Which Child Car Seat Do I Need?

Which Child Car Seat Do I Need?

The world of car seats can be confusing for any parent. Do you weigh your child or measure their height? Do you need to use ISOFIX or the seatbelt?

What are my Car Seat Options?

There are 2 different systems to decide between. You can choose your car seat depending on your child's weight or height.

There are also 2 different fitting types to choose from. You can choose whether you would like to use ISOFIX or the standard seatbelt.

Read more: Safety Equipment the European Commission wants Fitted in all New Cars

What is ISOFIX?

ISOFIX uses a rigid metal connection between the car frame and the child car seat which is considered to be much more robust than the standard seatbelt fixture. Currently, there is no standardisation of the way ISOFIX works. All will have 2 anchorage points hidden within the car seat's padding and a third is then needed. This can be a support leg or a top tether point. Because of the variety of fixings, it is essential that you check the ISOFIX seat you would like is compatible with your car. Vehicles have been fitted with ISOFIX points since 2011, if your car was made before this date it is sometimes possible to get ISOFIX retro fitted.

Weight Based Car Seats

These car seats depend on upon the weight of your child and can be fitted either using the standard seatbelt or using ISOFIX. The car seats available are arranged in groups that cover different weights;

  • group 0 - from birth to 10kg, usually around 6-12 months. all seats will be rear facing.
  • group 0+ - from birth to 13kg, usually up to 12-15 months, all seats will be rear facing.
  • group 1 from 9kg to 18kg usually 9 months to 4 years, these seats will usually be front facing high backed booster seat.
  • group 2 - from 15-25kg, usually around 4- 6 years, this will be a high backed booster seat.
  • group 3 backless booster cushion 22kg - 36kg anywhere from 6 years to 12 years.

You will find many car seats are multigroup seats, so cover a longer range of time.

The law on backless booster seats changed in 2017. The new law will only allow backless booster seats to be used by children who weigh at least 22kg (3st7lb) and are 125cm (4ft1in) tall and over.

This change happened as car seat experts believed backless booster seats did not hold a smaller child securely in their seat and offered little protection in the event of a side impact crash. However, the law will not be retrospectively applied. Previously backless booster seats could be used for any child who weighed at least 15kg which usually occurred at around age 3. If you were already using a backless booster seat, prior to the March 2017 law change, for your child who is between 15kg - 22kg you can continue to do so.

Height Based Car Seats - i-Size

The i-size regulation was introduced in 2013 and is running alongside the existing weight based car seat system.

There are 3 major differences between the weight based system and the newer i-size system;

  • All children will stay rear facing for longer – until they are around 15 months old
  • When choosing the correct car seat for your child, height will be the measurement used rather than weight
  • i-Size car seats will only work with ISOFIX, not with a standard seatbelt.

Read more: The Best Compact SUV's

Benefits of the i-Size regulation.

As the new i-Size car seats will only use ISOFIX this will make fitting your car seat correctly much easier, making it more effective in a crash. ISOFIX also provides a much sturdier fixing for your child as the car seat is attached directly to the cars frame.

ISOFIX seats offer more protection in the event of a side impact and reduce the risk of neck or spinal injury. Babies and toddlers will be required to stay rear facing for longer, until they are around 15 months old. The head of a child this age is disproportionately larger than that of an adult, meaning in the event of an impact the head being thrown forward is more likely to cause neck and/or spine injury. By keeping a child rear facing this risk is reduced.

Eventually there should be standardisation in place which means all cars will be i-size ready and all i-size car seats will have the same fittings. In this way any seat will be able to be used in any car.

Car Seat Safety

  • Always ensure your car seat has a safety label will an E mark and codes that read 4404/4403 or R129
  • Always ensure you have tightened straps enough - if you can fit more than 2 fingers under the harness it is too loose. Avoid putting your child in heavy coats in their car seat, this will reduce your ability to fasten the belt enough
  • Never buy a second hand car seat. This seat could have been in an accident and been damaged already, reducing its effectiveness in any further crashes
  • Never use a rear facing car seat in a front passenger seat if the airbag is active - this is illegal
  • Avoid keeping a child younger than 3 in a car seat for more than two hours

The laws on car seat use must be adhered to whichever type of seat you choose;

  • Your car seat must conform to EU regulations. These are the only seats which can be used in the UK. You can look for the capital E in a circle to confirm your car seat is EU approved.
  • A car seat must be used until a child has reached 135cm tall or 12 years old, whichever comes first.
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