How to choose the right car seat
Becoming a parent changes your life forever and wrestling with child car seats suddenly becomes part of your daily routine, writes Geraldine Herbert
Proper use of car seats helps keep children safe, so here are some key points to bear in mind when choosing the right seat for your child.
What is the law regarding car seats?
By law, children must be in a car seat until they are 150cm tall or 36kg in weight. There is no law against children sitting in the front seat, as long as they are using the right child restraint for their height and weight. It is, however, illegal to use a rearward-facing child car seat in a passenger seat protected by an airbag where it is active, and there is a three-point penalty for this offence. It's the driver's legal responsibility to ensure all passengers aged under 17 are appropriately restrained, whether they're your children or others.
What should I consider when choosing?
You should think about the age, weight and height of the child as well as the best fit for your car. However, there are other considerations. Think about the fabric and how durable it is? How heavy is the car seat itself and will lifting it and fitting it be an issue? Does the headrest adjust? The type of car you drive will also have a bearing on the type of seat you choose as shape of car seats, the length of seatbelts and the position of seatbelt anchor points vary between different cars. So, not all child seats fit all cars. To ensure you get the correct seat for your child and your car, make an appointment with the retailer to check that the seat fits well in your car and is the right one for your child.
Car seat groups
Child car seats groups are based on weight ranges but it is also possible to buy sets that combine one or more groups, these are known as multigroup seats.
- Group 0 - rearward-facing baby seat: birth to 10kg (or 13kg for '0+')
- Group 1 - rearward or forward facing child seat: 9-18kg
- Group 2 - high-backed booster seat without harness: 15-25kg
- Group 3 - booster cushion: 22-36kg
It is important to choose a seat that meets the correct safety regulations; you can determine this from checking the safety label that is fixed to the seat. All seats must have an 'E' mark label to show they conform to the ECE Regulation 4403/04 or to the new i-Size regulation, R129.
Rear-facing or forward-facing car seats?
In Sweden and many Scandinavian countries the guidance is that children should sit in rear-facing seats at least until the age of four. It is recommended that you keep your baby rearward-facing for as long as possible, as this offers more protection in a collision than the forward-facing type. According to the RSA, children are five times safer in rear-facing seats than forward-facing seats
What is i-Size and Isofix?
i-Size is a European standard for car seats and came into effect in July 2013 with the aim of making buying a car seat simpler and safer. With i-Size your child's height, not weight, is the deciding factor to determine what car seat is best suited for them. i-Size seats are only compatible with cars that have Isofix mounting points, which is a car seat safety system that enables the child seat to be firmly attached to the car. All cars made since February 2006 must be equipped with these Isofix systems, so if your car is pre-2006 you must check that you have them.
Should I consider buying second-hand car child seats?
Car seats are expensive but while it is tempting to consider used ones, it is not recommended as you have no way of verifying the car seat's history. It may have been dropped, damaged or involved in an accident in the past.
Installing a car seat
The key to safety is fitting the seat properly. When you purchase the car seat, get a trained member of staff to fit it into your car and continue to check the fit regularly.
1. Is the seat suitable for my child?
2. Is the seat suitable for the type of car I drive?
3. Did I get expert advice when I was choosing the car seat?
4. Does the seat I've chosen meet the correct EU standard?
5. Are the instructions easy to understand and follow?