Choosing the car seat
It is a legal requirement to have a car seat for any child under the age of 12, or below 135cm in height. The determining factor when choosing a car seat is the weight of your child NOT the age. You should continue to use a car seat until the child has completely grown out of it rather than when he/she reaches a certain age.
Child car seats are divided into categories according to the height, weight and age. These correspond broadly to different age groups, but as mentioned above it is the weight of your child that is the most significant factor when deciding what type of child seat to use.
Group 0 (0- 13kg) are designed for babies aged up to nine months and must be rear-facing with head support.
Group 1 (9-18kg) are seats that are suitable for children from nine months to four years.
Group 2/3 (15-36kg) seats are for four to eleven year olds.
Key features to look for when purchasing a baby car seat include:
Always opt for a car seat that reclines as this is crucial to support your child’s head, neck and back.
Ensure that the seat has ideally five but a minimum of a three point safety harness
Forward facing car seats are designed for small children who are above 9kg or 20lbs and usually around nine months and above. However the latest safety advice suggests rear-facing car seats offer children more protection in a collision than the more common forward-facing type. An article in the British Medical Journal in 2009 concluded that it was safer for children to remain in rear-facing seats until they were four. Although they are widely available in Scandinavia they are not commonly found in Ireland.
ISOFIX is an international standard that uses a system of in-built mounts to fit a child restraint to a car seat. It is by far the safest way to ensure your car seat is securely fitted as it vastly reduces the chance of incorrect installation of a child seat. ISOFIX was introduced in 1999 but it did not become a standard feature in cars until 2006, so if your car is pre 2006 you must check that you have isofix points.
Installing a car seat
The key to safety is fitting the seat properly. While there is no recent data* on incorrectly fitted seats in Ireland data from the UK suggests that 66% of child car seats are incorrectly fitted. When you purchase the car seat get a trained member of staff to fit it into your car. Continue to check the fit regularly.
If you must put a car seat in the front of the car ensure the airbag is turned off, never fit a car seat where there is an active airbag.
*According to the RSA 77% of child fatalities in collisions between 1996 and 2000 were due to a lack of or misuse of a child restraint car seat
5th July, 2013