Child Seats: Keeping Your Child Safe When Driving

A child seat massively increases the safety of younger passengers when driving. In Germany the use of safety belts is mandatory for children up to 12 years or a height up to 1,50 m. We provide eight tips for buyers.

Babies drive backwards. Foto: Fotolia – luuuusa

1. Pay attention to the ECE-R regulation:

Restraint systems for cars must comply with test standard ECE-R 44/03 or 44/04. These standards divide seats according to the weight of the child. The newer test standard ECE-R 129 classifies the seats according to the size of the little passenger. It is now valid in more than 60 countries and should supersede other standards in future.

 2. Let your child test the seat:

As the seat must correspond to the weight and size of your child, experts recommend that children are involved in the purchase, and that they test the seats themselves. The seat should be comfortable, if you want to make even long journeys stress-free.

Children should feel comfortable with their child seats. Foto: Fotolia – ArtFamily

3. Test the seat in your car:

Not every seat fits optimally in every car. It is therefore recommended that the seat is also tested in your own car, as seatbelt length and seat configuration can vary greatly.

4. This is how to install your child seat:

The seat should be simple to install in your car. The ISOFIX system of seat fixtures is practical, and an inclusion in many modern cars. It is especially safe in frontal collisions. In older models, the seat is secured using the three-point seatbelt. This allows seats to be mounted in both the passenger and rear seats. Attention: If a baby seat is in the passenger seat, the airbag must be deactivated. It is imperative, however, that the manufacturer’s instructions are followed.
For children under the age of four or 18 kilograms, experts recommend reboard seats. These rear-facing child seats brace the child’s spine. In a frontal collision, the upper body is not launched forward into the safety harness, as it would be in a forward-facing seat. Important: The airbag must be deactivated, if the child is traveling in the passenger seat.

Booster seats are integrated in the back seat of this Volvo model. Foto: Volvo

5. This is how to find the right size:

The fit of the seat is a function of the weight, size and age of the child. The following weight classes are defined under test standard ECE-R 44/03 or 44/04:

Group 0: From birth to 10 kilograms

Group 0+: From birth to 13 kilograms

Group 1:  From 9 to 18 kilograms

Group 2: From 15 to 25 kilograms

Group 3: From 22 to 36 kilograms

In 2013, the ECE-R 129 test standard came into force, which uses the child’s size and the maximum weight.

According to this standard the transport of children up to 15 months in rear-facing seats is mandatory. “This prevents the premature use of front-facing seats. Compared to the rest of the body the head of a baby or a small child is quite heavy. Furthermore the neck musculature is not yet fully developed. Therefore a rear-facing seat provides an optimum protection for the youngest passengers,” says Ives Deul from DEKRA.

Moreover, with standard ECE-R 129 a lateral crash test was introduced, which additionally improves safety.

For instance, a label of this standard shows the following:  40-105 centimeters / 18 kilograms (from birth up to four years). The size given in centimeters aims to simplify the choice when it comes to purchase a suitable child seat.

Important: Using the test seal found on every child seat, one can see which standards it fulfills and which class of seat it is.

6. Which model for which size?

Depending on the size of the child, one can generally choose between three different models: Baby seat, child seat, or booster seat.

Baby seats are designed for babies up to a maximum age of 18 months respectively about 13 kilograms. They are always installed opposite to the direction of travel. Important: Deactivate the airbag!

When it comes to child seats for children up to the age of four, or 18 kilograms, so-called reboard seats are also available. As with the baby seat, the child faces away from the direction of travel. The advantage of these seats is that in case of a collision, the spine is braced, and the upper body is not thrown into the harness. According to experts, these seats result in the lowest physical stress in a frontal collision.  If the child is in the passenger seat, remember: Airbag off!

The booster seat should only be used once the child is 125 centimeters in height. However, the child’s head is not well protected by a booster seat. In addition, it does not provide sufficient protection in a lateral collision.

7. How good are used child seats?

By opting for a used child seat, you risk your child not being optimally protected, or possibly being injured even further, DEKRA experts warn. “A child seat from a car involved in an accident may look in perfect condition, but may feature internal breaks and tears,” warns Test Engineer Ralf Ambos from the DEKRA Technology Center in Klettwitz. It is therefore advised to steer clear of seats of unknown origin or history.

In addition, in buying an older seat, one runs the risk that the plastic may be aged and brittle due to heat and exposure to sunlight. In serious cases, this means the capacity to absorb energy is diminished, and the seat loses its ability to protect. In addition, it is more likely that the seat breaks apart in an accident. The child may seriously injure themselves on the sharp edges.

Give seats with visible breaks, heavy wear or other damage a wide berth. “A new seat has undergone the rigorous quality tests of the manufacturer, and certainly won’t have any prior damage,” explains Ambos. In addition, new seats generally conform with the latest safety standards.

8. Secure your child properly, or risk penalties!

As child seats are a legal requirement according to paragraph 21, section 1a of the German road traffic act, penalties and fines threaten if a child in the vehicle is incorrectly secured, or not secured at all.

Driving with an unsecured child results in a fine of 60 euros and a demerit point on one’s driving license. If there are several children, the penalty is 70 euros plus a demerit point.

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