Rosemary Leech, an Inspector of Road Policing with the PSNI gives us an important reminder about child car seat safety legislation.
As a police officer I’m frequently asked what are the rules about child car seats? Do I need to buy a new one? At what age does my child have to stop using a car seat?
There are laws concerning the use of the correct child restraint in your car, van or goods vehicle.
All children up to 135cms (approx. 4ft 5ins) in height, or up to 12 years of age (whichever occurs first), must use the appropriate child restraint.
It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that any child under 14 years of age uses a seat belt or correct child restraint, and that any child restraint used conforms to EU safety standards. These seats have a label showing a capital ‘E’ in a circle.
You should choose a child restraint based on your child’s height or weight.
There are currently two European standards for child restraint systems. These are referred to as Regulation 44 and Regulation 129 (i-Size) seats. Seats manufactured to either standard are both safe and perfectly legal.
Regulation 44 child seats are based on weight with an age recommendation. Regulation 129 child seats are based on height.
Regulation 129 (i-Size) is a new standard of child car seat. These new seats ‘click into’ anchorage points in the structure of your car, which means that you don’t need to use an adult seat belt to secure the car seat in place. If you choose an i-Size seat, you will need to check that your car is fitted with ISOFIX anchorage points.
Many safety experts believe that it's better and safer to keep your child in the lowest group seat for as long as possible. This means staying in their current stage seat until the maximum weight or height limit is reached. Because children grow and develop at different rates it is important to keep a watch on your child’s height and weight to make sure that they don’t move up a stage too early or too late.
When buying a child restraint, if possible, try it in your car before you buy. Speak to the shop sales adviser who will give you advice and may show you how to fit the restraint correctly.
Every year too many children are killed or seriously injured on our roads – often because they are not properly restrained when travelling in a car. So make sure you understand the law and give your child the best possible protection. You must only use a child restraint if your car’s seat belt has a diagonal strap, unless the child restraint is either:
•specifically designed for use with a lap seat belt; or
•fitted using ISOFIX anchor points
•Fit the child restraint properly – follow the manufacturer's instructions.
•Every trip, allow time to get the child comfortably strapped in.
•Where using an adult belt to secure the restraint, make sure it passes through all the correct slots.
•Ensure the child restraint is tight in the adult seat.
•Ensure that the adult seat belt buckle is not bent over or resting on the child restraint frame.
•Never fit a rear-facing restraint with an active airbag in front of it.
•Check the vehicle handbook and follow the advice about children and airbags (where fitted).
•Deactivate any front airbags before fitting a rear-facing (baby) restraint in a front seat.
•Never modify the restraint or adult seat belt to make it fit.
•Never fit a child restraint in side-facing seats.
Did you know?
Over 71% of parents in the UK don’t know that legally a child needs to be in a car seat/booster until they are 12 years old (/135cm tall)*
Up to 85% of seats are incorrectly fitted/adjusted**
* Source: OnePoll (May 2015 - based on 2,000 respondents) **data from car seat check clinics
For further reading or more information you can visit the following websites: childcarseats.org.uk, goodeggcarsafety.com, or nidirect.gov.uk/publications/child-seat-belts-leaflet