Children’s car seat safety. Are we behind in the UK?
Recently I have been considering moving my big pudding into a group 1 car seat so I thought it wise to check over the rules and regulations. He’s just turned 1 and weighs in at 12.5kg. Then I read about the new law coming into force on the 1st March 2017. At present the new law mainly applies to my eldest who is nearly 5 and weighs 17.5kg. She is currently in a high backed booster seat and will remain in this seat for as long as possible!
Whilst I was reading about the new law, I learned that in the UK it is recommended that infants should remain in their rear facing car seats until they are 15 months old! Group 0+ car seats are suitable for weights up to 13kg. I regularly see children far younger than this moved into forward facing car seats. In Sweden however, it is common practice to keep children rear facing until they are 4 – 6 years old.
The argument against forward facing is convincing. Firstly, whilst in a 5 point harness, the child may be well secured but in a crash the child’s head (which is large in proportion to their body) is forced forwards placing immense strain on their immature neck and spine, sometimes causing serious injury. Secondly, their ribcage, which is soft and immature is susceptible to damage during a crash too. When in a rear facing position the greatest amount of force is more evenly spread across the back of the child rather than concentrated on the head and neck. Although it is not law, it appears that the safest restraint for children under 4 are rear facing car seats with a 5 point harness.
My question is, if rear facing car seats are considered far safer, then why is it not the law or at least highly recommended on the government website? Rear facing car seats for children weighing over 13kg are not common in the UK, state ChildCarSeats.org. This is clear to see when searching for one! Are we behind in the UK with safety recommendations? Companies such as Britax encourage the rear facing position for younger children up to age 6. They state they are working on a range to offer this. GoodEggCarSafety.com also recommend rear facing for older children.
At present I am squeezing him into his rear facing car seat. I personally feel he is ready to move into a group 1 car seat which is recommended for children over 9kg by manufacturers. We were hoping to re-use our daughters old seat which is in perfect condition. Although I struggled to find the evidence, the theory now has me doubting forward facing seats.
Back to the new law on booster seats.
So what is the new law?
From the 1st March 2017 the UK law on booster seats changes. I for one am glad this change is being implemented. From this date manufacturers will only be able to make backless booster seats for children either taller than 125cm or weighing more than 22kg.
Why is this?
It is a safety recommendation. Watch this YouTube video of a crash test dummy scenario comparing a backless booster seat and a high backed booster seat to see why.
What does the new law actually mean?
If you already own a backless booster seat (which was originally recommended for children over 15kg) you can still legally use them after the 1st March. The law applies to newly manufactured backless booster seats which will only be recommended for children over 22kg or over 125cm tall.
However safety recommendations still state that a high back booster seat is the preferred option for children under 22kg. You just need to watch the YouTube video to see this.
So why not ban the backless booster seat?
I have read that the reason for this is that some smaller cars struggle to accommodate the high back booster seats. It is better that a backless booster seat is used as opposed to no car seat at all. This is a fair and valid point. This I guess, could also apply to the larger more bulky group 1 and 2 rear facing seats.
When is it ok not to use a suitable car seat?
One thing that really annoys me is using the excuse of a short journey as justification not to use a car seat. It doesn’t take a long car journey to have an accident. In fact Alice Beer reported on This Morning that 1:3 car crashes occur within just 1 mile of the driver’s home. Another annoying reason for not using a car seat are the ‘good’ driving skills of the driver, but what about the rubbish drivers on the road that cause the accident? In my opinion, unless it’s an emergency it is not acceptable to not use a suitable car seat.
There are situations where it is legal for a child to be in a car without a suitable car seat. For example a child over 3 can travel in any car without a car seat if it’s an unavoidable, unexpected journey. Over 3 years old and they should be wearing the adult seat belt. Under 3’s aren’t permitted to travel without a car seat unless it’s in the rear of the taxi and should not be wearing the adult seat belt.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about the rear facing car seats for older children and also if you’ve ever felt pressured into making a car journey with a child unrestrained in a car seat?
Are you from outside the UK? What is common practice with car seats for toddlers and young children where you live?