Choosing the right children’s car seat is an important decision for new parents; it’s the first piece of equipment used to bring a new baby home from the hospital.
A portable car seat is convenient for transitioning a sleeping baby to the pushchair or into the house without waking them. And, of course, a correctly fitting car seat is the only way to transport them whilst travelling safely in any vehicle.
You must choose a seat that fits your car and is suitable for a baby at each stage of its development.
Front passenger air bags and baby car seats
Car seat experts say “When it comes to child seat law, there are a lot of things to remember. For instance, do you know where the safest place in a vehicle for a child seat is? And at what age child seats can be used on the front seat of a vehicle?
If you don’t position or restrain your child correctly in the car, you could put your child’s safety at risk, as well as running a risk of a fine of up to £500.”
While it’s acceptable to put your baby or infant in the front or back of the car, it’s down to preference on where you feel they’ll be safest.
For i-Size seats, all children must use a rear-facing seat until they’re 15 months old, although it’s advised you use one for as long as possible. You should also make sure any seat is the appropriate size for your child.
childcarseats.org.uk suggest “Always ensure that your child is in an appropriate child car seat that is suitable for the car in which it is being used, and that it is securely fitted. Make sure the child is securely held by the child seat harness or seat belt. Make sure that children travel in the rear of the car, if possible – it is safer. Never put a rearward-facing baby seat in the front if there is an active passenger airbag
Car seat law in the UK
Using a child car seat is a legal requirement in the UK.
The law states that children must use a child car seat until they’re 12 years old, or 135cm tall. It’s a case of whichever comes first. That said, many safety experts still recommend that children remain in car seats until they are 150cm.
There are some exclusions, such as taxis, coaches, or short unexpected journeys.
But in all other instances, you must use a correctly fitted, EU-approved car seat.
Choosing the right car seat
Car seats are split into several groups, each recommended according to the weight or height of the child.
For newborns, you could choose from a few options.
Baby car seats (group 0+)
These are usually the first car seats that a baby will need. They tend to be smaller and lighter, and often come with the option to attach to a pushchair. They should always be used in a rear-facing position and will typically last from birth to between 12-15 months, or a maximum weight of 13kg.
Group 0+/1 car seats
These seats can be used safely from birth to around four years old, and they are fixed into the car and so much bigger than the portable seats.
This type of car seat can be used in both rear and forward-facing positions, although experts suggest that you should leave your baby in a rear-facing child car seat until they are at least 15 months old.
Group 0+/1/2 car seats
This category is designed to last a child from birth to 25kg (around six years old).
Group 1 car seats
These seats are for toddlers weighing between 9-18kg and are normally forward-facing. They will usually have a harness built into the seat to safely secure the child.
Group 2/3 car seats
When your child is old enough, the next category of car seats is 2/3 car seats, otherwise known as high-backed booster seats. These are suitable from 15-36kg (approximately 3-12 years of age and will use the car’s adult seatbelt to keep your child safely secured.
Group 1/2/3 car seats
Group 1/2/3 seats are suitable from nine months up to 12 years, and that’s approximately 9-36kg. These seats often use a five-point safety harness but can be adapted to convert to a high-backed booster seat using the car’s seat belt.
Backless booster seats
These seats raise the child to the correct height to use the adult seat belt. Often a group 2/3 car seat will convert to a backless booster seat.
Choosing the right car seat can be confusing, and so, parents are encouraged to seek professional advice from retailers. Many will also offer face-to-face demonstrations and free fitting to ensure you are comfortable fitting your new child’s car seat in your own vehicle.
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