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Study tests how rear-facing car seats perform when vehicle is hit from behind

In 2016, Heather Hope was driving home with her 16-month-old daughter Anastacia when another vehicle hit and flipped her car. Heather was killed but her baby, who was strapped in a rear-facing car seat, survived with minor injuries.

Heather's sister Amber Hope, said she had been very careful in picking out a safe car seat.

"It paid off and I'm so thankful and I know she would be so happy knowing that her daughter is still here with us," she told CBS News.

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Heather Hope was killed in a car crash in 2016 but her daughter, in a car seat, survived.

Family photo

Studies show rear-facing car seats can be highly effective in front and side collisions. But researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center wanted to test how they perform in rear accidents when the child is facing the impact of the crash.

Study author Julie Mansfield conducted on multiple rear facing seats with crash test dummies.

The results found that when used correctly, all were effective because they absorbed crash forces while controlling the motion of the child.

"Those crash forces are going to be transferred from the shell of the car seat into the vehicle seat and into the vehicle and that keeps the crash energy away from the occupant himself," Mansfield explained.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents keep their toddlers in rear-facing car seats until they are 2 years old or until they reach the maximum height or weight allowed by the manufacturer.

"The rear facing seat does a really good job of keeping the head, neck and spine supported," Mansfield said. These areas are especially vulnerable in newborns and young children whose spine and vertebrae haven't fused and fully developed yet, she explained.

The results of the study were published in the journal SAE International.