Baby Products Safety Standards, Car Seats

IS Anti-Rebound Bar Safer?Pros and Cons

Kate Nash

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It can be the chilling of all experiences to be in an accident and even worse when your infant is riding with you. It sends shivers down the spine when you imagine how your little one will be affected by any mishap.

With the evolution of technology to make cars safer for passengers including the little ones to ride, one feature that Britax and other car seat manufacturers have added is the anti-rebound bar(ARB). It is worth noting that while ARBs are effective, CPSC or NHTSA has not mandated manufacturers to design car seats with ARBs.

During the testing process for U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS), Britax found that the ARB significantly reduces the risk of injury to rear-facing children.

From its 2016 blog introducing this ARB technology, Britax argued that ARB reduces the risk of injury for infants(rear-facing) by reducing rebound rotation by 40% and providing stability to the car seat in various crash scenarios, including frontal, rear-end, and side-impact collisions.

In this guide, I have provided details of ARB as one of the car seat safety features that I recommend you consider when purchasing a car seat for your infant. You can find all the 10 essential safety features for car seats here.

What is the Anti-Rebound Bar?

The anti-rebound bar, also known as ARB, is a safety feature found in some rear-facing car seats. It is designed to provide additional stability to the car seat and reduce rebound rotation in case of an accident.

In simpler terms, the ARB minimizes the movement of the car seat during a crash, preventing excessive rebound rotation that could cause injury to your infant.

When you are involved in an accident, your car moves towards the point of impact and ARB reduces that movement and gets the seat to stop sooner than it would have without the ARB.

The Load leg, ISOFix base, and anti-rebound bars are all components specifically engineered to alter the movement patterns of the child restraint system in various types of crashes. These features work together to enhance the car seat’s stability and minimize movement, reducing the risk of injury to your infant.

Image of Britax Car seat showing Anti Rebound Bar
Image of Britax Car seat showing Anti Rebound Bar(#32)

What happens during a crash:

To get a full understanding of the importance of the ARB, it’s essential to understand what happens during a crash. Below are key events that take place when a car is involved in an accident;

  • When a rear-facing car seat is involved in a collision, it will rotate downwards towards the floor. This is because of the force created by the impact.
  • This downward motion creates a rebound rotation where the car seat will then rotate upwards and towards the back of the vehicle, before finally coming to a stop.
  • This downward movement causes the vehicle cushion to compress and the seat belt (or LATCH belt, depending on the method used for installation) to stretch.
  • As the car seat rotates upwards towards the back of the vehicle, it also causes your baby’s body to move in an upward motion.
  • This violent motion can cause severe injuries to your infant’s neck and head, potentially leading to serious long-term consequences.
ARBs during crashes in both FF and RF car seats
ARBs during crashes in both FF and RF car seats

The role of the ARB in enhancing Safety

Now that we understand what happens during a crash, let’s look at how the Anti-Rebound Bar works to prevent these motions from occurring. The unique design of the ARB helps reduce rotational movement by absorbing energy in a way that stabilizes the car seat and keeps it in place. This means that when a crash occurs, instead of rotating downward towards the floor, the ARB will absorb some of the impact energy and prevent this motion from happening.

In simpler terms, an ARB is designed to catch the car seat as it rotates towards the back of the vehicle seat during a side impact. It stabilizes the motion and disperses the remaining energy, effectively mitigating the impact. This mechanism operates with ease and effectiveness, ensuring enhanced safety.

Here is an even shorter Youtube Shorts video demonstrating ARBs in car seats;

Which Positions are ARBs Effective In?

ARBs are only efficient in safeguarding your baby in rear-facing positions. This is because, during an accident with a baby riding on an RF car seat, the seat starts in a more reclined position and travels a longer distance before reaching the back of the vehicle seat. This makes it more prone to rotational motion, which the ARB helps prevent.

On the other hand, if a child is in a forward-facing car seat during a frontal crash, they may move beyond the protective shell of the seat due to the stretching of the harness. ARB is not designed to prevent this type of motion, which is why it is essential to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible.

From data published on car seat safety, I wasn’t able to find credible evidence that forward-facing seats can benefit from ARBs or data to demonstrate if ARBs are beneficial in side impacts.

ARBs Impact Stats During Collision:

According to Britax, ARBs can reduce rebound rotation by 40%. Another source, carseatblog.com cites an unnamed source claiming that ARBs decrease rebound energy by one-third. Regardless of the primary research source, it is clear that ARBs play a significant role in keeping your baby safe.

I wasn’t able to find specific data on how the 40% or 1/3 reduction of rebound energy translates to a reduction in head, neck, legs, or body injuries.

Anti-Rebound Bars in Car Seats Pros and Cons:

Pros:

  1. Anti-rebound bars on car seats provide several key benefits that enhance the safety and protection of children in vehicles. Here are five significant benefits:
  2. Enhanced Safety in Rear-Impact Collisions: The primary benefit of anti-rebound bars is the increased safety they provide in rear-impact collisions. By limiting the amount of rebound movement a car seat experiences when impacted from the rear, these bars help prevent the child from being thrust too far forward, reducing the risk of injury.
  3. Reduced Rotation in Frontal and Side-Impact Crashes: In addition to rear-impact collisions, anti-rebound bars can also help minimize the car seat’s rotation in frontal and side-impact crashes. This reduced rotation helps keep the child in a more stable and safer position during a collision, further protecting against head, neck, and spinal injuries.
  4. Increased Stability: Anti-rebound bars add stability to the car seat installation, making the seat less likely to move side-to-side or tilt in any direction. This stability is crucial, especially in sudden stops, turns, or collisions, as it helps maintain the car seat in its safest possible orientation.
  5. Peace of Mind for Parents: Knowing that their child’s car seat is equipped with features designed to enhance safety can provide significant peace of mind for parents and caregivers. The presence of an anti-rebound bar can reassure them that they have taken an additional step to protect their child while traveling.
  6. Complements Other Safety Features: Anti-rebound bars work in conjunction with other car seat safety features, such as side-impact protection, 5-point harness systems, and energy-absorbing foam. Together, these features provide a comprehensive safety solution that addresses various types of impact and enhances overall protection for the child.

Cons:

  1. While anti-rebound bars (ARBs) in car seats offer significant safety advantages, there are also some potential disadvantages or challenges that parents and caregivers might encounter. Understanding these can help in making a fully informed decision. Here are some key disadvantages:
  2. Increased Weight and Bulk: Car seats equipped with anti-rebound bars tend to be heavier and bulkier than those without. This added weight and size can make the car seat more difficult to transport, install, or switch between vehicles, which might be inconvenient for families who travel frequently or use multiple cars.
  3. Complex Installation: The presence of an anti-rebound bar can sometimes complicate the installation process. Ensuring that the ARB is correctly positioned and secured may require additional steps or adjustments, which could be challenging for some users, especially those who are not familiar with car seat installation.
  4. Reduced Leg Room for Child: In rear-facing configurations, an anti-rebound bar can potentially reduce the amount of legroom available for the child. This might lead to discomfort, especially for older or taller children who still fit within the rear-facing weight and height limits.
  5. Compatibility Issues with Vehicle Seats: Not all car seats with anti-rebound bars fit well in every type of vehicle. The design of the vehicle’s back seat or the configuration of the interior can affect how well the car seat and its anti-rebound bar can be installed and positioned. This might limit the options available to families with certain types of vehicles.
  6. Cost: Car seats featuring anti-rebound bars can be more expensive than those without this feature. For families on a tight budget, the additional cost might be a significant factor in their decision-making process, even though the safety benefits are appealing.
  7. Difficulty in Cleaning: Depending on the design, car seats with anti-rebound bars can be more challenging to clean thoroughly. The ARB mechanism might create nooks and crannies that are hard to reach, complicating the cleaning process, especially after spills or accidents.

How to Choose the Right Car Seat with Anti-Rebound Bar:

  1. Consider your vehicle type: If you have a small car, an ARB may not be the best option as it can take up extra space. In this case, a car seat with other safety features may be a better choice.
  2. Consider the rebound rotation risk: If your daily commute involves driving on busy highways or roads with frequent stops and starts, an ARB can provide added protection against rebound rotation.
  3. Check for compatibility: Before purchasing a car seat with an anti-rebound bar, make sure it is compatible with your vehicle and any other accessories you plan to use, such as stroller frames or travel systems.
  4. Research brands and models: It’s essential to research different car seat brands and models to find the best fit for your family’s needs. This includes considering the safety features, weight limits, and ease of use.
  5. Follow installation instructions: Proper installation is key to ensuring the effectiveness of an anti-rebound bar. Be sure to carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and regularly check for proper placement and adjustments.

Are Anti-rebound bars necessary?

While not all car seats come with an anti-rebound bar, they can provide an extra layer of protection for your child. Ultimately, it is a personal decision for parents to make based on their own research and needs. I would 100% recommend an ARB for a family who travels frequently or has a car with limited space, as it can offer added stability and safety during travel.

Critics claim that anti-rebound bars are not necessary because modern car seat design and installation techniques already provide enough protection. However, it’s important to note that not all car seats are created equal and some may offer more protection than others. An ARB can also serve as an added safety measure in the event of a collision or sudden stop.

Load Leg vs ARB:

Load legs are a telescoping leg that extends from the base of a rear-facing car seat to the floor of your vehicle. It works by absorbing energy and preventing the rotational movement of the child seat during a collision.

Some sources quote that it reduces crash forces by 40-50% which is better than ARBs. However, load legs are not compatible with all types of vehicles, and there is still a lack of data on its effectiveness in side-impact collisions.

Strictly from a safety perspective, load leg is superior to ARB, but if your car is not compatible with it, then ARB is the next best option. Also, some car seats come with both load leg and ARB for added safety.

Car seat with ARBs:

AAP released its 2023 list of car seats with ARB here