The constant talk about Sweden and car seat safety comes from many years of public education. Having the best seats in the world matter very little if people don’t use them. For the past 25 years there has been an aggressive campaign to convince parents kids are far safer in rear facing seats. Thanks to researchers, politicians, and parents, the strategy has helped to save thousands of lives.
The first rear facing seats became available in Sweden in 1965 by the legendary safety brand “Klippan” (“The Rock”. ) Much has changed over the years but the seat still looks much like today’s excellent rear facing seats. The safety talk from the flyers 40 years ago also sound very familiar. It’s talk about babies and their proportionally heavy heads and the danger to head, neck, and spine.
The “Swedish model” is very simple which is part of the safety success. During the first 5-9 months of a babies life an infant seat is used. Then it’s time for a Swedish rear facing seat which allows a maximum weight of 25 kg. (55 lbs). Rear facing is recommended until age 4 when it’s time for a good belt positioning booster.
Researchers luckily realized very early that good cooperation with politicians, safety organizations and the public was crucial in keeping kids rear facing and safe. Finding out a safe solution in the lab is one thing, making parents use it is another challenge. Over the years, they’ve done a great job in convincing everyone rear facing is the best way to avoid a tragedy in traffic. Communication channels are always open both ways and new findings are communicated to parents.
Regardless of laws and regulations, in the end it’s always up to parents to keep kids safe. Education and information is therefore extremely important. The law in Europe is fairly lax, there is for example no minimum rear facing age or weight. A parents could theoretically forward face a 7 month old but it just doesn’t happen.
Car seat use in Sweden is great but can still be improved. The official recommendation is rear facing until at least age 4 and has not changed for many years. The absolute minimum for forward facing is considered 3 years of age and 15 kg. (33 lbs). Today, it’s very unusual to see a three year old sitting forward facing in a car.