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Baby and Child Car Seats Help Guide

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The summer holidays are fast approaching, with parents around the UK preparing themselves for 6 weeks of entertaining and ferrying around their little darlings. But before you embark on all these pending road trips and commutes, have you checked that you have the appropriate car seat for your child?

Since September 18, 2006, it has been UK law that children under the age of 12 or under the height of 135cm (whichever is reached first) must use an appropriate baby car seat or child car seat. This law was put into place in order to maximise the protection of children in road accidents and minimise the risk of injury to them, as regular seatbelts are not designed to effectively protect children during car accidents.

The use of booster seats and children’s car seats means that car seatbelts can properly secure the child in their seats and reduce the risk of harm caused during impact. But with so many different brands and designs on the market, how do you know which car seat to buy?

Well look no further, because at Creditplus we have done our research to tell you all you need to know about children’s car seats and the current laws surrounding them!

Changes to the law

Legislation regarding child car seats in the UK changed recently. As of 1st March 2017, all children under 125cm and weighing less than 22kg are required to travel in a high-backed booster seat under this new legislation.

However, this change in legislation only applies to new products being released into the market. Parents who continue to use their existing backless booster seats will still be able to use them without breaking any UK laws.

The current law states that parents can face up to a £500 fine if they are found travelling with an infant breaching the correct seat requirements for their age, height, and weight.

Exceptions to the Law

Taxis and minicabs

If a suitable car seat has not been provided by the driver, your child may still travel in the vehicle, however they must be seated in the back seat. If they are three years or older, they must still use a seat belt.

Coaches, minibuses and vans

Coach and minibus companies are not legally obliged to provide suitable children’s car seats, meaning you must provide your own if you wish to use one. A child can travel on a coach without a car seat or seat belt, if both are unavailable.

In minibuses, children are required to sit in the seats behind the driver if there are no appropriate car seats available. If your child is over the age of three, then a child car seat must be used if one is available, or if no appropriate child car seats are available, an adult seat belt must be used instead.

The rules for child restraint in vans is the same as for cars.

Unable to accommodate three child seats?

This is a problem that many parents face when their family consists of more than two of their own children, or if they simply need to give their child’s friends a lift.

Most cars do not accommodate for three car seats to be fitted side by side. If this is the case, then children under three are required to travel in the front passenger seat with the correct seat for their age/weight/height.

However, it is important to note that the passenger airbag must be switched off if the car seat is rear facing – this is a legal requirement due to the potential damage to the child in the case of deployment.

Forward facing seats can be used with an active airbag in place, although it is recommended that the seat is as far back as possible to maximise the distance between child and airbag.

If one of the children is over the age of three, then they are permitted to sit in the back using an adult seatbelt instead.

Unexpected journeys

Unexpected journeys are a part of life. When an emergency or incident occurs, we are sometimes required to drop everything and travel as a matter of urgency.

If no suitable child car seat is available, your child can be strapped in just using an adult seat belt as long as the journey is unexpected and necessary, and providing they are three years or older.

However, if your child is under the age of three then they are not permitted to travel without a correct child car seat, with the exception of a licensed taxi, where they can travel on a rear seat if a suitable child seat is not available.

Height Based Child Seats (i-Size)

The term ‘i-Size’ car seats refers to the European-wide car seat regulations, which were recently put into place to make car seats safer for children by keeping them in a rear-facing seat for longer.

According to the i-Size standards, children’s car seats are graded by the height of the infant using strict European safety regulations, which were brought into action in July 2013.

The height based car seats are designed for new born children up to infants of 105cm in height (usually around 4 years old). Height based car seats are required to be rear-facing until the infant is 15 months old for their own safety. Once a child has reached the age of 15 months old, the seat can be fitted so that they are forward-facing.  

i-Size car seats are fitted with Isofix connections which can be locked in securely onto the frame of the car, with some seats offering the extra support of tethers.

Recent studies have shown that rear-facing car seats are safer for children, especially in side impact traffic accidents. Swedish research has actually found that having a rear-facing car seat for children will provide up to 75% more protection for small children in a car accident.  

This is due to the fact that children’s necks do not develop enough to cope with the forces created by a head on collision until they reach the age of 15 months. If your infant is sat in a rear-facing car seat, the force generated by a collision can be spread over a greater area of the body, meaning there is less of an impact on their neck or head.

Another benefit of the i-Size car seat is their regulated side impact protection. Old car seat regulations dictate that car seats must be tested for protection against car accidents where the car is hit from the front or back.

However, it is thought that around a quarter of all car accidents involve a collision with the side of another car. The i-Size car seats are legally required to be tested for side on collisions to ensure protection, which is sure to put a lot of parent’s minds at ease.

Weight Based Child Seats

Alternatively, children’s car seats can also be categorised by the child’s weight, and although they are not i-Size regulated, they are still safe to use for your children.

Unlike i-Size seats, weight based car seats are not all secured using Isofix connections, some are secured using the car seatbelt, tethers or even both.

Weight Groups

Here’s how your child’s car seat can be used for various groups:

  • Your child’s Group 0+ and 1 seats will be rearward-facing up until the infant is at least 9kg (20lbs) before the seat is able to be turned forward-facing. However, parents can choose to seat their children rearward facing until the infant has reached a weight of 18kg (40lbs). 
  • Group 0+, 1 and 2 car seats (these are not as common) will start rearward-facing in your car up until your child is 18kg, and then will be turned forward-facing. However, these seats can be turned forward facing when your child reaches a weight of 9kg. 
  • Group 1, 2 and 3 car seats are forward-facing, and the child can use the seat’s harness or an impact cushion up until they reach 15kg (33lbs). After this milestone has been reached, the car’s seat belt can be used to secure both the child and the car seat. 

Both groups 2 and 3 are high-backed booster seats, however they can also be booster cushions without a back. With certain high-backed seats, when the child reaches a weight of 22kg (48lbs) the back can be removed from the seat, although it is advised that it is better to keep the back on.

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Combination Child Seats

A lot of children’s car seats currently on the market cover more than just the one group as they can be adjusted to accommodate the child as they grow. These seats are often known as combination or multi-group seats, and they are extremely popular with parents as it can save money and time trying to find a new car seat as their child grows.

Our Top Picks

Now that you have read up on all the regulations and legislations surrounding children’s car seats in the UK, it is time to choose a car seat. To make things a little easier for you, we have chosen some of the best car seats on the market according to customer reviews and popularity.

Maxi-Cosi AxissFix Plus: £395 (available at John Lewis)

This extremely popular and innovative car seat boasts a whole host of features such as a 360-degree swivel, fit for newborns plus, memory foam padding for extra comfort and a self-adjusting harness.

The Maxi-Cosi is also easy to carry its extensive safety features exceed those of the i-Size standard. These safety features include a patented impact absorption material fitted in the headrest for extra protection.

This car seat accommodates children up to the age of four, however the option to have your child rear-facing is limited to the age of two.

Graco Milestone: £115 (available on Amazon)

Probably the most versatile and economically friendly option, the Graco Milestone is an all-rounder car seat.

The option to adjust the headrest and harness means that it can accommodate your infant comfortably as it grows, and its four-position recline feature means that your child can be secured both rear-facing and forward-facing.

Furthermore, the Graco Milestone has three convertible riding modes, allowing the car seat to be used for children from birth up until the age of 12, potentially being the only car seat you would need to buy for your child.

However, this excellent value car seat is on the larger side, so you may struggle to fit more than one in a narrower car.

Britax Baby-Safe plus SHR II: £120 (available on Amazon)

Suited to Group 0+ (birth – 13kg) infants, this popular car seat is robust and affordable according to.

Boasting Britax’s patented D-SIP technology, which protects your child from side impacts, it is also fitted with extra padding for comfortable journeys.

This popular car seat can be fitted using either Isofix or simply with the standard three-point seatbelt making it extremely versatile. However, the seat Is only suitable for children from birth to around 15 months of age.

Graco SnugRide i-Size: £299.99 (available at Toys R Us) 

Another popular option is the Graco SnugRide i-Size, with its simple to adjust base and the ability to recline whilst still in the rear-facing position.

This seat provides comfort for your child, with an installed footrest for when your child gets older.

Made from easily cleanable material, this car seat is durable and hardy, perfect for messy little ones!

The Graco SnugRide is suitable for children from birth up to approximately two years old.

Mothercare Madrid Child Seat: £80 (available at Mothercare.com)

This car seat is designed for Group 0+ and Group 1 (0-18kg) children, meaning it can be used on children from birth to around the age of four.

With a five-point harness, the Mothercare Madrid can be rear-facing until a child reaches around 9 months of age, and the seat can be fitted forward-facing afterwards.

This great value car seat comes in a range of colours, and is secured using the car’s seatbelt instead of Isofix.

Halfords Group 2/3 Highback Booster Seat: £40 (available from Halfords)

This extremely comfortable car seat comes with soft padding design as well as two handy cup holders hidden in the side of the squab.

The back of the booster seat can be removed; however, legislation dictates that your child must be taller than 125cm and weigh more than 22kg before this can be done.

This booster seat is suitable for children aged roughly four to 12 years old, and is secured using the cars seatbelt.

Thinking about your next family car?

So, there you have it, our complete guide to everything you need to know when purchasing your next car seat. But whilst you’re thinking about investing in a new seat, what about a new car?

With our extensive car search, Creditplus can find you the best family cars to keep your children safe in their car seats.

Get in touch with our Customer Advisors on 0800 1777 290 or complete our simple, 2-minute online application form and we will be able to find you the perfect family car with the best finance deal for you.

We would love to hear from you!

If you have any thoughts on the current legislation surrounding children's car seats, or if you think there is anything that we have missed in our blog then please leave a comment below!

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If you enjoyed this blog, why not check out some of our previous blogs below?

7 Seater Comparison | Battle of the Big Family Cars

Money Saving Car Tips for Families

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    Car Accident Whiplash
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    Car Accident Injury Chiropractor

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