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Swedes save more lives with policy of keeping kids in rear-facing car seats for longer

Swedes save more lives with policy of keeping kids in rear-facing car seats for longer
Tristan Honeywill

Accident research figures from Sweden confirm the country’s policy of keeping children in rear-facing car seats for longer is continuing to save lives. While German accident data shows a significant peak in the number of one year-olds killed, with 37 fatalities over a five year period, none died in Sweden.


Lotta Jakobsson, a senior safety specialist at Volvo Cars, commented: “When comparing data from Sweden and Germany [over the last five years], it becomes evident that the Swedish habit of transporting our smaller children in rearward facing seats for longer protects this age group.”

In Sweden children travel in rear-facing seats until they are three or four years old; in Germany, as in most other countries, children start to sit facing forward from around the age of 12 months. This is changing as more rear-facing seats become available. In January, Britax launched the Max-Fix, a Group 0+/1 rearward facing ISOFIX-compatible car seat that allows parents to kep their children rearward facing until around the age of four (or 18kgs).


How rear-facing car seats work

In the most common and the most severe car accidents, the occupants’ head is thrown forward with force. Its momentum propels it downwards onto the breastbone and then back up again. While most adult necks can withstand this strain, a small child’s neck cannot. In a rear-facing seat, the force is distributed throughout the child’s spine instead of being concentrated into its neck and head. This video explains it well:

The rearward-facing car seat was invented in 1967 by Swedish safety genius, Professor Bertil Aldman. Aldman was inspired by the special seats used by Gemini mission astronauts during take-off and landing, which were moulded to distribute G forces over the whole back. The same principle is what protects children in car accidents. The whole of the child’s back takes the strain of the impact, not just its much weaker neck.

You might also want to know how to choose the best infant car seat.


Source: Technical University Berlin & Swedish Transport Administration


  1. Greg Speier

    Excellent video, thanks to all involved, how do I get a copy?

  2. Brian

    There are 9 times as many citizens in Germany as Sweden, and Germany is smaller geographically. Germany is also located in centrally in Europe, meaning they get a lot of through traffic. Comparing traffic accident statistics in two such different countries is, essentially, meaningless.

    • Hi Brian
      It is extremely difficult to compare countries. It would be better if we had rates per 100,000 population and other figures factored in.
      I’m interested in how Sweden has achieved zero deaths for a vulnerable part of its population. What changed to make this happen? Looking at the accident research Professor Jakobsson believes that greater use of rear-facing is a meaningful factor in Sweden.
      We can’t change Germany’s location or the volumes of traffic there, but people can choose to fit rear-facing child seats. Like you, I doubt whether 100% fitment of rear-facing child seats in Germany would mean zero deaths, but it would save a lot of young lives.

  3. Tom

    Road safety education is a big (understated) problem in Germany. They have no patience at all and don’t know how to deal with (race)bikes on roads. Not to speak about old people who clearly should not be on roads anymore.
    But the biggest problem is safety distance at high speeds. It’s sheer irresponsible and incredible how most drivers driving > 150 km/h behave, leaving maybe 3m distance when being blocked by a slower car which is overtaking. What do you expect with such a big car lobby, leaving roads unsave for the “sake of economy”.

  4. Claire

    Well if none died in Sweden it’s quite easy, it’s 0 per 100,000.

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