Choosing the Right Child Car Seat
With so many options to choose from and consider, picking the right child car seat can be tricky. So we spoke to Nick Lloyd, road safety manager at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).
Not only do parents and carers have to make sure they are using the right seat for their child’s age but in doing so they must also ensure they are complying with the law.
Up until they reach the age of 12 or 135 cm tall, all children travelling in the back or front of a car must use the correct restraint, with few exceptions, and it is the driver who is ultimately responsible for making sure children are using the correct child seat.
Earlier this year the law was amended to allow the use of child car seats that conform to the R129 (known as i-size seats). This means that parents can now choose whether to buy and use child car seats that meet R44.04 or R129.
Parents may continue to use R44 rearward-facing baby seats and forward-until their child is over the weight limit of 13 kg, at which point they may transfer their child into a forward-facing R44 group 1 child seat, or into a larger rearward-facing seat (group 0+ and 1). Or parents may use an i-size seat, in which case they must keep the child rearward-facing until they are at least 15 months old.
Parents using i-size seats need to consider their child’s height. I-size seats must be capable of carrying a child rearward-facing up to the height of 83cm. Parents can move them forward facing under this height (although it’s recommended to keep them rear facing as long as possible) provided they are over 15 months of age. A child between 71cm and 83cm tall and over 15 months old can be carried rearward or forward facing.
i-Size child car seats are for cars that have Isofix fitting points, but parents still need to check if the seat is approved for their car.
It will run side by side with the existing standard for child car seats (R44.04) until approximately 2018.
Parents are still able to buy and use child car seats that meet R44.04, and which are fitted with seat belts or Isofix, or use i-Size seats instead.
It is not until a child reaches the required height and weight limit that they can start using adult seatbelts, so when picking out a child seat, it is important for parents and carers to know what to look out for.
Firstly, the seat must conform to the United Nations Standard - ECE Regulation 44.04, or a later version. It should also be suitable for the child’s weight and size and be fitted securely, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
The first car seats that children will use are rearward-facing, which typically last from birth to 12-15 months. They protect the head, neck and spine better than forward-facing options, which is why it is advised to keep babies in those types of seats for as long as possible. This seat should only be changed when the baby exceeds the maximum weight or the top of their head goes above the top of the seat.
A rearward-facing seat also cuts the risk of a baby being injured or killed in a crash by 90 per cent compared to if they were not strapped in.
Once a child outgrows the rearward restraint they should then move on to forward-facing seats with an internal harness, after which, parents should upgrade to a booster seat.
It is safer to carry children in the rear of the car. It is illegal and dangerous to put a rearward-facing baby seat in the front if there is an active passenger airbag. If the airbag goes off, it will hit the baby seat and fling it forward with considerable force.