Baby and You

Child car seats: the new rules

Little baby girl in a car in a child seat
New child car seat regulations came into effect in March 2017, sparking some confusion among parents. Here, Nat Barnes explains what’s changed to help parents become better acquainted with the new rules

Forget your wedding day, your driving test and first job interview, there are few things in life more nerve-wracking than fitting a child car seat – plus you’re always left with the nagging suspicion that you haven’t fitted it exactly correct.

And quite rightly as it turns out. Depending on which survey you pay attention to, out of every 10 child seats fitted to cars anything from three up to a, frankly petrifying, eight are fitted incorrectly. The fact is that you could be putting your child at risk without even realising.

The bad news is that it’s now a lot more complicated too. Since March 2017, new regulations came into effect that changed the laws for both babies and older children. Now all babies under 15 months must sit in a rear-facing seat and after that they can face either the front or back of the car (although many safety experts recommend leaving them in rear-facing seats as long as possible).

For older children though, the law has now changed regarding booster cushions for those weighing less than 22kg (just under three and a half stone) or under 125cm tall (4ft 1”). Since that March date, any new backless booster cushions cannot be used by any child lighter or smaller than this.

However, just to confuse matters (and this is the important bit), this law only applies to new models entering the market, not those that were already on sale before March 2017. So if you already have a booster seat, then it’s fine to use it and any seat that already had existing regulation  approval can continue to be made, sold and used. Confused? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one.

“There is a large amount of uncertainty among parents and carers about the latest changes to child restraint regulations,” says Tanya Robinson,  Child Safety Centre Manager at the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory. “Whilst this latest change will affect the types of child restraint available in the future, there is not going to be a ban on boosters.

“It is vital that parents ensure that their child is in the correct type of seat for their height and weight, as this will allow for maximum protection in the event of an accident. Parents faced with the growing range and style of seats should remember there is no race to move a child into the next type of seat because they get older. Ensure that the car seat you choose is appropriate for your child’s weight, height and age and that it fits well in your vehicle.”

It almost goes without saying too that despite these latest changes that the basics surrounding child car seats still apply. Research from online insurance firm confused.com last year revealed  that a third of parents admit to occasionally not using a booster seat at all for their child. Excuses for not doing so included not transferring the booster seat when switching to another car (33 per cent), thinking that their child didn’t need one (26 per cent) and believing one wasn’t needed as they were just making a short journey (25 per cent).

The reality however is that so much misinformation surrounded the initial announcement of the new booster seat regulations, especially on the use of those still on the market, that many existing booster seat manufacturers had to take to undertake social media and PR campaigns to reassure parents that they were still legal.

If you’re in any doubt though, seek advice at a reliable retailer or look on the internet for dependable independent advice such as which.co.uk or ROSPA at childcarseats.org.uk.

CHILD CAR SEAT GROUPS

Height-based
i-Size
– based on height, these must be rear-facing until your child is 15 months old. After that you can switch to a forward-facing car seat, but you must make sure it’s suitable for the height of your child. i-Size seats must have a label showing a capital ‘E’ in a circle and ‘R129’ to meet EU law.

Weight-based
Weight-based seats must have a capital ‘E’ in a circle and ‘ECE R44’ label. You may be able to choose more than one seat for your child’s weight so ask an expert which is most suitable.

GROUP 0 – WEIGHT: 0-10kg – Lie-flat or lateral baby carrier, rear-facing baby carrier or rear-facing baby seat using a harness.

GROUP 0+ – WEIGHT: 0-13kg – Rearfacing baby carrier or rear-facing baby seat using a harness.

GROUP 1 – WEIGHT 9-18kg – Rear or forward-facing baby seat using a harness or safety shield.

GROUP 2 – WEIGHT 15-25kg – Rear or forward-facing child car seat (high-backed booster seat or booster cushion) using a seat belt, harness or safety shield.

GROUP 3 – WEIGHT 22-36kg – Rear or forward-facing child car seat (high-backed booster seat or booster cushion) using a seat belt, harness or safety shield.

CAR SEAT SAFETY TIPS

• Never buy any child car seat or booster seat secondhand.

• Always get your information from independent and reliable sources and retailers – not internet forums.

• Try and keep your child in a rear-facing seat as long as possible, even beyond the 15-month regulation.

• Always use a car seat even on the shortest trips – 52 per cent of accidents happen within five miles of home.

• Always buy the correct car seat for your child’s current height and weight, never one they can ‘grow into’, and always ensure that it is fitted correctly.

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