With 6 small children, we certainly have a lot of car seats! The advice can often be confusing so here are the facts, some great links to find out more AND a handy discount code!
· All children up to the age of 12 or 135 cm tall (which ever they reach first) need to be in a car seat. That is the law - https://www.gov.uk/child-car-seats-the-rules. This is a really useful link for telling you exactly which type of car seat your child needs to be in from a legal and safety perspective.
· In the UK children must use a car seat that is approved to UN Regulation No. 44 (R44) - or to UN Regulation No. 129 (R129) for i-SIZE seats.
· i-Size seats are based on a child's height (not weight) and allow them to travel in the recommended rear-facing position for longer (up to at least 15 months old). Some seats allow children to continue travelling rear-facing until 4 years – it has been proven in numerous tests that the safest option is to leave your child rear-facing for as long as is comfortably possible.
· You must only use a child car seat if your car’s seat belt has a diagonal strap, unless the seat is fitted using ISOFIX anchor points.
· ISOFIX is an internationally standardised car seat fitting system. All new vehicles feature the system which allows you to quickly and easily install an ISOFIX car seat into your car. ISOFIX is deemed the safest method to install a car seat as it massively decreases the risk of wrongly fitted seats and creates a rigid connection between the car seat and vehicle for improved protection.
· You must also deactivate any front airbags before fitting a rear-facing baby seat in a front seat and not fit a child car seat in side-facing seats.
· Help the retailer you are buying your car seat from by advising them of the age, weight and height of the child who the seat is for.
· Help the retailer you are buying your car seat from by providing the make, model and age of the vehicle the car seat is to be used in.
· You should NEVER buy a car seat from an unknown source. Please bear in mind that not all car seat damage is visible, therefore you should only use a car seat of which you know the full history and are certain of its integrity.
· Lisa Galliers (reporting for Which) found that 42% of parents who bought a new car seat didn’t have the fit checked at all. This means that even if you had researched carefully, and bought what you judged to be the safest possible car seat, it won’t offer the best protection for your child in a crash if it hasn’t been fitted correctly. Make sure you carry out this crucial safety check – you can find Which’s free car seat fitting checklist here.
· If you are expecting for the first time, make sure you practise how to use your car seat and ensure you are confident installing it in your car. There is nothing worse or more stressful than leaving hospital with your new arrival only to find you haven’t correctly fitted their car seat!
· For a car seat harness to work properly, the straps need to be tightly strapped against your child’s chest. When a child wears a snowsuit or thick coat, the straps are usually adjusted to the thickness of the coat, not the chest. If you had to stop suddenly or the car was in an accident, the thick layer could compress, making the straps loose - this gives your child too much space for movement. Without being held back securely, your child is then exposed to greater potential for injuries. In order to find out if your coat is too thick, strap your child in wearing their thick coat or other layer (eg snowsuit) and adjust the straps until you can’t pinch any of the strap material. Then unbuckle but leave the straps the same length. Take off your child’s coat and buckle them back in WITHOUT adjusting the straps. If you can now pinch the straps between your thumb and forefinger, then the coat / layer you originally tested is too thick to be worn safely. Instead, use blankets, or a crash test approved product such as the Stars and Snuggles Baby Star Travel Wrap. Use discount code SNUG19 at the check out and get your little one winter car seat ready!
We hope this has helped to demystify some of the confusion around car seats so that you and your little ones can drive comfortably, and above all safely!
Kate Ball, Mini First Aid Founder and Director
Sources: Gov.UK. Stars & Snuggles. Mothercare UK. WHICH. The BPA. Safe Ride 4 Kids.
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