is your car seat ready for the road?

Life is full of journeys, often with little ones beside us, and it’s important to look after them. If such trips take you out by car, you’ll certainly need a seat to keep your baby comfortable and protected. So in light of road safety week, it’s the perfect time to think about car seat safety.

what car seat laws do i need to be aware of?

From their first journey out of your arms and into the car, your little one must be safely tucked away in a car seat. Make sure the model you choose meets EU standards (check for the E symbol on the label) and is the right category based on their age and size. This applies until their 12th birthday or when they reach 135cm tall, whichever comes first. As a driver, you are also responsible for making sure any passenger under 14 years old is safely strapped in.

There’s also the matter of backless booster seat regulations which changed in February 2017, impacting new models. The updated rules mean they’re only suitable for older children who are taller than 125cm or weigh more than 22kg. While this doesn’t affect existing models, it’s always wise to keep up to date with child car seat laws.

do i have the right car seat?

When it comes to car seat safety, having the right seat is essential. That being said, there’s a lot of choice out there and what’s right for you may not be right for someone else. What’s universal to everyone though is the importance of correct sizing. Using a car seat that’s too small or too big for your baby is not only uncomfortable but also unsafe. Much like wearing a helmet when they’re learning to ride, it can’t do its job if it doesn’t fit right!

laughing baby in mothercare car seat

how can i make sure i have the right sized seat?

Simply put, get out the scales or the measuring tape. Most car seats are based on weight but i-Size models work off height instead. They’re easier to measure for and sizing up by height is more accurate when you consider that children grow at different rates. You know how rapidly they can shoot up but still weigh the same as shorter friends!

Car seats are also broken down by group, from 0+ to 3, based on your little one’s age and weight. With different features and levels of support to protect them as they grow, it’s important to get the size right. Make sure you know the age and weight specifications for your current seat, regularly checking how your tot measures up against them.

does my current model need to be i-Size?

While the market and regulations are moving towards i-Size models, weight-based seats are still thoroughly tested and perfectly safe to use. However, there are additional benefits to car seat safety with i-Size models. Not only are they tested for front and back impacts but side impacts too. That means greater protection in case of a collision.

Another feature of i-size seats is that they’re only available with ISOFIX. This makes the seat more secure and much speedier to fit. It’s also worth noting that they keep babies in a rear-facing position until they’re at least 15 months old. Depending on model, this can be extended up to 4 years old which helps to protect them as they grow.

baby in rear-facing car seat

what direction should my little one be facing?

Previous guidance on car seat direction allowed little ones to switch from a rear-facing to forward-facing seat at nine months. However, keeping them facing backwards as long as possible is better for their safety. Along with being cute-faced, babies have bigger heads in proportion to their bodies than adults do. This increases the risk of damage to their neck and spine in the instance of hard-braking or an accident.

Making sure your baby faces backwards helps to protect their delicate bones from the force of being pushed forward. That doesn’t mean you need to panic if you have a forward-facing seat. They still offer collision protection, but it’s something to consider next time you need to swap out your current seat.

how do i know when my baby has outgrown their seat?

The most accurate way to check if your car seat is still the right size for your child is to weigh or measure them. That’s not always easy though if they won’t stand still for long enough! So there are a couple of quick checks to know when it might be time to get a bigger model. Firstly, get them settled into their seat and take a glance at where their headrests. If the top of their head is level with the top of the seat, they’re probably pushing the size limit.

You can also do a test with their shoulder straps. For rear-facing seats, the straps should be level with or just below your child’s shoulders. The rule changes for forward-facing seats where the straps should be level with or just above their shoulders. In both cases, the straps should be snug enough that you can only slip one or two fingers between them and your child’s chest. Make sure to check these every journey to keep your little one safe.

importance of straps for car seat safety

any other tips for car seat safety?

• avoid buying second hand at all costs as there may be damage that you cannot see
• regularly check car seat connections and straps to make sure they haven’t worked loose
• consider buying a convertible car seat that will keep your baby safe as they grow or…
• regularly check that the car seat is the right size and replace it as soon as it’s too small
• read the user manual to know how to safely install the seat and find out its expiration date

how can i get help if i’m still not sure?

It’s got to be said, car seats aren’t always simple but they really are important. Take time to do your research about what will work best for your family and hopefully you’ll find a great fit. If you ever need a helping hand though, pop down to one of our stores to get some advice on the latest models and car seat safety features. Plus, we can help make sure that the seats you’re looking at are suitable for your car so you don’t have to make a return trip.

We also offer a free car seat fitting service with trained advisors who can get you up to speed. They’ll show you how to fit your chosen seat so you can share these tips with family, friends and babysitters. That way your precious bundle will be safe both in and out of your arms. What better way for them to start every new journey?

As written by Rhi


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