Child car safety legislation has changed a lot over the last generation, which has led to a number of parents unsure as to how they should be best protecting their children. With safety guidelines based on a child’s height and weight, plus a number of car seat groups to contend with, it’s easy to see why this could get confusing.
One change which is currently being rolled out is the introduction of the i-Size standard. This is a gradual change which is slowly coming into force, and could affect you differently depending on your child’s height and weight. Here’s what you need to know:
What is i-Size?
Basically i-Size has been created to co-ordinate with both Regulation 129 and ECE R44.04 (the main standard to which all car seats are currently tested). It’s set to take over from the R44.04 standard, which is currently mandatory, as it meets this criteria plus the criteria of the new regulation (129).
Overall, Regulation 129 aims to improve child safety across rear-facing, front facing seats and boosters, and this is being looked at in stages. So far, the forward facing seats have been looked into, with i-Size now being the standard for seats for younger children. I-Size looks to keep children rear-facing until they are 15 months, which is an increase of 6 months on the current law. However, there is also a height restriction in place, meaning that if your child is 15 months+ but small, they will have to use the infant seat until they meet the requirements of a forward facing seat.
Side impact protection
At the regulation moves to look at Group 1, 2 and 3 car seats and boosters, there will be improved provisions regarding side impact protection. Although this is the least common type of accident, it’s still important to protect children, especially young children, from any side impact injury to their head or body.
Changing the rules
As part of the new regulations, changes will be made in terms of what restraints children should be using. At present, this is determined on age and weight, with height only being relevant if your child is over 135cm and therefore not permitted by law to use a booster or car seat. For example, each car seat group currently comes with a weight limitation, but if your child is within the weight range but too small or too big, the seat may not offer them the best protection.
The new rules will look at a child’s height, their hip to shoulder ratio (how the seat belt sits) and more to determine the most appropriate seat and restrain system available.
Do you need to change anything now?
At the moment, the ECE R44.04 regulation is still law so you don’t need to throw out your current seat straight away. In fact, this type of seat will still be valid for some time yet, so it may wise to keep an eye out when upgrading your car seat, but aside from this you are ok to use your current seat as long as it conforms to the ECE standard.
Phase 2 of the regulation looks at booster seats, and is due for completion by the end of this year. At this point you may look to upgrade your booster cushion or opt for a larger car seat.
Retailers will still be legally allowed to sell seats and boosters meeting the ECE R44.04 criteria until 2018, so you can still buy and use these now. Alternatively, you can choose to upgrade to i-Size right away – you will still be protecting your child and operating within the law. Even after retailers stop selling the R44.04 products, you will still be able to legally use them for a few years after this.