The latest safety guidelines
In 2013 new safety standards began to be introduced for car seats, under the name of ‘i-size’. I-size is the new European-wide car seat regulation, which for now, runs alongside the current R44/04 law. Eventually i-size will be a legal requirement for all car seats for babies and toddlers but at the moment it is not mandatory as there are lots of older seats still in circulation that don’t fit the i-size criteria. I-size laws are still being developed and legislation is likely to continue changing over the coming years.
One of the main changes for i-size was the requirement to have children rear facing until the age of 15 months (when previously it was 9kg), it is also now recommended that children rear face until four years of age, although this won’t be made a legal requirement anytime soon and is just a safety recommendation.
I-size requires improved side-impact protection meaning a higher safety standard for a child’s head and neck in an accident.
The new regulations also suggest that car seat suitability should be decided on a child’s height rather than weight (which is how it’s currently done).
Using a taxi?
If you are taking an unexpected journey in a taxi or mini cab, babies, toddlers and older children can travel without a car seat without breaking the law. For children under three years of age they must not use a seat belt. Children over three years of age must be strapped in using the seat belt. Whilst travelling without a car seat in this case is not illegal, it is safest to make arrangements to use a car seat. Many cab firms can provide them or you can bring your own.
Fitting a car seat
It’s crucial that once you’ve chosen a baby car seat you ensure it is fitted correctly. You can take your car seat to a professional fitter (some retailers offer this service if you buy a car seat with them).
There are two methods of securing a car seat within a car. An isofix system uses a car’s inbuilt connection points to anchor the car seat base to the vehicle.
A traditional seat belt fixing can be used in almost any car with long enough seat belts. It’s a good option if you plan to swap the seat between cars on a regular basis and is just as safe as the isofix.
The safest place for a car seat is behind the passenger or driver seat. If a rear facing car seat has to be placed in the front passenger seat then it is a legal requirement that the airbag must be turned off.
Securing your child
Once the car seat is safely fitted, it’s important to be aware of how to securely strap in your child. Always follow manufacturers’ guidelines on this, but as a minimum you need to check:
- Strap tightness – you should be able to fit no more than two fingers between the strap and the child.
- Bulky clothing – tests have shown that padded clothing and winter coats create an air buffer between the straps and the child, meaning in a crash, the straps are not secure enough. Take off any large clothing before strapping them in.
- Shoulder height – the harness straps should be at the correct height for your child’s shoulders which is 2cm above or sitting on the shoulders.
- Harnesses should be straight – the straps should be flat and not twisted, which could affect their strength in a crash.
As with any legislation, expect to see updates and changes as safety standards are continually reviewed and improved.
You can find more parental guidance and resources here where Toad Hall have compiled early learning resources to help parents and carers. Feel free to explore this section and return as we will keep updating it!