Finding the right car seat can be a challenge, it's best to be fully informed prior to choosing a car seat. From considering the different types and groups of car seats to safety to accessories and so on.
Your Legal Obligation
Complying with international laws, it is a legal requirement to use a car seat when transporting babies and small children by car. Whoever is driving the car is legally obliged to organise the child car seat, be it parents, guardians, grandparents, relatives, friends and so on.
The law regulates the use of car seats and belts for children. Choosing the right car seat and fitting it correctly will ensure your child's safety in the car.
Since 2006, the law requires children under age 12 and less than 135cm tall to use the child car seat appropriate to their weight in any type of vehicle. Children aged 12+ and taller than 1.5m can sit in a car without a car seat and must use the standard car belt system designed for adults, which provides enough protection in case of sudden brakes or collisions.
Rear-facing baby seats should not be used in a seat with frontal air-bag protection, unless the air-bag has been deactivated automatically or manually. Always take the time to harness your child in an appropriate car seat, follow the manufacturer's fitting instructions and keep them inside your car.
Since July 2013, i-Size is now the standardized car seat size across Europe, with the intention for all child car seats to fit in all cars. Also to reduce the risk of compromising the car seat's effectiveness due to incorrect installation of an incompatible car seat in your car.
Car seats categorised by weight of the child can lead to parents positioning their child from rearward to forward from 9 months old. However it is a safer option to keep a rearward position for as long as possible to protect your child's head and neck in case a collision occurs.
A common mistake by parents is this to think their child needs the next car seat size up if their feet stick out of the seat shell. Only when the child's head is higher than the top of the seat, then they can transition to the next group up from Group 0+. It is not necessary to switch to a forward facing position if the child's feet are pressed against the car's back seat. An i-Size car seat enables rearward positioning up to 15 months, then is becomes clear when it's time to transition to a forward facing car seat.
i-Size Core Principles
- With the aim to increase protection in case of an accident, i-Size car seats will keep your child in a rearward position until 15 months old.
- i-Size takes into account your child's height instead of weight. i-Size is a better indicator of knowing if you are using the right seat as physical development is linked directly to height.
- i-Size seats undertake more rigorous testing, ensure better protection due to new side impact tests. Significant safety advancements for babies have been made as i-Size seats offer improved head and neck protection.
- i-Size seats are Isofix compatible, which lowers the risk of incorrect seat fitting. Eventually, all 'i-Size ready' vehicles will be compatible with i-Size car seats.
- As of April 2015, the i-Size regulation has been ratified and passed, which will run parallel alongside the current UNECE Regulation 44. Child seats that fit either regulation can carry on being used.
Comfort & Convenience
Babies and children find car seats comfortable, as they find the humming car noise and the calming rocking movement relaxing, in turn can often sleep throughout the whole car journey.
Bigger children also feel more secure and comfy in their “enclosing” car seat and won’t “flop around” in the car seat belt if you are driving around bends or winding roads.
After a tiring afternoon on the playground or longer trips, the child can rest their head on the lateral headrest and have a quick nap.
Car seats with integrated bottle holders are convenient during hot summer drives, now your child can always have a drink to hand and can store the bottle or juice carton neatly, which keeps the car clean, in turn giving parents one less job to do.
Babies need to be transported in baby car seats which are not fixed in place but can be carried from or to the car, with the baby in them. Baby car seats are specifically designed to keep newborns in particular safe in case of an impact. In a baby car seat, the smallest babies with a weight of up to 13 kg can lie comfortably and even sleep right through a (short) trip. In most cars, the babies travel rear-facing as this offers the best protection. Baby car seats and carrycots for transporting the smallest passengers lying down. Some prams also offer a car friendly version, with a unit that can be detached from the pram and attached in the car.
From Birth . . . You baby's first car journey home from the hospital needs to be in a baby car seat. However not all young parents follow this rule, for example, the baby is travelling on the parent's lap, which has seven times higher risk of injury in the case of an accident.
Rear-facing Seat and Airbag Risk . . . A baby needs to travel in a rear-facing car seat on the back seats of the car. If the car has a passenger airbag that can be deactivated, then the baby car seat can also be placed on the front passenger seat. If you do this without deactivating the airbag, you endanger your baby and may risk a fine.
Convenience. . . Baby car seats are very convenient at home as short-term places for the baby to rest and can replace a bouncer. If parents are busy doing household errands, their baby can be carried easily to the same place and be securely held in place with the abdominal strap.
Car Seat Handle. . . The car seat handle should be pointing in the carry position to stop the baby from falling out. However in the car, you should have the handle in the position indicated by the manufacturer.
Safety and Product History . . . Your new baby car seat should have the safety mark ECE-R 44-03 or 44-04. With a second-hand car seat, it’s essential to know the history of the seat so you can be sure it has not been involved in an accident and is undamaged.
Designed for children that is installed in a vehicle, offering a slightly raise seat and lateral and head protection thanks to the special supports. While baby car seats are only permitted on the rear seats of most cars, child car seats for older children can be used on the passenger seat as well. They are either fixed in place via the existing seat belt or an Isofix anchor system for a modified car seat. The Isofix car seat features two “arms” that can attach to the matching counterparts in the vehicle. This creates a fixed anchor between car seat and car. The advantage of this is, is in case of an accident, the braking power is transmitted directly to the car seat.
Forward Facing. . . The most common version are classic, front facing car seats. These are particularly suitable for older children who no longer fit into rear facing car seats. Rear facing car seats are attached facing against the direction of travel and enable smaller passengers to travel safely whilst lying down or sitting up.
Booster Seat. . . Once the children have reached an age when the normal child car seat can no longer protect them sufficiently, and the adult seat belt is not yet suitable for them, a booster seat is the ideal solution. In combination with a three-point seat belt or five-point seat belt, they offer the required level of protection. But only if the child’s head is not yet higher than the headrest. If this is the case and there is no standard headrest present, you will need to install one to ensure your child is sufficiently protected.
Comfort . . . Child car seats do not just offer protection to the little passengers, but also a great deal of comfort. With the required accessories, a car journey can quickly become a “mobile nap time”. If the child does not feel like sleeping, you can transform the child car seat into a mobile play area and let your child do some play activities while you zoom along in the car.
Age. . . Experts recommend transporting the smallest passengers aged 1 month to 2 1/2 or 3 years in a rear-facing car seat.
Safety. . . According to car experts and consumer associations, these rear facing car seats provide more safety, especially in case of a head-on collision. This is due the baby's head being relatively large in relation to their body. For a one-year-old, the head weighs about 25 percent of the body weight. In front facing systems, the neck vertebra and muscles cannot cope with the extreme impact of a collision and cannot support the head. The child’s head is thrown forwards while the body is held in the seat by the seat belt. In a rear facing car seat, the neck vertebra only has to deal with a seventh of the strain.
Rear-facing Seat and Air-bag Risk . . . Rear-facing car seats are best installed on the car’s rear seats, using them on the front passenger seat is not permitted unless the passenger air-bag can be deactivated. Otherwise, this would not protect the baby or toddler in case of a collision, but would throw the child backwards with the seat. If you do need to put the child on the passenger sat, the air-bag needs to be removed or deactivated. In that case, the pictogram in front of the passenger seat should show that is has been disabled. If you do not deactivate the air-bag, you risk injuring your child and may be liable to a fine.
Spring & Summer. . . Especially during the warmer months, parents often swap the car for the more environmentally friendly alternative, the bicycle. If the child does not yet have a bike, or is too unsure in traffic, he or she needs to be transported in a bike child seat. Parents usually attach this seat to the luggage rack, then it gets least in the way of the parent riding the bike.
Safety. . . To avoid your child’s fingers getting trapped in the seat spring, special covers are handy. The child bike seat must offer comprehensive protection: with an armrest, a sufficiently high backrest and a support system for the legs. A certain amount of basic safety is ensured if the bike seat meets the child bike seat standard EN 14344.
Adjustability. . . If this is not the case, the backrest may be too short or the footrests insufficiently adjustable. For small children in particular, a high-quality and ergonomically shaped backrest is essential. Many kids fall asleep quickly even on a bike car seat and would risk falling off without a proper back support. To make sleeping whilst seated more comfortable, some seats also offer a reclining function. But this moves the seat’s point of gravity backwards, which can have a negative impact on the balance of the bike while you are cycling. To prevent your child’s head from lolling forwards or sideways, you can also use neck cushions for bike child seats.
Children can ride in a car or bicycle seat, however you are not allowed to transport a child on the luggage rack. Children aged under 7 must have a special child seat for transport by a moped or bike, and their feet must not reach the bike spokes.
Weight. . . A booster seat supports children weighing between 22 to 36 kg.
Main Function. . . A booster seat enables a child to sit higher up and is at about the same height as an adult, which makes it possible for the child to use the “normal” car seat belt and be well protected.
Critics. . . Numerous critics of booster seats doubt this and claim that the booster seat doesn't offer much support, they claim that in case of an accident, the booster seat would fly out from under the child and the car seat belt would not offer enough restraint. However, booster seats with seat belt guides are recommended as they guide the car’s three point seat belt - and using a booster seat is only permitted with these - along the child’s body. The seat belt guides prevent the risk of the seat belt slipping away and reduce the risk of serious injuries in case of a crash.
A booster seat is about 10 cm thick, make of polystyrene, about the same size as a child seat base and covered in thin material. The booster seat usually only weighs a few grams and is very easy to carry or keep in the car boot thanks to its small size.
The base unit of the baby car seats or child seats is called a seat base, it is the part that remains strapped into the car and ensures the car seat stays safely and firmly in place. Seat bases are usually easy to fit, simply attach the base to the two ISOFIX anchors in the car. The child is well protected as the seat base is directly linked to the car body. In cars without Isofix anchors, most seat bases can also be strapped in via the car’s three point seat belt.
Car Seat Group Chart
|Weight||Approx Age||Car Seat Group|
|From Birth (22lb/10kg)||0 to 9 months approx||0|
|From Birth (29lb/13kg)||0 to 15 months approx||0+|
|From Birth (40lb/18kg)||0 monthsto 4 years||0+ and 1|
|20-40lb/9-18kg||9 months to 4 years||1|
|20-55lb/9-25kg||9 months to 6 years||1 and 2|
|33-55lb/15-25kg||4 to 6 years||2|
|20-79lb/9-36kg||9 months to 12 years||1, 2 and 3|
|33-79lb/15-36kg||4 to 12 years||2 and 3|
Four Basic Constructions. . . Often young parents are overwhelmed by the vast range of car seats available on the market. Based on their basic construction and shape, the numerous restraint systems can be subdivided into four basic types:
- Baby car seats and carrycots
- Front facing car seats
- Rear facing car seats
- Booster seats.
Eight Groups. . . European regulations define eight car seat groups, each of which is suitable for a range of weights, as shown in the table below. Our entire range of car seats are designed and engineered to provide optimum protection and comfort for your child, meeting the current ECE R44.03 or R44.04 safety standards. Some car seats overlap to cover more than one group. The ECE sign on the car seat tells you which group it belongs to. You must adhere to the weight and age limits of these groups. Therefore you will need to purchase a restraint system of the next higher group once the child has outgrown his or her car seat.
Weight Relevance. . . Baby and children's weight instead of age is the critical factor in choosing the appropriate and safe car seat.
Rear-Facing Car Seats. . . Recommended from 0 months to 4 years old, as children below this age are especially vulnerable to forceful impacts. A rear facing car seat ensures supplementary in the case of collision.
Built-in Car Restraint Systems. . . Some car manufacturers provide built in car restraint systems, however parents are advised to purchase an additional car seat. These built in systems are not universally suitable for the weight and size of every child and do not adapt to the child's growth. These integrated restraint systems are not advised, however when parents need to drive their child's friends also, these additional child passengers need protection, therefore integrated car restraint systems are useful for these infrequent occasions.
Modular Car Seat. . . A convenient choice would be a modular car restraint system which grows alongside your child. They adapt step by step to match the child's size and weight.
Group 0 . . . German TÜV guidelines clearly state that babies up to 10 kg or 9 months are safest in a baby car seat which is classified as car restraint system Group 0. Group 0+ includes rear facing car seats for toddlers up to 13 kg or 18 months.
Group 1 . . . Front and rear facing car seats offer the best protection for children between 9 and 19 kg, or between the age of 9 months and 3 years.
Group 2 . . . Children aged 3 to 6 years, weighing up to 15 kg sit in a front facing Group 2 car seat.
Group 3 . . . The TÜV recommends using Group 3 restraint system for children aged 6 to 12 and weighing from 22kg. Children aged under 7 must have a special child seat for transport by a moped or bike, and their feet must not reach the bike spokes.
Parents can trust the world renowned German testing institute Stiftung Warentest test results. These independent testing institutions carry out crash and endurance tests to fully assess the quality of the car seats. "Test winners" are all products that were considered one of the best seats in their categories in Stiftung Warentest tests since 2007.
The Cybex Pallas M Fix Test Winner, is suitable from 9 months to 12 years and engineered to last for the long run. The 2 in 1 Cybex Pallas M Fix is a test winner in the Group 1/2/3 in the test 06/2015 by the famous German testing institute Stiftung Warentest and won numerous awards from renowned European consumer testing institutions. The Pallas M-Fix offers exceptional safety for up to 11 years and adapts to grow with your child. Featuring a group 1 one-handed adjustable impact shield, individually adjustable Linear Side-impact Protection, group 1 comfortable one-handed recline and Cybex patented reclining headrest. Isofix Connect ensures enhanced stability and protection and fits with the new ECE R-44/04 Supplement 7.
21st century car seats are now more associated with Isofix systems which firmly fix to the backseat of your car. Isofix compatible car seats connect the Isofix base. A special Isofix base is needed for baby car seats. Isofix guarantees the correct and secure car seat fitting each time, providing a greater relief to parents than they would have had when using a three point seat belt instead. Isofix points have been implemented on all cars produced post-2011.
Is your car Isofix compatible?
- Consult your vehicle manual or the manufacturer.
- Look for staple-shaped fittings between the seat's bottom and back.
- Check the space underneath your backseat if there is storage space, as this impacts the your Isofix base.
The award-winning Britax Römer Dualfix, is a best seller due to its sleek combination of bold design with advanced safety technology. Britax Römer Dualfix's 360 rotation gives parents the choice between rear-facing and forward-facing seating. Your baby will ride comfortably and safe from birth – 18kg, due to the numerous reclined and seat positions, adjustable headrest, removable seat liner and secure 5-point safety belt.
Britax have ranked '1st in Safety Technology' again by industry safety experts and leading consumer publications. Britax Römer have cultivated a strong reputation of being the safest and easiest to use car seats within the industry. Determined to push boundaries through continuous research and collaborations. Römer’s automotive industry history alongside precision German engineering are constants in setting high standards.
Featuring Britax's latest award-winning Safeguard technology, which enhances safety for children restrained with a 3-point car seat belt, ensuring optimal positioning of the adult lap belt over pelvic bones and withstands child movements during journeys. Also features Britax Römer's 'Active Tensioning System' (ATS) which is based on Formula 1 technology, which use sound and light alerts (LS) to secure and optimise safety and comfort whilst tensioning the harness intuitively.
The safest position for babies between 0 months – 13kg / 29lb is rear-facing baby car seat, as impacts from sudden brakes and collisions can be absorbed better. Baby car seats are rear-facing in comparison to car seats of higher groups. The carry handle comes in handy for transitioning a sleeping baby between home and car. Gentle rocking is enabled by the curved base. Isofix ready baby car seats are more popular now. Look out for comforting features, such as head-huggers, cushions and padded straps.
Evolved from the successful and popular Cybex Aton 2, which won the 2012 Stiftung Warentest award. The new Cybex Aton 4 entails a removable seat insert for a lie-flat position, 8-position height-adjustable headrest with integrated harness guides, Linear Side-impact Protection and complies with the new ECE R-44/04 Supplement 7.
The Cybex Aton 4 is perfectly suited for comforting and protecting premature babies and small newborns, due to its large XXL sun canopy with UVF 50 sun protection. Suffocation is significantly reduced due the new function which enables the best sitting angle to ensure small babies lie with their head, neck and chest correctly aligned, preventing their head from falling forward. The Cybex Aton 4 can be fitted with an Isofix base or a 3-point car seat belt.
An excellent alternative to baby car seats which are only suitable for a few months, Group 0 1 – 18kg can be used from 0 months to 18kg / 40lb. These seats alternate between being rear-facing and forward-facing, for when your child is old enough. This car seat style is approved across two car seat categories and adjusts easily to grow with your child. You should use a rear-facing model until your baby is 9 kg / 20 lbs and can sit unsupported, then transition to a forward-facing seat. Most models have a recline mechanism for additional comfort. Look out for easily removable, padded and washable seat covers.
The popular and visually appealing Ferrari Cosmo SP is the ideal seat for parents who appreciate exclusive design, comfort and the latest safety and functionality technology. Perfect for everyday life thanks to the generous padding and superb ease of use. With the seal of approval from Ferrari, the Ferrari Cosmo SP demonstrates the perfect symbiosis of tradition and innovation from Osann and the long standing manufacturer, Maranello.
Suitable from 9 months to 7 years, weighing up to 18 kg. The child is secured by a 5-point belt or an impact shield. Afterwards the seat transitions to a group 2, by securing your child directly with the car’s 3-point seat belt. For 9 – 18 kg / 20 - 40 lb car seats are recognisable due to the deep sides and head support for impact protection. The majority are forward-facing, however new i-Size models are rear-facing. Look for one-handed and multiple seat positions, adjustable padding and harness and removable washable covers.
The Peg Perego Viaggio 1 Duo-Fix K is suitable from 9 – 18 kg. Can be fitted with an Isofix Base 0+ 1 or a 3-point car seat belt. Ideal for long journeys as the Peg Perego Viaggio 1 Duo-Fix K can be adjustable in 4 positions down to a comfortable sleeping position with an integrated head-hugger. You can safely transport your child due to the integrated side-impact protection, 5-point safety harness and straps. Adaptable and spacious seat for an optimal and comfortable sitting position, the seat entails a soft padding, ensuring a relaxed and safe journey, suited for growing children. .
Suitable from 9 – 25 kg and 9 months to 7 years old. Up to 18 kg, your child can be harnessed by the 5-point safety belt or an impact shield. Afterwards the seat transitions to a group 2 seat, securing your child with the car’s 3-point seat belt. 9-36 kg / 20 – 79lb, forward-facing model is approved across three car seat groups, built to last for the long run as it adapts easily as your child grows, converting into a high back booster seat. Best for older children until they can use an adult seatbelt. The cushioned supports and seat ensure comfort and protection on journeys.
The best selling Casualplay Beat Fix Isofix car seat ensures optimum safety and comfort in the car. Featuring an adjustable headrest to suit your child thanks to its telescopic system providing five different seating positions. The Casualplay Beat Fix can be supported either by an Isofix base, directly by the support foot on the base or a top tether (available separately.) Safety ensured by the 5-point safety belt with a reinforced buckle and length-adjustable belt between the legs. Comfort provided by the ergonomic and 5-position adjustable seat, from upright to the sleeping position. Ideal for babies in need of sleep on long journeys. Featuring an adjustable headrest, with supplementary padding on the sides, which grows with your child.
The last child seat needed before being able to travel without a car seat. There is a large variance within this group that is approved for 15 to 36 kg. A Group 2 3 car seat can be equipped with a back rest, head rest and integrated lateral impact protection, if preferred. Suitable for 15-36 kg / 33 – 79 lb, approved across Group 2 and 3, a safe seat for your child up to 36 kg. A booster seat is best for older children until they can safely use an adult seat belt. Look for adjustable height, leg rest and width options. Features can entail speakers in the headrest and a cup holder.
Unlimited safety, the Cybex Solution X2-Fix Isofix features Cybex's patented 3 position reclining headrest, Linear Side-Impact Protection and Isofix Connect. The Cybex Solution X2-Fix entails a double-walled lateral impact protection structure which ensures all forces from a collision are absorbed by the seat, instead of your child. Risk of injury is minimised by the head rest, especially when asleep.
The best option for parents wanting a further car seat after their child has outgrown a baby car seat. Group 1 2 3 can be used for different groups and 9 – 36 kg, until age 12. Group 1 2 3 grows with your child. This forward-facing model is approved across three car seats, built to last for the long term. Adapts easily to suit your child’s growth, converting to a high back booster seat, ideal for older children until they can use an adult seat belt safely. Look for cushioned seating and supports to keep your child comfortable and safe on journeys.
The best selling Cybex Pallas 2 Fix Isofix is suitable from 9 months to 12 years. Entailing 2 in 1 safety, an adjustable impact shield, 2 in 1 seat, L.P.S system, comfort recline and a 3-position reclining headrest. Stiftung Warentest and ADAC rated the Cybex Pallas 2 Fix as one of the best car seats which grows with the child in Group 1 2 3. WHICH? Rated the Cybex Pallas 2 Fix as excellent in its accident safety performance and throughout its lifespan, awarding it 5 stars for its side-impact protection.
Car seat accessories make life easier in most cases, especially when there are adverse weather conditions or on hot days.
Your child's safety and comfort is enhanced by the subtle additional features and no matter which car seat group they belong to. It's best to keep children entertained and comfortable as boredom can lead to them trying to escape their belts and harness to attract your attention.
Our travel accessories provide a fun distraction on long journeys, allowing you to focus on driving.
Special cover. . . During the summer it keeps cool and wicks away moisture, in winter its heats up to 32 degrees C.
Snow boot or Muddy shoes. . . Prevents the back seats from getting dirty.
Seat protector. . . Ensures you can relax and keeps the seats clean, even if there are adverse weather conditions.
Neck cushions and seat belt pads. . . Additional comfort for you child's head and prevents the seat belt rubbing, in turn helping little passengers drift off to sleep more easily.
Warm socks and cosy blankets. . . Comfort and put your child in a good mood by colourful pouches which transform to a seat belt protector, a footrest or a toy storage bag.
Car organiser. . . Attaches to the headrest of the passenger seat, now your child can have their favourite book, colouring book, pens or pencil and even little games within easy reach while you are driving.
Head support cushion. . . Specially designed to give young babies extra comfort and support in child car seats.
Sun canopy. . . For use with group 0 and 0+ car seats both in and out of the car. Helps to protect your baby against strong sunlight.
Car sun blind . . . Suction pads secure the blind in the best position to shield your child from direct sunlight and UV rays.
Travel blanket. . . For use with group 0 and 0+ car seats, helps to keep your baby warm in and out of the car during the winter months.
Rear-view mirror. . . Use an additional rear-view mirror to help keep an eye on your child when travelling.
Car tidy. . . Useful for storing books, toys, drinks and snacks.
You might have obsessively baby-proofed your home, however one of the greatest dangers for babies is the daily act of riding in the car. Car seat safety is of utmost importance, as one of the leading caused of death for children are from motor vehicle crashes. A car seat's main aim is to protect the child in the case of an accident, but not every car seat model reaches the same level of quality and reliability.
The ECE tests signs are a trustworthy guide, but even among seats with ECE test sign, there are still differences in terms of quality. Car seats with the orange seal have been safety tested. The ECE test sign R-44/04 ensures the highest level of safety. For seats with the older versions with the numbers ECE-R-44/03, ECE-R-44/02 or ECE-R-44/01, less stringent safety tests used to be applicable. Using car seats with the label ECE 44/01 or 44/02 has no longer been permitted since April 2008. Even if you adhere to all the norms and if all the test signs are present, a car seat can only be safe if you use it correctly. Toddlers should be seated against the direction of travel, this reduces the strain on their delicate neck by a fifth. When strapping the child in, parents should ensure the seat belt is tight enough and guided properly.
Children have higher protection in the back seats of the car in case of a head-on collision. The passenger air bag must be deactivated if you decided to use the passenger seat for your child. This is standard in some car models, or you may have to pay extra. You must ensure the car seat is installed firmly in place without wobbling. An Isofix system offers higher level of mounting safety. As children grow fast, you will need to regularly check the headrest height is correct. With some car seat models, the car's head rest needs to be removed first, for the car seat to fit in the car.
Baby car seats must never be used on a passenger seat with an enabled air-bag, as this would squash and suffocate the child case of an impact. Their advantage is that they are installed against the direction of travel and according to car experts and consumer associations these types of car seat offer greater safety, particularly in case of a head-on collision.
Please remember to put the head-rest back in place if an adult passenger sits in that space.
Purchasing a second-hand car seat. . .Buying a good car seat for your child means investing a lot of money in your child’s safety, this seat will only be suitable for about 3 years. Therefore it can be tempting to purchase a cheap second-hand car seat from one of the many online auction sites or getting an almost new car seat as a gift.
Recycling is great, however your safest option is buying a new car seat. A used car seat runs the risk of the unknown, as it could have been recalled or exceeded it's expiration date, as they usually last up to 6 years. As plastic degrades over time, in turn reduces the effectiveness of the seat. Also you are unaware if the used car seat has been involved in a car crash already, if it has then it may no longer be structurally sound and damaged.
You should be cautious and only use second-hand car seats from relatives or people you know well, so you can be sure that the car seat has not been involved in an accident. You cannot always tell by looking at the car seat; fine hairline cracks are invisible to the untrained eye but would mean that the child is not as well protected as with a brand-new model.Plus the car seat material ages degrades over time. In case of a collision, it may break more quickly. So avoid car seats that have been stored and not been used for more than five years. You should also carefully examine the straps and buckles - these could also have deteriorated.
Lastly, some of the second-hand car seats on offer are no longer up to the latest safety standards. They may also have an ECE sign, but with the additional number 02. If you want the best for your child, please ensure your car seat has the safety number “ECE R 44/03” on it.
Incorrect car seat installation. . . Read the manual, try to figure out how it works, however we are capable of fatal mistakes. Check that the car doesn’t move more than an inch from front to back and from side to side. When your baby is strapped in, ensure the harness straps are snugly fit. Carry out the pinch test, the strap is not tight enough if you can grip and crease the bit of the strap between your fingers. Also when the car seat is forward-facing, lock in the tether strap, this will enhance the car seats stability by 45%.
Not asking an expert for help. . . Excellent if you've installed your car seat! However it would be best to have your handiwork checked by a certified child passenger safety technician.
Not checking the angles. . . Most parents think to check angles, which is vital for newborns, as the rear-facing car seats recline at a 45 degree angle. The car seat needs to recline in line with the manufacturer's instructions. Too upright position is a danger, as a newborn's soft muscles in their neck and back are unable to support their head, their head can easily tilt forward which can off their air supply. For this frightening reason, a level indicator is built into car seats. Ensure your car seat is showing a 45 degree incline.
Occasionally skipping the car seat. . . The extra 30 seconds it takes to harness your child in correctly is always worth it. As the majority of fatal car crashes occur close to home. We all have days where we think, “I'm in a rush or I know this area, I'll just skip using the car seat today or not buckle the harness.” It may sound obvious, but the golden rule of an effective car seat is to use them every time.
Transitioning to forward-facing too early. . . You should not switch to forward-facing until your baby has reached 2 years old or exceeds the car seat's weight or height limit, the sticker on the back of the seat will guide you. Prior to age 2, bones which protect the spinal cord are not fully developed, therefore rear-facing seats are the safest option as their back can absorb impacts better than the rest of their body, as it is their back is the strongest part of their body. There is a 75% less chance of a fatality in the case of car crash, if a child is in a rear-facing car seat.
Forgetting about the booster seat. . . Booster seats should be used until children are 4’9”. Its very common for parents to stop using booster seats before their child has reached 4'9”, in turn the seatbelt is not positioned well enough. When the seat belt is too long for children, it bothers them, so the belt ends up being placed under their arm or behind their head. These incorrect positions hold an extreme risk as they can lead to severe spinal cord damage or whiplash in the case of a crash.
Test run. . . Car seats are primarily classified by weight groups (see section “From what age, for how long and which car seat should I use for my child?”). Other physical characteristics, for example the child’s size, are not taken into account. So it’s important that you get your child to try sitting in the car seat. That’s the only way to be sure the child is sitting comfortably and sufficiently protected even when asleep.
Adjustability and protection. . . A good choice are models that are adjustable offer good side protection for your child’s body. To stop bigger children from slipping out of the seat, some models have supports that are particularly useful in cars with side air bags.
Ease of installation and removal. . . If you are trying out your new car seat in a specialist shop, you should also check how easy the system is to install in your car and how easy it can be taken out again. The anchors and seat belt guides also have to be suitable for your specific car.
Child preferences . . . Please remember, if your child is a bit older, they should have a say in which car seat you buy. It does matter if the child feels comfortable in the car seat, or likes the colour. After all, if the child gets to have a say in which car seat to buy, and is informed of its purpose, you are less likely to run into arguments or face protests about using the car seat.
Measurements. . . Always take a tape measure with you when buying a baby car seat. This ensures your child really fits into the seat and the baby’s head is not going to stick out over the edge of the baby car seat. Baby car seats of the same weight and age category can have different dimensions!
Safe and Secure Fitting
It is vital to follow the car seat's instruction manual and consult the manufacturer for further advice if unsure with fitting the seat. Some manufacturer websites feature example videos and fitting lists, to show you how to fit the seat and checks the compatibility of your chosen car seat model with your car model, for example, Britax.
Tight fitting. . . The tightest car seat fitting is ideal, which should prevent any sideways or forward motion.
Centre rear position. . . The furthest place from any impact is the centre rear, in turn is the safest place to position a child car seat.
Harness and straps position. . . The integral harness shoulder strap should be slightly below your child's shoulder in rear-facing Group 0+ 1 seats. The straps should be slightly above or level with your child's shoulder in a forward-facing seat. Your child can use the seat until the top of the seat shell is level with their eye-line, after you reach the top of the strap slots.
Harness adjustment. . . The integral harness needs to be adjusted for each journey, to ensure a snug fit and allow one finger between your child's chest and the harness.
Excessive slack. . . Alternate the position of the seat or choose a different car seat if there is excessive slack, which is usually due to the anchorage points being positioned too forward.
Low buckle. . . The harness buckle should be positioned across the pelvis instead of the stomach. The seat's performance can be reduced during an accident if the buckles are lying against the child-seat frame.
Instructions in a safe place. . . Keep organised as the fitting instructions may be needed again, especially for combination car seats.
- Read and follow the instructions, around 80% of car seats are incorrectly fitted. Contact the manufacturer if in doubt.
- Try before you purchase, to ensure it fits in your car.
- Prior to using the seat, practice fitting it in the car couple of times.
- Ensure the seat is fastened as tight as possible, avoid slack or loose belts.
- The adjustable harness should be snugly fit against the child's chest.
- The car seat must not slide or move around excessively once its been correctly installed.
- Manufacturers, sales assistants and child passenger technicians can show how to fit the seat correctly.
- For children up 135cm tall or 12 years old, a child restraint appropriate to their development and weight is required.
- Make sure all you will be fitting the seat is knows how and is confident with it.
- Ensure the seat secure by checking the seat fitting regularly.
- Regularly check for wear and tear on the seat shell, buckles and harness.
- Your child should be discouraged from playing with the buckles.
- In a group 0 or 0+, the shoulder straps should be positioned slightly below your child's shoulders. For forward-facing car seats, shoulder straps should be slightly above or on level with shoulders.
- Your child can use the car seat until their eye line is in line with the top of the seat shell, once the top strap slots are reached.
- To avoid have to turn around whilst driving, an additional rear-view mirror will help you observe your child.
- A harness is a better choice than a three-point point seat belt, as a harness evens out a crash load, reduces the risk of your child releasing themselves from their seat and increases your control over your child.
- Avoid using a car seat that has been in a car accident, even if it was a minor. There might be damage that you can't see.
- Cushions and similar supports do not provide the same level of protection as a booster seat in the case of an accident.
- A blanket should be kept in the car to cover the seat when not in use, as metal fittings can get very hot when exposed to sunlight on hot days.
- Not even for a moment, do not ever leave your child alone in the car.
- Do not modify or cover the buckles to stop your child from playing with them as this can damage the quick release mechanism in the case of an accident.
- Do not use one belt to strap two children in.
- Do not strap an adult and child together with one adult belt.
We hope you've found our guide helpful and can now make the best decisions for you and your baby.
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