Keeping your baby safe when travelling by car is the most important thing in the world. So you’ll not just need to know the law for babies and children but all about on how to use them and how to continue to keep your little one safe in the car, journey after journey.
by Sally J. Hall
It can be a little confusing when you are choosing a car seat for the first time; a quick look in a department store or car seat stockist may leave you more confused than when you came in. There are also new laws coming into force (iSize) but they will not become mandatory for a few years, while manufacturers catch up. This means there will effectively be two sets of EU Regulations in force at the same time. More confused? We feel your pain!
B has some handy tips and hints to help you choose wisely and also has all you need to know about safety and comfort for your growing child. So take a look at the information below, then head to our car seat review section to make a final decision.
New Baby? What’s The Best Car Seat For Me?
If you’re expecting your first baby, there’s a huge list of things you need to buy and the car seat should be right at the top. But before making an impulsive decision based on the seat’s colour or design, ask yourself a few questions.
Do I want a car seat that fits on my pushchair?
Many manufacturers now make adapters that allow you to snap the car seat straight onto the pushchair’s chassis. So you pop out to the shops, your baby is asleep in the car seat but no problem – simply lift it from the car and onto the pushchair and off you go. If this is your preferred choice, look at pushchairs first and find out which car seats will fit on the chassis. Some manufacturers make their own and others use a more universal car seat – the Maxi-Cosi Pebble fits on lots of different pushchairs, for example. These will typically be called Group 0+ car seats (see chart below). Do not leave your baby in this type of car seat for more than a couple of hours a day though and use the pushchair’s carrycot or seat, lying flat, as much as possible.
I have heard that facing the rear is safest for babies and children. How do I find a seat that does this?
Most, if not all, Group 0+ car seats face the rear. There are also new seats coming in that are called iSize seats and that allow you to have your child facing the rear up to four years. Studies have shown that in areas such as Scandinavia, where all children face the rear to four years of age, the rate of infant deaths has been reduced.
Do I want to leave the seat in the car and use it for longer?
If value for money is a priority and you’d prefer not to buy a product you’ll have to discard after just nine to 12 months, look for a Group 0+ and 1 car seat. This will fit your baby from birth up to around four years. You can even but a seat that will last up to seven years. Make sure the seat has a newborn insert and head hugger and that straps can be adjusted all through the seat’s lifespan.
Do I make lots of long journeys, for example to a relative’s house or a holiday house?
If you regularly make long car journeys, look for a car seat that has a lie-flat position. This is the best position for a baby to lie, long-term, and prevents health problems.
The Law About Car Seats
The law states that it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that all passengers are adequately restrained in the car. It also says that a child must be in an appropriate seat from birth until they are either 12 years old or 135cm tall. So this means it is your responsibility to ensure that your baby is always safe and that means checking the seat is correctly fitted each and every time you travel.
Did you know that many parents fail to ensure the seat is fastened every time? A survey by car seat fitting experts Child Car Seat Safety Ltd found that 51% of the parents they surveyed in supermarket car parks had not secured the baby’s seat properly and had made mistakes like putting the car’s seat belt incorrectly through the car seat’s routing guides or the Isofix loops not being clicked into the fittings.
What Car Seat Fits What Age Child?
Here’s a handy table that shows you which seat is suitable for your child.
Be aware that the weight of the child is crucial in the “Group” seats and that once they reach the upper weight limit, you should move your child to the next stage seat. For iSize seats, you need to check their height and move them up when they are at the maximum height.
Car Seat Dos and Don’ts Do…
…dress your baby as you would be comfortable yourself in the car. So if it’s warm, remove coats or blankets. Overheating is thought to be a cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
…keep an eye on baby’s weight and height and move them to the next stage seat when the reach the upper limit of your infant seat.
…place your baby in the seat with the harness loose. Fasten the buckle, then pull on the one-pull harness adjuster (usually found on the edge of the seat between your baby’s legs). The harness should fit your baby snugly, so that you can just slip two fingers between the straps and your baby’s body
…have your baby facing the rear when travelling and place the infant seat in the middle of the back seat, if you can. This is the safest way and place for your baby to travel.
…look for seats with extra features; a rocking base, a head hugger and insert for newborns, good padding on the chest and crotch, a sun canopy, a storage compartment, drink and snack holders.
…look for a seat that has a cover you can take off to wash. You’ll be surprised how mucky they can get!
CHECK THE SEAT IS FITTED CORRECTLY EACH AND EVERY TIME YOU TRAVEL
…dress your baby in the car seat in a puffy, padded coat or snowsuit. If you’re in an accident, the harness is actually held a couple of centimetres away from your baby’s body but in an impact, the coat will compress and your baby will travel further than is safe.
…have your baby in the front seat of the car when there is an airbag fitted. It is possible for your car’s manufacturer to disable the airbag but this may not be the best option when you have others as passengers. The rear seat is safest for baby.
…compromise on safety. Choose a seat with a good safety rating from organisations like Which? that has been fully tested.
Now discover more about Group 0+ and Group 1 car seats, plus the new iSize seats