OK so things are changing in the world of car seats and child safety. It’s tough to know, as a parent, whether the seat you have that cost hundreds is better than the one your neighbour has that cost a fiver off eBay! Who is to know! Well, with the recent changes in the law this became a topic of conversation between me and some of my group of friends and, do you know what? None of us actually knew the correct answers!
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That’s some scary stuff right there. There is simply too much information available to process any of it sensibly and in a way we can practically implement as parents, wives, husbands, workers, cleaners, and taxi services!
Do you pay attention to that viral blog post going around Facebook? Only to find out, once you’ve spent time reading it, that its really old and no use nor ornament! Things change so quickly in the safety world it is easy to become information-blind! And as a parent, haven’t we got loads of other things on our minds too?
So I’ve made it easier to break down what you need to know. I’ve taken the law and the safety bit separately, so you can make an informed choice based on what you must do vs what is the best advice.
The main thing you’ll need today: the ability to make a decision based on the facts. Also, it might be handy to know how old your small people are and how much they weigh.
WTF is this Booster Seat Change?
This is all about backs of seats! Honestly! And it’s only about manufacturers at the moment.
Need to know lingo
booster cushion – booster seats that we know of now (just the bum bit)
booster seat – booster with a back
Car Seat – usually a child’s seat that has a harness. Some convert from car seat to booster seat just to make it that bit easier :/
From January 2017 manufacturers had to stop making booster cushions (just the bum bit) for kids that are less than 125 cm tall (4′ 1″ to me and you).
Safety is what this is all about. It’s much safer for children less that 125 cm tall to be in a seat with a back as this offers much more protection for their upper body and head.
Booster Seats: Safety
So, forgetting the law bit and focusing just on safety:
No Seat – children under 125 cm are too short to be properly protected by a seat belt alone. They can also be injured by airbags because of their height.
Booster Cushion – Being on a booster cushion is still better than nothing as it raises the child’s height to be in line with the seat belt. This makes the seat belt better equipped to do it’s job like it would on an adult but offers no other protection.
Booster Seat (with a back) or car seat – this brings your child up to the appropriate height so that the seat belt can do it’s job. Additionally it provides extra protection to their little body, neck and head in the event of a collision.
Safety speaking, fully formed car seats (baby carrier types) and seats with backs are always going to be safer because it provides more protection for the entire body and head.
Also, rear facing is much safer too so given the option, backwards for longer is better. But that’s another story for another day!
Harness versus Seatbelt: Safety
Again, forgetting the law bit and focusing just on safety:
A harness, often referred to as a 5 point harness, has (…ahem…) five points of contact. These include one over each shoulder, one on each side of the pelvis and one between the legs with all five coming together at a common buckle.
A snug harness protects a child from potential injury in a crash. Based on an American study (The JAMA Network); the injuries received by children involved in accidents, were 28% less likely to be life threatening for those wearing a harness in comparison to a seat belt.
Basically, a harness keeps the child in a standard, safe position (because we know how wiggly kids are!). It also limits forward movement in a crash, and spreads out any additional pressure more evenly across the body, reducing the force from just one spot on the body.
The Law for the Lot
Seats and Buckles
So, forgetting the safety bit and focusing just on the law:
The UK law states that: Children must use a car seat (that’s all the types we’ve talked about) until they are 12 years old or 135 cm (4′ 5″) tall.
0-13 kg – rear facing using a harness
9-18 kg – rear or forward facing using a harness
15+ kg – rear facing with a harness or forward facing using a seat belt
Children over 18 kg can still wear a harness but it isn’t the law. (Heck, I’d wear one if they made them!)
Booster cushions (backless) aren’t illegal. You cannot get into trouble for using one as long as your child meets the legal requirement for them i.e.
- The child weighs more than 15kg
- They are less than 135 cm (4′ 5″) tall OR12 years old (after this they don’t legally require them)
The Nitty Gritty
So, what am I saying? The law is changing in the UK right now for manufacturers and is providing a choice for us, the consumer.
The new regulation DOES NOT replace the old one and you don’t need to go out buying new seats tomorrow, unless you want to. These changes to guidelines give us the OPTION to change, based on new information, but do not force us to.
It’s our choice.
Simply put, and for absolute safety purposes it’s important that you check a couple of things whether you get a new seat or not – new or old regulations, these are what should matter:
- Check that you are meeting the Law standard (given above)
- Check the seat is suitable for the height and weight of your child
- Check the seat is fitted correctly
- Check that you are satisfied that your child would be safe if you were to be involved in an accident
There are a few exceptions to the law where children can legally travel without a car seat. I have provided this information for a full picture of the law but I have to be honest, this is without my safety hat on because with it on, I cringe a lot!
So here are the exceptions but I will stress how unsafe these options are:
- On unexpected emergency journeys if only for a short distance and the child is over three years old
- In a minibus, minicab, taxi, coach or van but not in the front seat
- If you have three children sitting in the back of the car and a third seat simply won’t fit, the third child can go without a seat (but needs a seat belt!) They must also be at least three years old.
In summary, my actions from learning all this: we’re buying a new car seat! I haven’t been happy with ours for a while so we’re spending hubby’s well earned bonus on safety first! Whatever we go for, I know it will have ISOFix fitting and a 5 point harness. I also know the one we choose will be with us for a while so I don’t mind investing more cash.
What are your car seat plans now?