Confused by car seats? Unsure about the Law? With Road Safety Awareness Week this week, we put your burning questions to our in-house car seat experts.
What information do I need about my child when buying a car seat?
Your child's height, weight and age. Ideally you should also have to hand your vehicle handbook for the car you are going to use, as well as the age of the vehicle, make and model.
What does ISOfix mean?
ISOFIX is an internationally standardised car seat fitting system. It’s built into your vehicles seats and means that when you attach your car seat to it the car seat is physically attached to the car’s chassis, rather than fitted using a seat belt. Using an ISOFIX fitted car seat reduces the possibility of human error, as they have colour coded indicators to state whether the car seat is attached correctly or not – which a seat belt obviously cannot do.
What are your thoughts on second-hand car seats?
We don’t recommend using a second hand car seat, even from a trusted friend or relative, as you do not know the history of the seat. It might have been stored incorrectly, dropped or damaged, it might have even been in an accident (damage can be internal and you won’t be able to see it – for example, if the car seat has been dropped at all hairline cracks could appear meaning that during the force of an impact there would be less protection than with a new one.) There is no test that can be carried out to check if a second-hand seat is crash-safe.
What happens if I have a collision? Do I need to replace my car seat?
Yes. Car seats and ISOfix bases should always be replaced after a collision, no matter how small the collision, as the seat could be damaged in ways that are not obvious to the naked eye. Most good insurance fully comprehensive policies should cover this replacement. If unsure email the manufacturers and they can give you further guidance.
Our car seat consultation is also a really helpful way of checking whether your baby is ready to move on to the next stage car seat. Book a free 4-week car seat check up or a free 9-month car seat check up when your little one is ready.
How long should my child sit rearward facing?
As long as they can. Rear facing is always best in a high speed frontal impact. At Mamas & Papas we sell seats which can rear-face up to around age 4 and even some which can be used until around 7 years old. We also sell combination front and rear facing products - which face both directions - once your child reaches the minimum weight/ height and age to face forward, if you want the option. In new regulation car seats (called R129 or i-Size) the child is required by Law to face rearward until 15 months old and 76cm long, however the older regulation models (R44) are only 9 months and 9 kgs. It is however recommended to keep children rear facing until 4 years old.
Where should I place the car seat in the car?
It varies by car. Your car's handbook will show the approved positions for a child restraint to be fitted in your vehicle. You can also check on the car seat brands website to check where you can place the seat in your car. The safest position to put the car seat in your car is the middle seat in the back. This will help prevent the damage from a side impact collision. However, not many cars have ISOFIX or a 3-point seatbelt in the middle seat. Therefore we would recommend putting the car seat behind the Passenger seat. It is Legal to put your child in the front passenger seat but we would never recommend do this is. If you do wish to you must turn your airbag off. If it were to go off it could cause more damage to the baby and the car seat than the collision itself.
How do I know when my child is too big for their car seat?
Snug is good - we always encourage children to grow out of car seats rather than rush to be in the next stage, which is generally guided by their weight and height, not age. We have to go by both as a child could be over the weight limit but still fit in to the seat. When looking at a child's weight always follow the car seat’s own guidance as per the manufacturer’s instructions. In terms of length when rear facing we go by the head position, and not the feet. When little ones’ head crowns the top of the car seat there are 2 options. The first option is to turn forward facing (say if the car seat can do multiple stages, like a ‘birth to 4’ option) or if the seat is a rear facing only seat, we would recommend to buy a new car seat.
What should my child wear when strapped into a car seat? What is the guidance on wearing coats?
Children should not wear padded coats, thick layers, large hoods/ hats or shiny fabrics etc. The harness should be against their body and these can all prevent the correct tightening of the harness, which could result in your child being ejected from the product during a collision. A tight harness doesn't hurt, but coming out of them (if they’re fitted too loosely) really will! A top tip to help you remember this is ‘when in a car they are inside' therefore indoor clothing only, and no outerwear.
Where do I find the laws on child safety in a vehicle?
The laws are in the Highway Code regulations, which applies to the transporting of children in vehicles and keeping your little one safe on the road.
Your questions were answered by our in-store experts, Leanne (Mamas & Papas Nottingham), Amelia (Mamas & Papas Nottingham) and Sarah (Mamas & Papas Birmingham). At Mamas & Papas we offer free Car Seat consultations with our IOSH-accredited in-store experts to help you find your baby’s first car seat, as well as follow-up checks to make sure your car seat fits correctly or to check whether your little one is ready for their next car seat.