job.”

Rear-impact crashes only account for a bit more than 25% of crashes the researchers note, and they’re actually less dangerous for children than front-end collisions. The researchers knew from real-world accident reports that rear-facing car seats are protecting kids in these rear-impact crashes, but the study is important because the bulk of previous crash-test research had focused on front and side collisions, so some parents wondered whether kids in rear-facing seats were at risk for head and neck injuries in rear-facing collisions, when an impact might push them into back of the front seat.

The team tested four car seats: two infant seats (Evenflo Embrace and the Maxi Cosi Mico AP/Mico Max 30) and two convertible seats (one from diono and one from Safety 1st convertible), Reuters reports.

The study, published in SAE International, shows (that when used correctly) all four seats kept the heads, necks, and spines of little crash test dummies aligned, and supported the fake children during impact. The results are consistent with the data gathered after real-world accidents: When parents follow directions, rear-facing seats do well in rear-impact crashes.

That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends infants and toddlers ride in a rear-facing seat until they’re at least two years old (and preferably longer if their car seat allows it).

The study’s findings and the AAP recommendations make total sense to Allana Pinkerton, the Global Safety Advocate for and Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician with diono. She suggests parents keep kids rear-facing as long as possible, until they max out of the height and weight restrictions. With a convertible or 3-in-1 option, that could mean they’ll be as big as 50 pounds or 49 inches tall before you turn them around.

"Rear facing puts a child in the optimal position during a crash,” Pinkerton says in a statement emailed to Motherly, in which she echos Mansfield’s recommendations and the AAP’s.

Experts aren’t the only ones who say rear-facing seats can save a child: Parents who’ve been in a heart-stopping collision know it’s true. Chris Burlile and his wife Aimee were recently hit by another vehicle when they were on the way to the store with their 12-week-old daughter, Amelia. “We did about a full 360,” he recalls. “We hit the grass embankment we ended up rolling down the hill.”

The Burliles’ credit Amelia’s rear-facing car seat with protecting her tiny, vulnerable head and neck during the crash. The car was totaled, but their baby wasn’t hurt. “She was strapped down pretty tight, so there wasn't a lot of separation [between] her and the seat,” says Burlile, who adds that when the car rolled, because Amelia was buckled in so tight, she was just surrounded by padding on all sides.

He’s thankful he and Aimee took the time to learn how to install their carseat and follow the recommendations. Mansfield hopes other parents do the same.

“Hopefully this data can help show them that despite their child facing the direction of impact in this scenario, these seats still have the ability to keep their child very safe,” she says.

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Create a school-ready capsule wardrobe for your kids

Dress for success whether virtual learning or in the classroom!

Tina Meeks

Going "back to school" this year may be less of a literal statement than in years past—but there is just as much reason for your kids to celebrate moving on to new grades. Just like in every new school year, a big part of the fun is refreshing your kids' wardrobe with clothes that allow them to express themselves.

Even if finding back to school clothes this year doesn't include a trip to the mall, you can still make an event of it by shopping H&M's kids collection from your computer. Pull up another chair for your shopping buddy and get the cart started with these fave capsule wardrobe options we've already scouted.

Here are our favorite picks:

A t-shirt made for play

H&M t-shirt

Call them essentials, not basics. A graphic t-shirt aces the test when it comes to being perfect for school. And because your little student will probably want to wear something that expresses their personal style as often as possible, it's great to know the shirts can stand up to school time, playtime, downtime and everything in between!

$4.99

Dressed-up casual shorts for total comfort

H&M boy shorts

Whether pulling up a chair for a virtual meeting with the class or heading back to the school for in-person learning, some comfortable, yet stylish, shorts will help your kid focus on the real tasks at hand: learning—and having fun while doing it!

$19.99

Layers for when seasons change

H&M sweatshirt

When it comes to feeling comfortable at school, layers are the MVPs. Whether the AC is blasting or the day started off cool and is warming up quickly, having a unique sweatshirt to shed or add will help your kid look cool while staying warm.

$9.99

A bit of flair with distressed denim

H&M distressed jeans

A school staple for generations, denim is both classic and continually fashionable with updates like distressing and new wash colors. If you're shopping online for jeans this year, take note of H&M's generous return policy—your kids can try on the orders at home and return anything that doesn't fit without a trip to the store.

$24.99

A fashion statement piece

H&M girls skirt

What's better than expressing yourself through a stylish outfit when school is back in session? Still feeling perfectly comfortable and ready to tackle anything the day holds while looking so good. With so many fashion-forward looks available at budget-friendly prices, H&M's children's collection means every kid can find an outfit that speaks to them.

$14.99

Some comfy kicks

H&M boys shoes

A sure way to put a little pep in your child's step this year, cool and cozy shoes are a staple on all back-to-school shopping lists for good reason. (Plus, it's fun to compare them to last year's shoes to see how much your kid has grown!)

$19.99

Anything-but-basic blouses

H&M girls blouse

Whether in the classroom or showing up for a video call with the class, a styling blouse or button-down shirt is a great way for your student to comfortably dress up the day. Better yet? Style doesn't have to come at the expense of comfort with so many made-to-move tops designed just for kids.

$14.99

A shirt ready to go whatever the day holds

H&M boys shirt

With "going to school" meaning anything from showing up in the classroom to doing a virtual session, it's important to have clothes that are perfect for anything the day holds. A classic, cotton shirt with a fashion-forward design is a great way to keep your student feeling ready to start the year with an A+ attitude.

$9.99

This article was sponsored by H&M. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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