Using the Right Child Restraint
Child restraints must be:
- Suitable for the child
- Suitable for the vehicle
- In a safe condition
Choosing Child Restraints
Don't rush the decision. Look through manufacturers' catalogues and websites or in shops to assess a range of seats.
Find a retailer who will let you 'Try Before You Buy'. Good retailers will check whether a restraint is suitable for the car or cars in which it will be used, will demonstrate how to fit it and will allow you to try to fit it yourself. But not all their staff may be trained to do this, so ask if they have trained staff and check that one will be available before you visit the store.
Contact child seat manufacturers to check what seats they recommend for the vehicle(s) you are using - see Links for contact details.
Ask your local Road Safety Unit if they have an advice, checking or fitting service - see Useful Links for contact details.
Suitable for the Child
Child car seats are designed for specific weight ranges of children. These broadly match different age groups, but it is the weight that is most important. Many can be converted as the child grows and so fit into more than one group.
For more information see Types of Child Seats.
It is also important to check that child car seats are in a safe condition.
They must conform to the UN ECE R44.04 (or R44.03), or the i-size standard (R129) and display an "E" mark.
Older ones that conform to a British Standard or to an earlier version of R44 cannot be used.
Child car seats suffer from wear and tear, especially if they are frequently being put into and taken out of cars. They should be replaced according to the manufacturer's recommendations or about every five years. If they are not used regularly, store them out of direct sunlight and where they are not likely to suffer accidental damage.
Child car seats and adult seat belts that were in a vehicle involved in a crash should be replaced, as they may have suffered damage that is not visible to the naked eye, and would not provide protection in a second crash. The replacement cost is normally included as part of any insurance claim.
If the seat belt or child restraint was not being used when the collision occurred, and it was a very minor impact, it may not be necessary to replace them, but it is very difficult to be sure whether they need replacing, so if there is any doubt, replace them. Some manufacturer's offer advice on the circumstances in which a child car seat should be replaced.
Avoid using a second-hand child restraint. It may have been involved in an accident and have hidden damage. It is likely that the instructions will be missing. Older second-hand seats will not have been designed to current safety standards, are likely to have suffered more wear and tear, and will not be legal to use unless they conform to R44.04 or i-size standards.