Thursday 23 March 2017

So what's the real story with the 'new' booster cushion rules?

Our Road Safety Authority expert puts the record straight following several enquiries

A 'High Back Booster' seat provides superior protection
A 'High Back Booster' seat provides superior protection

We have received queries from parents recently, enquiring about new child car-seat laws that are coming in effect about the use of 'Booster Cushions'.

It has left us scratching our heads because we certainly are not aware of any new EU directives changing child car-seat laws.

But those who have contacted us and general chatter on social media are pretty certain about an impending change and that the UK was going to be leading the way soon.

We've also had some reports that well-known child car-seat retailers are adding to the confusion. We know some retailers have stopped selling the booster cushions based on the inferior protection they provide compared to a 'High Back Booster' seat, but this is because they chose to promote best practice and not because a new law has banned them.

So we investigated the rumours and found a classic case of 'Chinese whispers'. There seems to be a review of child car-seat legislation in the UK. But this is taking place on the use of booster cushions based on proposed changes that have been put forward by the UN.

Basically the UN proposes to raise the bar when it comes to the use 'Booster Cushions'. The amendments mean children will need to stay in a 'High Back Booster' (with back and side protection) until heavier and taller than at present. To be precise they want to limit the approval of new booster cushions for use by children over 125cm in height and weighing no less than 22kg.

While this amendment was then adopted by the World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations this year and the UK plans to implement it there in early 2018. This is something that is way down the tracks and will not be mandatory in the EU until a new directive has been passed and governments then pass it into national legislation.

Unfortunately these proposed amendments were misinterpreted by the UK media and have created confusion. So, we're happy to clarify that there is no new law outlawing booster cushions being introduced in Ireland. What the law in Ireland states is that all children under 150cm and 36kg must use a child restraint appropriate to their height and weight. What you'll find is that booster cushions are often approved for children from 15-36kg.

However the RSA recommends, in line with best practice, that a 'High Back Booster' seat is used for as long as possible. They are designed to be used by children up to 36kg.

Their advantage is that they offer more support to the child's head, neck and spine, particularly in a side impact collision. This is the likely reasoning behind the move at UN levels. They want to raise the bar so that kids stay in 'High Backed Booster' seats for much longer.

If you find yourself in a position where there is no other option but to use a booster cushion ideally it should only be considered after the child reaches 22kg.

While we would welcome the new amendments being proposed, because it's going to put best practice into a legal framework, it's worth noting that Ireland has stricter child car seat laws than the UK.

Here, children are required to use a child restraint until they have exceeded 150cm however in the UK they can use an adult seatbelt once they have exceeded 135cm.

It may seem minuscule but this extra 15cm in Ireland gives greater protection to the developing child for longer and ultimately will prevent serious injury in the event of a crash.

So to be absolutely clear, there is no law coming into Ireland in the near future about the use of booster cushions.

While High Back Booster seats are recommended all the way up to 150cm and 36kg, booster cushions can be legally sold and used in Ireland.

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