this is not new news, but its worthy of repeating. a 5 pt harness car seat is hands down the safest way to secure your child in a vehicle. A rearfacing child is SIGNIFICANTLY safer than a forward facing child, even if the child's legs are bent while rearfacing. we kept our kids rearfacing until after age 2, and I sometimes wish we had waited even longer. We just put a DVD player in the back so they could watch movies during long car rides. We played their music for day to day travel and had no problems. If the child doesn't know any better, rear facing is a non-issue for the kiddo.
My kids will be in a 5 pt harness until 80lbs. There are several car seats that allow bigger kids to still have a 5 pt harness instead of a booster. Check out this blog for good info.