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Changes to the law on child booster seats

By raccars Published

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If you're buying a family car, make sure you know the law on booster seats and child car seats.

Buying the right child car seat requires almost as much research and dedication as you will put into the search for the right family car. Whether you are bringing a new member of the family home from the maternity unit for the first time or are upgrading as your tiny bundle reaches the toddler stage, there's a complicated range of styles and designs to navigate, while bearing in mind safety regulations.

Ultimately all parents want their child to be both well protected and comfortable while riding as a passenger in a car. And since child seats can be rather expensive, it pays to investigate the market thoroughly. Fortunately in Europe car seat sales are governed by strict safety standards, so you can be sure that any child car seat you buy from a reputable seller and which displays the 'E' mark will have undergone a specified series of tests and will comply with Europe-wide safety regulations. The 'E' mark (a capital 'E' in a circle) ensures that the seat is legal to use in the UK and that it is compliant with EU safety standards.

The law in the UK stipulates that all children under 12 years of age or 135cm in height (whichever comes first) must use appropriate child car seats or booster seats when travelling by car. The law on booster seats changes later this year so the guidelines given are for the new rules, which you should bear in mind if you are shopping now as your child seat should be in use for some time to come.

Child car seats cannot be used in side facing seats and if they are used in a front seat then the passenger airbag must be deactivated. NEVER use a child car seat in the front passenger space with an airbag activated.

You are permitted to transport children under three without a car seat on short, emergency journeys but only if this is absolutely necessary.

The current law allows you to choose child seats by height or weight and two commercial standards are used. The old standard is labelled ECE R 44/04 and the newer standard is i-Size.

i-Size and rear facing

i-Size categorises car seats and booster seats according to height limits and the responsibility lies with the parent to ensure that their child fits their seat correctly. i-Size standards place children under 15 months in a rear facing position. Although i-Size seats tend to cost more, they are safer in the event of a side-on impact.

Rear facing car seats offer five times more head and neck protection for infants in the event of an impact than forward facing seats. In Scandinavian countries children remain in rear facing car seats until the age of 4-5 or about 25kg in weight, reducing the number and severity of crash injuries.

ECE R 44/04

According to the ECE R 44/04 standards, children ride rear facing up to 9kg or 15 months, at which point seats become categorised by weight. The 9-18kg category includes rear and forward facing baby seats, 15-36kg is for high backed, forward facing booster seats and the over 22kg category comprises booster cushions from December this year.

New law on booster seats

Under the current regulations until December, children can use booster cushions from 15kg. However, industry experts tend to discourage the use of booster cushions under any circumstances and recommend high backed car seats until children are at least 135cm tall as they offer better protection in front and side impact crashes.

All seats require a diagonal seatbelt fixing apart from those specifically designed to accept a lap belt or those with ISOFIX anchoring points.

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