We never think twice about putting our seat belts on when we get in a car, it is a habit that we have and we need to encourage our children to follow the same habit. The laws regarding seat belts and child car seats are there for the comfort and safety of those involved. It is important that you ensure that your children are travelling in accordance with the law and that they are in the right seat, booster seat or baby seat.
The European law splits these seats into four groups:
– Group 0 to 0+ baby seats are for babies weighing up to 13 kg, (from birth to 9-12 months). Baby seats face backwards and can be fitted in the front or rear of a car using a seat belt or ISOFIX connector. They must not be used in the front of a car if the seat is protected by an active airbag. Most cars have the facility to turn off this airbag should you need to use the seat for a baby seat.
– Group 1. Child car seats are for children weighing between 9 and 18 kilos (approximate age 9 months to 4 years) and have their own integral straps. They face forwards or rearwards and are fitted in the front or rear of a car using an adult seat belt or ISOFIX connector.
– Group 2. Booster seats for children from 15 to 25 kilos (approximately 4 to 6 years) or depending upon make and model from 15 to 36 kilos. These may or may not have backs. They are designed to raise children so that the adult seat belt goes safely as low as possible from hip bone to hip bone.
– Group 3. Booster cushions for children weighing 22 to 36 kg (aged around six years and upwards). They are designed to raise children as in group two. You may also purchase a range of multi stage restraints which cover groups one to three with elements that may be removed as the child grows. The weight ranges overlap to allow some flexibility when the time comes to move your child to the next size. Modern booster seats are designed for use with lap and diagonally seat belts only. These cannot be used with adult lap belts.
It is important that your child restraint fits well, if not a child could be at risk of injury in a badly fitted seat. You should always check that your seat is fitted as intended by the manufacturer, is correct for the weight of your child and meats the European safety standards. All child restraints must meet the UN ECE regulation 4403 or later type approval standard. Any products that meet the standard will have a label showing E and 44.03 or 44.04 or later and the group or weigh range of the child for which it is designed.
When a car is involved in an accident, we all know it stops abruptly, if the people inside are not restrained they will crash into other parts of the vehicle itself. Restraints are designed to stop this from happening and help distribute the forces of a crash over the stronger points of the human body with minimal damage to soft tissues. Contrary to popular belief 2 or 3-point seat belts are not designed for children. Children are not small adults they are proportioned differently and their key organs are in different places. For this reason, they need a restraining system to cope with the different stages of their growth and development.
In infants a small impact can result in significant injury to an infant’s skull and brain. The smaller the child, the lower the force needed to cause injury. The infant rib cage is also very flexible and impact to the chest can cause compression of the chest wall onto the heart, lungs and abdominal organs. An infant’s pelvis cannot withstand the forces from an adult restraining system therefore a rear facing child restraining system is the only option to protect infants up to 13 kilos in weight.
Childhood. The bone making process is not complete until the ages of six or seven and throughout the child hood a child’s skull is not as strong as that of an adult. The restraining system therefor needs to limit the forward head movement in the event of a frontal impact and provides protection for intrusion in a side impact.
Airbags are powerful safety devices and as such should not be used in conjunction with a child seat. In a crash, a rear facing child seat would be hit by a frontal air bag, which could injure the child. The seat would also be knocked up and towards the rear of the vehicle which means that the seat and child could be completely unrestrained after the first impact.
After having being involved in an accident it is best to replace the car seat, if in any doubt.