Selecting a car safety seat for your child
There are a few simple steps to ensure that your children are safe in the car:
- Choose the appropriate car seat according to the child's age/size.
- Fit the seat properly in the car, checking before every trip.
- Ensure you have fitted the child properly in the seat before every trip.
- Keep your children in the back for as long as possible; don't be in a hurry to take them to the front seat.
- Make sure your car seat is approved. This means testing up to European standards.
- R44 seats are accepted in one or more groups depending on your child's weight. From group 0 and for 0+ newborns and up to group 3 for children weighing 22–36 kg.
- Before purchasing any child seat check your child's weight and check them regularly as they grow.
- R129 (i-Size) seats are allowed up to the maximum child's natural standing height.
Extreme danger warning
You should not use a rear-facing child seat on the passenger seat where an active passenger airbag is fitted. This is because the child's head will be very close to the airbag if a crash triggers the bag. The child could then receive serious injury or death. Check your car handbook for model-specific advice, although the size and performance of airbags vary.
Engineers have designed your car's seat belt for adult passengers. Therefore, it's no surprise that fitting a child's seat properly is sometimes difficult. In the 2000s, car manufacturers introduced ISOFIX into cars to solve this problem.
Manufacturers have placed the ISOFIX points in standard locations. Then, the child seats have a latch on the back that parents can use to fit to the ISOFIX connection points with a simple push.
ISOFIX is not as easy to understand or use as expected. The cars don't all have the same lanyard and the seats aren't really universal. Therefore, you'll have to check your handbook and choose your seat carefully.
A semi-universal ISOFIX seat can only be used in car models that are listed in its application list. Being either 'universal' or 'semi-universal', ISOFIX seats come in different size classes.
Some ISOFIX seats have a support leg at the front instead of a top-tether strap and are not always suitable for cars with under-floor storage. The surface of the cover/floor may not be strong enough.
Fitting and use of child seats
Even 'universal' child seats do not sit properly on all seats in all cars. You also have to decide where in the car to fit the child seat. Your children may want to ride in the front but this is not the safest place for them to travel. Some children will also go through the release of the harness buckle while you are driving, but there are some safe ways to discourage them.
Buying second hand
Child seats can be expensive and children can grow out of them very quickly. Therefore, it can be tempting to buy second-hand. If you do this, follow these guidelines:
- Do not buy anything that you suspect may have been involved in an accident. It will not give the same protection as if it was new.
- See if anything is missing or broken, including instructions.
- Buying from family or friends is a good idea because you will know the history of the seat.
- You could use car boot sales, free advertising and other sources.
Child Safety Dos and Do-nots
- Use appropriate restraint for the weight/size of the child.
- Check that the restraint is compatible with your car. View the application list, ask the retailer to display or install the seat or consult the car manufacturer.
- If your vehicle has the necessary anchor points, consider purchasing a seat that uses the ISOFIX system. The handbook will tell you.
- Fit the restraint safely in the car. Follow the instructions and keep them in the car.
- Put the children in the back seat of the car if you can.
- Adjust the harness for a tight but comfortable fit before every trip.
- Regularly check the restraint to ensure that it is not working loosely in the car.
- Periodically check the restraint and open it to find signs of cracking in the shelling or cutting in the webbing.
- Make sure your child understands the importance of being strapped safely for every trip.
- When you return, cover the seat when standing on a hot day to avoid burning your child on a hot metal fitting.
- Take children unrestrained, even for the smallest of travels.
- Use the rear-facing child seat in the front seat of the car with an active passenger airbag.
- Buy a child seat until you know it will fit properly in your car. 'Universal' restrictions do not fit all cars.
- Buy second-hand restraint unless it is complete with all its instructions and you know its history.
- Buy ISOFIX seats without checking the vehicle handbook as there are different categories and size classes.
- Use a restraint that has been involved in an accident.
- Hold a child in your arms or place a seat belt around both of you.
- Allow children to drop the buckle or get out of the belt.
- Modify child seats or buckles.
- Use ordinary cushions instead of booster cushions as the child may slide under the seat belt in an accident.