Frequently asked questions about child car seats
Here you will find answers to all your questions, so that you know the safest way to travel for a child.
What should I do if I see a child locked in a car?
It takes 10 minutes in a car for a child to suffer heatstroke, especially if the temperature is 25 degrees Celsius outside. It is vital to know how to react in time if we see a child locked inside a vehicle.
According to the ‘Report on heatstroke in childhood’ (834 KB), produced by Fundación MAPFRE:
- The first thing you should do is check that the child is responsive.
- Next, immediately call 112, the emergency telephone number throughout the entire European Union.
- Next, open the car. It is important that the child is safe while you do this. Therefore, if you have to break a window, ask the child to move to the other side of the vehicle.
- You should then take the child out of the car with great care, making sure that they do not cut themselves.
When is the right time to use a booster seat with no backrest?
Today there are booster seats with no backrest for groups 2/3, in other words, for children between 15 and 36 kg. Of course, these booster seats with no backrest are approved under R44/04. Regulation 129 also approves the approval of bumpers from 125 cm where these are the correct dimensions to allow the head to interact with the window airbag in case of a side collision.
Do not be confused between use and approval. The latter only affects manufacturers, and currently booster seats without a backrest can only be approved for Group 3 (from 22 to 36 kg). However, it is important to note that booster seats that do not have a backrest should not be used up to 125 cm.
In this regard, it is necessary to switch to a booster seat when the Group 1 seat, i.e., a CRS with a harness, has become too small. This is when the child’s shoulders go beyond the highest point of the harness or when they exceed the maximum height and weight of 18 kilograms. Of course, we must also change the seat if the head protrudes from the highest point of the CRS.
And up to when should a child use a booster seat? It is recommended up to 150 cm, at which point an adult seat belt can be properly fastened.
Is it a crime to leave a child alone in the car?
We have often talked about how dangerous it can be to leave a child alone locked in the car, either by accident or on purpose. Even if it is only for 10 minutes, the consequences can be very serious. Staying that long inside a vehicle when the outside temperature is close to 25 degrees Celsius can lead to heat stroke, a condition that results in nausea, vomiting, headache and tachycardia, and can lead to death.
In this regard, it should be noted that Article 229 of the Penal Code includes the crime of abandonment of minors and persons with disabilities and states that this is punishable by imprisonment for a term of one to two years. More specifically, if the abandonment is carried out by parents, guardians or legal guardians, a prison sentence of eighteen months to three years will be imposed.
In addition, a prison sentence of two to four years will be imposed when, due to the circumstances of the abandonment, the life, health, physical integrity or sexual freedom of the minor or disabled person in need of special protection has been specifically endangered, without prejudice to further punishment if the act constitutes a more serious crime.
Also, Article 233 states that if the judge or court deems it appropriate in view of the circumstances of the minor, it may impose on those responsible for these crimes the penalty of special disqualification for the exercise of parental authority or the rights of physical custody, conservatorship, guardianship, or foster care for a period of four to ten years. In any case, the Public Prosecutor’s Office shall request the appropriate measures from the competent authority for the proper custody and protection of the minor.
What age can a child ride their bicycle on their own?
Ideally, children should always ride their bicycle in the company of an adult. This does not mean that they should always ride the same bike. Far from it. The adult can accompany them on their trips, each on their own bicycle and always implementing all the safety measures. This means that they should always wear a helmet (we remind you that this is compulsory for children under 16 years of age), use reflective elements and try to ride on bicycle lanes or cycle paths.
How do I know if the Support Leg is positioned correctly?
First of all, it should be noted that the manufacturer’s instructions must be followed at all times regarding the installation, testing and removal of the Support Leg.
In this respect, it should be noted that the Support Leg plays a fundamental role in the protection of the smallest children and gives the car seat stability. It is the third anchorage point, widely found in Group 0+ and I seats, whether rear-facing or forward-facing.
In general, the Leg should be stretched until it touches the floor of the vehicle. Of course, you have to check beforehand that the car seat and vehicle are compatible. One of the reasons is that the vehicle floor is usually reinforced precisely so that this Support Leg can be put in place.
It is important to note that under no circumstances should we install and carry the child in a child restraint system that requires a support leg without using it.
To properly install the Support Leg, the manufacturer’s specifications must be followed. In general, we must unfold it as much as possible by pressing the extension button on the leg and until it touches the ground.
If it has a strap, this can be kept completely taut, although it is not necessary.
Check that it is securely attached by pressing the leg down and moving it slightly from side to side. Adjust the length so that the base is in the horizontal position. On many occasions there will be an indicator that will turn green to indicate that the leg is correctly positioned and in contact with the ground.
What type of seat belts do school buses usually have?
It could be said that the current regulations are not especially designed with children in mind. At present, there are three possibilities:
- Buses that unfortunately have no seat belts. These are old buses that came into service prior to 2007.
- Buses with two-point seat belts. In this case, it is impossible to fit a child restraint system. These are the belts that are most widely installed on buses. In this case, a child can use the belt safely because there is no risk of injury to the neck area. This kind of two-point belt fastens below the waist, above the pelvis. However, they offer much less protection than three-point belts and child restraint systems.
- Buses with a three-point seat belt. A child cannot wear this belt if they are not using it with a child restraint system. Three-point belts are designed for adults. This is why children need booster seats, preferably with backrests, so that the seat belt does not cause injury and is well secured.
We must bear in mind that the current regulations do not indicate how children under 3 years of age should travel. Ideally, installing the child’s own child seat on the bus seat would be the best option. However, as we have seen, this is not always possible, particularly if the bus does not have seat belts or if they are two-point systems.
We remind you that passengers must wear their seat belts properly fastened in buses equipped with them. Specifically, according to Article 117 of Royal Decree 965/2006, all passengers aged over three years old must use the seat belt or other certified restraint system, properly fastened, when traveling on urban or interurban roads if the vehicle is equipped with these systems. Here we offer specific recommendations so that children can ride the school bus safely.
We also remind you that aisle-facing seats may not be occupied by children under 16 years of age, if they are not equipped with seat belts. They can be used by minors if the seat belt is a two-point one (i.e., children over the age of three and more than 135 cm in height). If the seat belt is a three-point one, it is necessary to use a booster seat if the child is less than 135 cm tall. If this feature is not used, the child may not occupy this seat (see Royal Decree 965/2006. Article 9).
At what age can children use an electric scooter?
Everything depends on the particular country’s regulations. Electric scooters are vehicles that have been experiencing a boom in recent years and we many countries still do not have specific regulations or legislation regarding their use.
For example, in Spain the regulations do not currently set a minimum age for electric scooter use. Personal mobility vehicles are defined as “vehicles with one or more wheels, equipped with a single space and propelled exclusively by electric motors that can provide the vehicle with a maximum speed of between 6 and 25 km/h. They may only be equipped with a seat or saddle if they are fitted with a self-balancing system”, as stated in Royal Decree 970/2020 which amends the General Traffic Regulations.
At present, each municipality establishes this criterion. This means that in Madrid, for example, you can use an electric scooter on public roads from the age of 15, while in Barcelona it is from the age of 16.
It should be noted that the Government plans to regulate this aspect, among others, including the compulsory use of a helmet and reflective elements.
This is aimed at unifying the criteria for determining the minimum legal age for electric scooter use. In most municipalities, the age is around 14 (Pamplona), 15 (Madrid or Seville), and 16 (Barcelona or Valencia). Children under these ages may only use electric scooters in areas where traffic is not allowed and under the supervision and responsibility of an adult.
In this regard, we recommend that, before making it possible for a child to use an electric scooter, the regulations and the child’s ability to use it safely and responsibly should be taken into account. Keep in mind that these scooters can reach speeds of up to 25 km/h with the risk that this entails.
Can you be penalized for carrying a child in a car when it is not in a car seat?
In this regard, you must take into account the specific regulations of each individual country in terms of the use of child restraint systems. For example, in Spain, Article 117 of the Spanish General Traffic Rules establishes the compulsory nature of using child restraint systems for children under 135 cm tall. This means that all children under this height must use an approved child car seat suitable for their height and weight when traveling by car.
If this important measure, which can save the life of a child in the event of an accident, is not complied with, the failure to install and use child restraint systems is a serious offense, punishable by a fine and a points penalty on the driver’s license.
In addition, the vehicle may be immobilized. In Spain, Article 104 of the Traffic and Road Safety Act also sets out the different situations in which an officer can immobilize a vehicle and, among others, failure to use a child car seat is one of them. Officers on traffic patrol can proceed to immobilize a vehicle if the driver or passenger is not using a helmet or child restraint systems, where it is compulsory to do so. The immobilization will of course be lifted once the reason for immobilizing the vehicle is dealt with, namely, if the child is transported in the child car seat.
It should be noted that the expenses arising as a result of the immobilization of the vehicle must be paid by the driver who committed the offense. Failing that, the costs will be charged to the main driver or the person who hired the car, and, if not, to the car’s owner. The costs must be paid before the immobilization can be lifted.
With regard to possible detection. In the event of an accident with consequences, if the child was traveling without a child restraint system or without this being adequate in some way, the police may charge the occupants with the crime of serious negligence, as recently occurred in a traffic accident in La Palma, Spain. In this case, the 2-year-old child suffered serious injuries and had to undergo major surgery because she was traveling with her parents in a rental car without a child restraint system. Both parents were arrested for being responsible for the injuries caused to the minor.
Should a child be switched to the forward-facing position if the child's legs are bent in a rear-facing car seat?
No, the fact that the legs are bent does not mean that it is time to change the child restraint system, much less that it is time for them to travel in a forward-facing position. We must bear in mind the fact that the safest way for a child to travel is in an approved child restraint system, adapted to its height and weight and backward facing for as long as possible and, at least, up to 4 years of age. It should be noted that these seats are safer in frontal, rear and side impacts.
The fact that the child has to have its legs slightly bent should not be a problem. It is important to remember that seats that face in the opposite direction to the direction of travel are safer: they reduce the risk of serious injury by up to 90%. In addition, we must take into account the greater level of protection they offer to key internal organs in the event of a collision, and particularly to the neck and head. They may suffer irreversible injuries in the event of an accident.
In addition, it should be noted that larger rear-facing car seats, i.e., those intended for larger children, also offer more legroom. And children have a natural tendency to bend their legs, cross them or prop them up.
The market is increasingly offering more specific child restraint systems so that parents can transport their children in rear-facing seats. Generally speaking, we will come across these types of seats for children up to 25 kg and 120 cm tall.
What does it mean when a car seat has passed ADAC tests?
ADAC, Stiftung Warentest and ICRT regularly test and crash test child restraint systems.
Stiftung Warentest is a leading independent consumer testing company for the German market. Whereas ICRT is an international consumer organization.
ADAC is a German motorists’ organization. It is the largest in Europe with 16 million members.
Together they carry out crash tests for car seats, both for babies and children, in order to verify their safety and protection levels. Frontal and lateral impacts are used to check a seat’s response to possible situations. In addition, other parameters such as ease of use, risk of misuse, comfort for the child, quality, space occupied in the car, readability of the user manual, presence of hazardous substances, and so on, are also taken into account.
Can I take a child as a passenger on an electric scooter?
First of all, it should be noted that this has been totally prohibited since January 2, 2021, with the Royal Decree amending the General Traffic Regulations. It establishes that personal mobility vehicles have a single space, among other characteristics.
The study ‘Electric scooter crash tests and risks associated with their recharging process: recommendations for their safe use’ (1,60 MB), published by Fundación MAPFRE in collaboration with CESVIMAP, reveals that in 2020 alone there were more than 100 accidents with casualties. Of these, 47 were seriously injured and 6 lost their lives. In 6% of these accidents, there were two people on the scooter.
This fact has also been highlighted by orthopedic surgeons at Hospital Sant Joan de Déu Barcelona and Hospital del Mar who warn that one out of every five children and young people injured in accidents involving electric scooters are under 9 years of age and traveling with an adult, in other words, as passengers.
Therefore, it is important that under no circumstances should you carry a child ‘like a package’ on a scooter, no matter how short the route.
Experts agree that many parents opt for this means of transport for taking their children to school or moving around the city and, in addition, they do so without adequate protection.
Should I bring my own car seat when I use a car-sharing car?
In addition, it should be borne in mind that in most cases we are talking about all-in-one car seats, in other words, they cover all the groups and are not the most suitable for the smallest children. It is recommended that the child uses a specific CRS according to their needs, weight and height. Therefore, if possible, the best option is to have your own child restraint system. In this way, we know that it is the right CRS for our little one, we know that it has not been involved in an accident, and that it is in perfect condition. We are aware that this can be difficult, as it means having to carry the car seat to the car itself. However, it is the safest option.
Of course, when faced with the choice of whether or not to travel with a child seat, we remind you that its use is compulsory and that it will always be safer to travel with a child restraint system than without one.
Can we travel safely on public transport during the pandemic?
Public transport is safe, however, like with everything else, a series of precautionary measures must be implemented to avoid contagion. Of course private transportation is safer in this aspect but we must not forget the many benefits of public transport such as less traffic and less pollution.
First of all, you must remember how important it is not to leave home if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, if you have tested positive, or if you have been in contact with a positive case in the last 10 days. It is up to all of us to prevent its spread.
When traveling on public transport, contact with surfaces such as handrails, doors, windows, seats, etc. should be avoided. In general, doors should open automatically at each stop. Also avoid touching your face. If you have touched something, you must disinfect our hands or wash them thoroughly. We recommend that you wash your hands even if you have not touched any surfaces.
Likewise, you should try to maintain a social distance of at least one and a half meters. It is advisable to leave one seat free between passengers and, of course, always wear a mask.
It is also advisable not to talk to other users or speak on the telephone, as this helps avoid the spread of microparticles, and you should not eat or drink during the journey.
If you do decide to take public transport, try not to use it during rush hour and avoid crowds.
When paying for the trip, try to use transport passes and card payments. Try not to touch the hand rail when getting on and off a bus and try not to use the elevator. If you do take an elevator, there should only be one person inside at a time.
When traveling with children, we must make sure they also follow all the rules.
When should we change a child's helmet?
When riding a bicycle or a scooter, it is essential that children use a helmet for more safety. However, the helmet needs to be the right kind.
Helmets much be changed if they have suffered a blow and even more so if they are damaged. You must also get a new helmet if it is too small for your child. We also recommend replacing it if it is more than 5 years old or whenever the manufacturer recommends doing so.
How do you know if the helmet size is correct? Helmets usually come in different sizes and to choose the right one you will need to measure you child’s head.
We recommend that the child tries on the helmet. It needs to be comfortable, sit on the head properly and cover the upper part of the forehead. It must sit a couple of centimeters above the eyebrows. The straps and the buckle must fasten correctly. It is important that the helmet does not move easily from side to side or from back to front.
Can a child seat be installed on a rear facing seat?
Child restraint systems (CRS) are designed taking into account the travel direction. A child seat designed to be rear-facing cannot be installed facing forwards and vice versa. This also occurs with rear facing seats. This kind of seat is typically found in camper vans, however they are less and less common. In these cases, the car seat must be installed in the rear-facing seat in the usual direction of travel.
Manufacturers themselves indicate in their manuals that the vehicle’s manual should be consulted for the appropriate positions in which to install the seat and to check compatibility beforehand.
Do children have to wear a helmet when riding a balance bike or a bike with stabilizers?
We must bear in mind that speed is not the only cause of injury. A bad fall could also be crucial. Furthermore, it is when children are learning to ride a bicycle that they are most likely to fall.
Also, remember that minors under 16 years of age are required to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle.
If I have two children, can I sit one in the back and the other on the passenger seat?
- The vehicle does not have any rear seats.
- All the rear seats are already occupied by other children in their respective child restraint systems.
- A child restraint system cannot be installed in those seats.
Although we might prefer to have one child in front and another in the back so an adult can travel in the back to supervise them, this is not possible, as we have just seen, unless the vehicle has three clearly differentiated seats and an adult can sit in the back safely. In most cases and due to the size of car seats, it is difficult for an adult to sit in the back except in minivans or family cars.
Where should we buy a child car seat: in a physical store or on the internet?
Is it better to buy a child restraint system in a physical store or online? There are advantages that should be considered when deciding on these two options.
On the one hand, we must take into account the great advantage of going to a specialized physical store where the salesperson can resolve all our doubts and where they can also recommend the chair that best suits our needs. This also allows us to try out the car seat and check if it is really compatible with our vehicle. In summary, we get a more personalized customer experience.
The internet offers us a broad range of models and offers. However, we may have doubts that might not be easily answered. The situation becomes complicated if we are unsatisfied with the product, or if we have guarantee issues. Before deciding on this option, it is important to read the return policy carefully and verify that we can purchase the seat of our choice on a website that offers guarantees. This option may be good for situations where travel is restricted and mobility is not always allowed.
We need to consider the fact that many stores specializing in child restraint systems also offer their services over the internet. You can access one of these online stores to help you with this important purchase.
Factors that must be taken into account when buying a child restraint system over the internet: technical specifications document, standardization (remember there are two approval standards in force: R44-04 and R-129, better known as i-Size), find a customer service phone number, check they have a flexible return policy, and look for a product guarantee.
Should it be compulsory for children to wear a helmet when cycling or on a scooter?
The first thing to consider is that the use of a helmet, both on a bicycle and a scooter, can prevent or reduce the risk of serious head injuries, both in collisions and in falls. The helmet absorbs part of the energy and distributes it over a larger surface area.
However, despite their benefits, we find that many children do not use this important security system.
Currently the law requires the use of a helmet for all cyclists on interurban roads. However, on urban roads this is only compulsory for children under 16 years of age.
Organizations such as the Spanish Pediatric Association and Fundación MAPFRE emphasize the importance of wearing helmets, especially in the case of younger children, whether they are riding the bicycle or passengers. Using a helmet is also recommended when children start using a tricycle or any vehicle or toy with wheels. Parents must set an example and always use one when cycling.
Remember that the helmet must be the right size for the child (the size corresponds to the head circumference) and must fit well on the head. Is should not be too tight or too loose. It should also be approved and have ventilation slots. It must not interfere with hearing or listening to traffic, or the user’s vision.
When putting it on, it should cover the upper part of the forehead, and should be between one or two fingers above the eyebrows. It should not move from side to side or backwards and forwards.
All these recommendations also apply to the use of scooters. To ensure the child’s safety, we recommend they use a helmet. At present, there is no specific legislation on the matter and everything depends on the local municipal by-laws.
We remind you that users of personal mobility vehicles are obliged to comply with the traffic regulations.
When should we use a carrycot or a "maxi-cosi" car seat?
The difference between the two systems is very important. On one hand, we have the carrycot or bassinet, which is not a child restraint system as such and does not provide the same protection to the child.
The use of the carrycot is only advised when it is necessary to carry the newborn lying down for medical reasons and if so advised by the pediatrician. This may be the case for premature babies who must lie completely flat to ensure, for example, good breathing. In this article we talk about how these children should travel. In this case, the baby travels sideways and the head should be placed towards the center of the vehicle. It is installed with a safety belt and the newborn must also be restrained so that they cannot be thrown out of the car seat.
The ‘maxi-cosi’ type car seat, i.e., the ‘egg’ shaped seat, which can belong to groups 0 and 0+, is the most suitable option for transporting newborns, provided they do not have any health problems. They allow children to travel facing backwards (up to 15 months in the R-129 CRS) and have support cushions that allow the baby to travel as horizontal as possible providing ergonomics and protection.
In all cases and as previously mentioned, it is necessary to consult with your midwife or pediatrician about the safest way to transport the baby, especially if the newborn has a specific condition.
Is it advisable for children to eat in their car seat?
The best option is to prevent children from eating food while they travel. Remember they are traveling in the back of the vehicle and it is very difficult to supervise them, especially when they are very young.
You should, especially, avoid foods that they could choke on or that could block the airways. These include potato chips, popcorn, candy, chewing gum, nuts, grapes… in other words, food that is hard and small.
Keep in mind the fact that the older the child, the less likely it is that they will choke. However, it is best to prevent children from eating in their car seat, whenever possible, and if they do eat while in the car restraint system, they should be supervised by an adult, so that if they were to choke, we will know about it and can act swiftly.
Do all car seats on the market need to be standard approved?
If a CRS is approved, it means that it has passed a series of tests and requirements before being put on the market.
There are currently two approval standards in force in Europe: R44-04 and R-129 (i-Size). According to the country or continent, the approvals can vary: NBR 14400 (from the ABNT – Brazilian Technical Standards Association, based on the European standard ECE 44 R04), or FMVSS123 (United States).
Using a child seat that is not approved can have very serious and even fatal consequences. The study (142 KB) conducted by Fundación MAPFRE demonstrates the consequences of using a child restraint system that is not approved, as shown in this video: the harnesses and structure break, making the CRS completely unsafe for the occupant.
Therefore, when purchasing a new child restraint system you must check that it has the corresponding approval on the label. To guarantee we buy a suitable car seat, we should shop at a specialized store where they can advise on the most suitable CRS, which must always be approved.
Can an ISOFIX car seat be secured using a seat belt?
In view of the variety of options, we must follow the manufacturer’s instructions for correct installation and choose the car seat that best adapts to our needs and our vehicle (not all have ISOFIX attachments, for example, although this is common in modern vehicles).
Never install a car seat with a seat belt if the manufacturer does not indicate it, and vice versa, if the car seat is to be installed with a belt, you cannot secure it with the ISOFIX attachments. It should be noted that ISOFIX attachments are part of the vehicle structure.
Can I place a child in their car seat on the passenger seat in a van?
The current regulations establish that in vehicles with up to nine seats, including the driver’s seat, minors who are 135 cm tall or shorter, must travel on the rear seats using an approved child restraint system suitable for their height and weight. There are three exceptions:
- When the vehicle does not have rear seats.
- If all the rear seats are already occupied by other children in their respective child restraint systems.
- If a child restraint system cannot be installed on the rear seats.
If a child is traveling in the front seat and the vehicle has a front airbag, they can only use rear-facing restraint systems if the airbag has been disabled.
Who is responsible for making sure children wear a safety belt on school buses?
When we talk about adults, the person responsible for not wearing a seat belt is the adult in question. However, when it comes to children the situation changes, both in the car and on a school bus.
In a car, when the occupants are under 18 years of age, the responsibility is the driver’s. But the situation is different when it comes to buses, especially school buses.
First of all, we must bear in mind that the use of a belt is compulsory on buses that have it. For small children, the regulations are somewhat lax and only state that children 3 years of age or older must use an approved and properly adapted child restraint system. When these systems are not available, the seat belts must be used, provided that they are suitable for the child’s height and weight. In this infographic (4 MB) we show you how young children must travel on school buses.
If a minor does not use the child restraint system or seat belt on a bus, their parents, foster parents and legal or de facto guardians, in that order, will be held jointly and severally liable for any failure to comply with the obligation imposed on them which entails a duty to prevent an administrative infringement. It should be borne in mind that professional drivers when providing public service to third parties are not held liable for non-compliance with this regulation by the occupants of the vehicle, as stated in the Traffic and Road Safety Law. As indicated by the Parla local police, in this case, the offense will be the responsibility of the person who is in charge of the minor.
Royal Decree 443/2001, of April 27, 2001, on Safety Conditions in the Transport of Schoolchildren and Minors states that the accompanying person (it is not always mandatory for there to be an accompanying person in charge of supervising minors in the case of school transport) is obliged to know how the vehicle’s safety mechanisms work. In addition, they are responsible for the care of the children during their transportation, access and exit from the vehicle, and, if applicable, for picking up and escorting the students to and from the school premises, but it does not point out that they must ensure that all children wear the child restraint system or buckle their seat belts. The truth is that everything depends on the conditions agreed between the company providing the transport and the school. However, we must be clear that the only person who can guarantee that the children are properly restrained during the trip, in this case, is the person in charge of taking care of them.
Should there be a distance between the back rest and a child's legs in forward-facing car seats?
A collision with the backrest can occur if the child is not properly restrained and a minimum safety distance is not maintained. The risk increases when there is an unfolded tray or a screen installed on the front seat headrest.
The truth is that often CRS manufacturers determine or recommend the distance that should be left in the case of these car seats. For example, Britax-Römer points out in their manuals that the front seat should be moved as far forward as possible so the child cannot touch the back of the front seat with their feet and hence avoid possible injuries.
In this regard, car manufacturers such as BMW recommend that the back of the front seat should be more than 85 cm from the rear seat when the child traveling in the back is facing forward.
The important thing is to maintain an adequate distance that does not pose a risk to the child in the event of sudden braking or collision. If the child cannot touch the back of the front seat with their feet, it would be very difficult for the child’s head to reach it if the car seat is properly fitted and the child is correctly fastened in. The car seat will serve its purpose.
Is it advisable to change the car seat or to have a CRS for each vehicle?
Before changing a vehicle’s child restraint system (CRS) we must check its compatibility and that it can indeed be installed without problems. For example, if the seat has an ISOFIX system, we must verify that the car has the corresponding fixtures. In most cases, you can check the compatibility of a vehicle with the seat on the CRS manufacturer’s website. Remember that the i-Size seats are larger than usual and are therefore compatible with i-Size seat spaces. We talk about that topic in this article.
If the car seat has an ISOFIX system and both cars have these fixtures, switching the car seat from one car to another will be faster and there is less risk of installing it incorrectly.
On the other hand, if the seat is installed with a seat belt, the necessary time must be taken each time it is changed and the manufacturer’s instructions must always be followed. Here we talk about the different ways to install a CRS.
If we have a seat in each car, we avoid having to install the seat over and over again and therefore reduce the chances of making a mistake. This of course is a much more expensive option which might not compensate according to the different needs or the number of times you need to change vehicles. If the car seat is only going to be changed sporadically, it might not be worth purchasing another one.
At Fundación MAPFRE we insist on the importance of dedicating the necessary time to installing a car seat correctly, following the manufacturer’s instructions at all times.
When should I remove the support cushion from a child restraint system?
This is an item that can be removed for cleaning or taken out completely when necessary.
These support cushions must be used from the baby’s first journey in the car seat. When to remove the support cushion will depend on the child and the type of car seat. We usually remove them when the child is between 3 and 6 months old, at which time they have reached the size needed to fit perfectly into the CRS without the need of the extra cushion. To find out the exact moment, we recommend following the manufacturer’s instructions, as their specifications may vary.
They normally need the support for the first 3-6 months, at which point the baby’s neck starts to become stronger. Generally speaking, from the age of around six months the child can start sitting up normally. In any case, we want to highlight that everything will depend on the child’s growth, the car seat model and the manufacturer.
For example, Besafe recommends removing the cushion when the child is taller than 60 cm or more than 4 months old. Britax Römer recommends its use from 0 to 6 months, and Cybex recommends uninstalling it when the child is 61 cm tall, at approximately 3 months of age. At Fundación MAPFRE we ask you to follow the specifications of the different manufacturers for the greatest security.
What is the safest way for children to travel to school and not catch COVID-19?
At the present time, the most recommendable option for travelling to school is to use a means of transport that can guarantee social distancing. Going by car, bicycle or walking all guarantee a distance of 2 meters and even allow us the option of traveling alone.
If other modes of transport are used, such as the school bus or public transport, a series of precautionary measures should be practised, such as the use of hydroalcoholic gels and masks.
Should I maintain a distance between the rear-facing child seat and the backrest?
In any case, it is best to refer to the manual that came with the car seat.
If the manufacturer does not specify anything in this respect, it is best that they do not touch each other, allowing space for the car seat to move in the event of sudden braking without impacting the back of the passenger seat and, additionally, because special care must be taken to ensure that the back of the seat does not press on the child seat and change its position. If the child restraint system has a support leg and the backrest is too close, the seat might not be totally supported by the leg, meaning it does not serve its purpose.
For example, the manufacturer Besafe recommends that ‘once a rear-facing car seat has been fitted, the backrest of the front seat should be slid along until it touches the child car seat, in order to prevent the chair from hitting the front seat in the event of a collision. If it is not possible for the front seat and child seat to be in contact, the minimum distance should be 25 cm’.
For one particular seat, Axkid points out that “it is possible, but not necessary, that when installing a Minikid on the passenger seat, the back of the Minikid touches the vehicle’s dashboard”.
Do all child car seats have a support leg?
Firstly, it should be noted that not all child restraint systems have a Support Leg. However, they exist on both forward-facing and rear-facing car seats.
It is an adjustable metal leg that is fixed to the floor of the car and that prevents the seat from swinging forward. Therefore, not all car seats with this system are compatible with all cars. Vehicles must be reinforced to withstand the pressure that the leg can exert on the contact surface.
The manufacturers of the car seats with this anti-rotation system list the vehicles they are compatible with. This is very important in order to guarantee optimal security.
Are mirrors on the headrest recommended to see children?
Rearview mirrors that allow us to see the children when they travel looking backwards are highly recommended as long as they are placed safely and are approved for use with children. In fact, car seat manufacturers themselves often market this type of mirror and crash test them to check their safety.
In this sense, it is important to choose a good brand that makes quality products. We must bear in mind that the mirror must not be made of glass and that it cannot be broken. It should also be scratch resistant and able to be adjusted properly. Ideally, it should be easily rotated and tilted in any direction for a more precise adjustment.
It is important that the mirror does not move or become loose, as it could pose a danger in the event of a collision. In addition, there must be an optimal separation between the child and the mirror.
To avoid being a hazard in the event of sudden braking or an accident, it is recommended that the rearview mirror is placed on the headrest next to the seat where the child is seated. For example, if the child is behind the passenger seat, we would place the mirror on the headrest of the rear center seat.
Do all rear-facing seats have ISOFIX anchorage?
However, it should be noted that the ISOFIX system is usually incorporated into the smallest child seats. In the case of larger car seats, this system can be combined with a seat belt.
Is it compulsory to put the child in a car seat on a specific seat inside the vehicle?
When choosing the best seat, our recommendation is the rear center seat because this is farthest from the doors. However, unless all three seats are completely independent, ISOFIX fittings are usually installed on the two side seats. In this case, we recommend the seat behind the passenger. On one hand, this avoids possible errors when installing the car seat and, on the other, it is easier to access. Remember that the ISOFIX fittings can only be used if the child seat is ISOFIX compatible.
Are breathable covers recommended to avoid heat in car seats?
Before considering any particular type of cover, it is recommended that the temperature in the interior of the vehicle is appropriate, between 21 and 23 degrees Celsius.
If the child continues to feel hot, a breathable cover can be used, provided that this is recommended by the manufacturer of the seat. Please note that this type of cover can conceal important information, such as the obligation to deactivate the airbag if it is in the front passenger seat (remember that children must be in the rear seats) or other information such as the maximum weight and height that the seat can support.
For all these reasons, breathable covers are only recommended if they are recommended by the manufacturer and, of course, only those recommended by the car seat brand should be used. By doing so, we will not compromise the child’s safety and avoid interfering with any safety component or element.
At what age can children use backless booster seats?
Booster seats correspond to Groups 2 and 3, in other words, they are child restraint systems for children from 15 to 36 kg approximately. It is the time when the child is too big for a chair with a harness but still too small for a seat belt. The booster seat’s function is to lift the child up so that the seat belt fits correctly, and there is no specific age for its use.
Keep in mind that currently there are no regulations prohibiting the use of backless booster seats. All current regulations affect only car seat manufacturers and seat approval: backless booster seats cannot be approved for Group II, that is, children from 15 to 25 kg. You can still find group II and III boosters, approved before 2017, as well as group III only boosters. However, the recommendation is not to use booster seats for children less than 125 cm tall, and if possible to acquire a booster seat approved by Regulation 129, which ensures the interaction of the head with the window airbag of the car, thus providing a very acceptable level of safety in a side impact.
In any case, Fundación MAPFRE recommends the use of booster seats with a backrest, since these offer greater side protection in the event of an accident. This infographic (2 MB) shows all the advantages of this type of booster seat. We also recommend their use up to 150 cm, at which point the seat belt can be correctly fastened. Here we discuss how a belt should fit.
How should children travel in a shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel?
There are very clear rules on this subject. It all depends on the number of places. In Spain the law establishes the following:
Article 117 of the General Traffic Rules states that “In all cases, minors who are 135 centimeters tall or less, must use child restraint systems”. In the event of vehicles with more than nine seats, passengers three years old or above should use approved child restraint systems appropriate for their height and weight. When these systems are not available, the seat belts must be used, provided that they are suitable for the child’s height and weight.
It should be borne in mind that the regulations are quite lax when it comes to children travelling by bus. If a bus is fitted with seat belts, these are usually two-point belts, making it difficult to install a child restraint system (most can only be fitted with three-point belts or ISOFIX systems). If it has a two-point belt, the child must wear it properly fastened.
This school transport infographic (4 MB), shows guidelines for how children can travel safely on a bus.
In vehicles with up to nine seats, including the driver, minors must use approved child restraint systems properly adapted to their height and weight. In this case, children should travel on the rear seats. Exceptionally, they may occupy the front seat, if one of the following cases applies:
- When the vehicle does not have rear seats.
- All the rear seats are already occupied by young children in child car seats.
- It is impossible to install all types of child restraint systems in the rear seats.
If a child is traveling in the front seat and the vehicle has a front airbag, they can only use rear-facing restraint systems if the airbag has been disabled.
In all cases, and if you have any doubts, please take a look at this infographic (173 MB) that provides information about how children should travel on different means of transport.
Can children over 22 kg use a backless booster seat?
These changes only allow the approval of a booster without a backrest for Group 3 (22 to 36 kg), i.e., new boosters without a backrest cannot be approved for Group 2 (15 to 25 kg). We refer at all times to boosters approved under the R44-04 standard.
At Fundación MAPFRE we always recommend the use of boosters with backrests (2 MB) as these provide greater protection to children, especially in the event of a side impact, and particularly in terms of the head area. In addition, they allow for better seat belt positioning.
How can I clean a child car seat?
Child car seats are exposed to a lot of external agents that can stain them. Not only liquids, crumbs and food, but also sweat and other bodily fluids. As time passes, the chair and harness can accumulate dirt that we should clean off as well as possible.
Most CRS have cleaning instructions in the owner’s manual, so consulting this is essential, and following the instructions on how to clean our car seat is the first step.
Let’s look at the essential steps for properly cleaning a child car seat:
- Dry any spilled liquids and remove dirt as soon as possible, without using cleaning products until we get home.
- Do not wait too long to start cleaning or the dirt will dry.
- It is important to check the manual before starting to clean, as this will show you if there are any products that should not be used for cleaning as they could damage the fabric or materials.
- Remove the cover and clean it separately, using products that are not too aggressive, unlike certain detergents, or bleach.
- Disassemble and clean the harness. Use warm water and, if possible, a neutral soap.
- Clean the buckle so that it can be properly fastened and unfastened.
- Clean the plastic structure by hoovering up any dirt and cleaning the surface with soap and water.
- The best option is then to air dry the chair components.
Can I change a car seat without compromising its safety?
Changing the seat is quicker and avoids installation mistakes if you have an ISOFIX system. These fittings facilitate the installation of the CRS and prevent errors.
This infographic (1 MB) shows in detail how the ISOFIX system works.
Why shouldn't children spend a long time sitting in a car seat if they are designed to offer them safety?
First of all, it is important to understand that the safest way for babies and children to travel is always in an approved child restraint system appropriate for their size and weight.
It is not recommended that babies spend more than an hour and a half sitting in their car seat because of so-called postural asphyxiation. It is advisable to take a break during the trip to change the baby’s position and so that they can stretch. This avoids the risk of bradycardia and of the child having difficulty breathing. In addition, it should be borne in mind that this posture is also associated with apnea and oxygen desaturation.
Children tend to sit in the form of a ‘C’, a position that is not the most appropriate. This is why it is important to change their position every hour and a half. It should also be borne in mind that ‘egg-shaped’ infant car seats, often referred to as maxi-cosi, are safer in terms of avoiding the consequences of a traffic accident than a carrycot.
Pediatrics magazine published a study in 2001 that analyzed 100 babies, 50 of whom were premature at 36 weeks and were monitored for 60 minutes in car seats. After that time, blood oxygen saturation dropped from 97% to 94%. In seven cases, it dropped to 90%. In addition, 12% of premature babies suffered apnea or bradycardia.
Older children should also change their posture every 2 hours and, of course, whenever necessary, so that they can stretch.
To avoid a bad posture, as far as possible, care should be taken to ensure that the children sit correctly in the seat. Their shoulders should rest against the backrest. For this, the harness must be tight enough. This stops the body from moving forward. Remember that babies should be more inclined, almost lying down.
However comfortable it may seem that children are in their car seat, it is necessary to avoid prolonged times and to take breaks every hour and a half to two hours so as to remove the baby and / or the child from the child restraint system. This should be the case even if the child is sleeping.
What devices can I use to stop my child's head rolling forward if they fall asleep in their child seat?
One of the main concerns families have when their children fall asleep during a car journey is how to protect their head and neck. Depending on the position of the seat, the child’s head could fall forward at any time when they are asleep and this poses a risk in the event of a crash.
We must consider the possibility that, when they are asleep, their posture becomes incorrect and their head falls onto their chest, leaning more forward than it should. This is a risk for the child because, among other reasons, it could hinder their breathing. There is no risk that a newborn baby’s head will fall forward onto their chest because they will be in a Group 0 child car seat(or its i-Size equivalent), but we do, however, need to take precautions in terms of postural asphyxia. In addition, in the event of an impact this could lead to the neck breaking at the C1 vertebra.
There are various accessories and devices that claim to keep the head in the correct position in the event that a child falls asleep in the car. There are many options on the market, but we may well come across a number of devices that are, at best, not fully legal. These are devices that might not comply with parts of the legislation and should therefore be avoided.
When it comes to choosing this type of device we need to be very strict in terms of its approval, but also when it comes to how appropriate the accessory is for the child car seat we are using. The best thing to do is to avoid any potential risks and only purchase these accessories and devices in the store where we bought the child car seat. This will mean that the device is not only compatible with the seat, it will also be compatible with the seat’s safety.
At Fundación MAPFRE we recommend that children should travel in a rear-facing position until they are at least 4 years old (and if possible up to 5 years old), providing that the child’s physical condition allows for this. We also recommend only purchasing products that come with a guarantee (official certificates) and are recommended by the manufacturer. This way, we avoid detrimentally affecting the proper functioning of the child car seat or the child’s safety. It is best to adjust the tilt of the seat according to the child’s needs in order to prevent their head from rolling forward if they fall asleep.
Up until what age should children travel in a rear-facing position?
Group 0 and 0+ car seats are rear-facing because this is the safest way to travel.
Furthermore, the R-129 standard, the i-Size approval standard that is slowly replacing R-44-04, ensures that child car seats are in a rear-facing position until the child is at least 15 months old. This means that although children are not obliged to travel in this position, all the child car seats have to be facing the rear in order to be approved.
Keep in mind that rear-facing travel is the safest way for children to travel by car. That is why, at Fundación MAPFRE we recommend that children travel in this position until at least 4 years of age and longer whenever possible. In fact, there are currently child seats on the market that are rear-facing for children weighing up to 25 kg.
Can child restraint systems approved under the R44-04 standard still be used?
Although R-129 will eventually replace the R44-04 standard, we should bear in mind that we can continue using seats approved by the second approval standard until this is prohibited by law.
However, this is a long way off and both pieces of legislation will remain in force for the time being in order to give manufacturers time to adjust to the changes. In fact, at first this change will only affect manufacturers, who will only be able to sell seats approved by R-129 from 2023, while stores will have to change over by 2025. However, seats approved under R44-04 will still be valid for use.
Will the ISOFIX fittings of my child car seat be incompatible with the anchor points in my car?
This system consists of two anchors or rings that are part of the vehicle’s body. It is a universal system in which the anchors engage with the ISOFIX child car seat by means of rigid bars which are pushed against the rings and locked with a simple click.
The main difference can be found in the third anchorage point, which could be either: at the top (Top Tether) or at the bottom (Support Leg). The purpose of this third point is to prevent the child seat from moving around or tipping. Since not all cars come equipped with this, it is important to research the most appropriate CRS for you before you buy it.
In the case of child car seats approved under the ECE R44/04 standard, seats in groups 0+ and I with the ISOFIX system are divided into Universal and Semi-universal seats, depending on where the third anchorage point is located. If it is located at the top, i.e., a top tether, it is a Universal seat, and if the anchorage point extends from the vehicle floor to the base of the seat, it is considered a Semi-universal seat. A Universal seat means that the seat can be used in any car that has the third upper anchorage point while a semi-universal seat can be used in many but not all vehicles. In this last case, the child restraint system manual includes a list of vehicles in which the seat car seat can be used with the ISOFIX system.
In the case of seats approved under the ECE R129 regulation, all i-Size seats are universal, for which reason there is no distinction between universal and semi-universal seats. If the seat is not i-Size, it may be vehicle specific, meaning the dimensions of the seat are slightly larger, and therefore we must verify that our car is on the list included with the instructions. In all cases it is recommended that you try the car seat, or several models that you like, in your vehicle and if possible with the baby, before you purchase one.
We explain the ISOFIX system in detail in this infographic (244 KB).
Is it better to opt for a multi-group car seat?
You might mistakenly believe that if you buy someone a multi-group child car seat it is better than buying them a specific child car seat according to the child’s height and/or weight.
Multi-group seats are those that cover various weight and age ranges. For example, you will come across seats in groups 0+, 1 and 2; others from groups 1, 2 and 3 and even car seats that cover all the child groups (Groups 0, 1, 2 and 3), namely, one single child restraint system designed for newborns to children weighing up to 36 kilograms. In the latter case, the child will be using the same child car seat from birth until they reach a height of 135 cm (the height at which a child can legally travel without a CRS) or 150 cm, the height to which a child can continue using a CRS, as recommended by Fundación MAPFRE so that the seat belt can be positioned properly.
Tests carried out by PESRI (the Child Restraint System Assessment Program from Latin America) indicate that “multi-group seats can compromise safety and a CRS designed for one single group tends to perform better when it comes to safety”.
It must be taken into account that these multi-group seats may also be approved and, therefore, safe. However, we would point out that a newborn baby’s needs are not the same as those of a 6 year old child, for example. As a result, the child seat needs to have different features as the child grows, since their muscles are also developing.
For example: a newborn baby needs a reclined child seat, both for their health and well-being, since they spend a large amount of time sleeping and the weight should fall on their back and not their hips. As the child grows, the seat should become less reclined up to the point of using a booster with a backrest which can only be in an upright position.
Is it a good idea to use winter baby sacks in child car seats?
In general, this product is not necessary. It is best to keep the vehicle at the right temperature so that your child does not need to wear any extra layers. It is very important that your child is not wearing excessively baggy and bulky clothing when traveling in their child car seat.
Therefore, if you opt for a baby sack to place in the car seat, you must take into account the recommendations of the car manufacturer in this regard. You should be able to find a brand that provides blankets specifically designed for certain child seats or complementary products. If this type of product is offered by the brand of the child car seat itself it will not usually interfere with the safety of the seat, since it has been specifically designed for this particular child restraint system and will have the necessary openings for each system, such as for a harness or a seat belt.
Fundación MAPFRE does not recommend using any product that has not been approved or recommended by the manufacturer.
From what age can children travel without a child car seat?
In this sense, we should point out that the Spanish regulation is not based on the child’s age but on their height. This is the most important factor when it comes to deciding if the seat belt can be properly fastened or if the child could be injured by it or it does not properly secure them.
European Directive 2003/20/EC establishes that all children less than 150 cm tall should travel using a restraint system suitable for their weight. 150 cm is the height at which the seat belt, which is in fact designed for adults, correctly secures the child’s body. Take a look at how a seat belt should fit.
Can a child travel in the front passenger seat if they are over 135 cm tall?
When children have sudden growth spurts we often want to know if, once they are 135 cm tall, they can sit in the passenger seat using only a seat belt.
To find the answer, we must look at the current regulations. Royal Decree 667/2015 of 17 July entered into force on 1 October, 2015, and states the following:
In vehicles with up to nine seats, including the driver, small children who are 135 cm tall or less must travel in the back seats in an approved child restraint system suitable for their height and weight.
There are only three exceptions:
- When the vehicle does not have rear seats.
- If all the rear seats are already occupied by other children in their respective child restraint systems.
- If a child restraint system cannot be installed on the rear seats.
This means that if the child is a minor, but is taller than 135 cm, they can ride in the front seat. This is what the law currently sets out, although at Fundación MAPFRE we recommend that children continue to travel on the rear seats in a child restraint system until they are 150 cm tall, since the seat belt might not be able to properly secure them in their seat. This is how a seat belt should fit.
It is much safer if they use a booster with a backrest, since this will protect a child even more in a crash. We should also realize that driving with a child in the front seat if the exceptions mentioned above do not apply, or if they are seated unsafely or incorrectly is a serious or very serious offense and may give rise to a penalty, usually a 200 euro fine and a three point penalty on your driving license.
Is using a seat belt adapter compulsory when pregnant?
The reason is simple. These methods of adjusting the seat belt for pregnant women are not passive safety systems for cars, but they still have to comply with certain safety standards, such as, for example, approval in accordance with ECE R16 and ECE R14 standards.
These devices are designed to help pregnant women comply with their obligation to use a seat belt and keep it properly adjusted. This is why using seat belt adjusters is a highly recommendable practice. As we can see in this article, the positioning of the seat belt on a pregnant women is vitally important so that the mother is held safely in place in a crash and the fetus is not injured.
It is therefore not compulsory but highly recommendable for pregnant women to use a seat belt adjuster once it becomes difficult for the woman to wear the seat belt properly.
Can I put my baby in a forward-facing child car seat?
Fundamentally, these are very young children who cannot hold their posture for very long, who cannot walk unaided, and have not yet learned to speak (in the majority of cases). They are extremely vulnerable children and we need to protect them the most because of their delicate condition. Moreover, we should take into account how fragile they are and the fact that their heads are much larger in proportion to their bodies. For this reason, protecting their most vulnerable areas is crucially important and this is why they should travel in a rear-facing seat.
If we take a look at the i-Size approval standard (ECE R129), this guarantees that all rear-facing seats can be used until the child is at least 15 months old. By doing so, this encourages the use of rear-facing child seats, which is a much safer position for children when traveling than a rear-facing seat.
In Spain, children must travel in a rear-facing seat until they are at least 15 months old, and it is advisable for them to do so until they are 4 years old (both R44-04 approved seats, Groups 0 and 0+, and R-129 approved seats are rear-facing up to approximately this age). The main reason for this safety recommendation is that children under four years old can suffer far more serious head and neck injuries since they do not have fully developed muscles.
Placing a baby in a forward-facing car seat is putting them at serious risk of injury in the event of a crash. It is therefore advisable to purchase a good rear-facing seat and keep the child in it for as long as possible.
If the bus has a two-point belt, is it advisable to use a CRS?
Ideally, children should travel with an approved child restraint system adapted to their size and weight on buses. However, currently, this is usually very complicated, since most buses have two-point belts, which prevents the installation of car seats (nowadays, most child restraint systems are installed using three-point belts or ISOFIX systems due to the greater level of support and protection they offer).
If the bus is equipped with a two-point belt, the child can fasten the belt directly, as this type of belt does not affect children, meaning that it is suitable for both adults and children, as it is fastened below the waist, over the pelvis. However, it must be borne in mind that the two-point belt is less secure, especially when it comes to children under 6 years of age.
If the belt is a three-point belt, the child must travel using a child restraint system, since otherwise the belt will not fit well and could be especially harmful and cause injuries if it is not properly adjusted. For example, the diagonal strap can put pressure on the neck if it is not in the right place.
i-Size child car seats allow for your child to travel in a rear-facing position until they are at least 15 months old. Should they then travel in a forward-facing position?
i-Size child restraint systems allow your child to travel in a rear-facing position until they are at least 15 months old. Nevertheless, this does not mean that from then on they should be in a forward-facing position. Quite the contrary, the safest way for children to travel in a vehicle is in a rear-facing child restraint system, especially until they have reached 4 years of age. Although it is advisable for them to continue doing so for as long as possible.
This position offers children greater protection for the neck and head in the event of a collision. In the event of a collision, a child under the age of four in a front-facing seat is much more likely to suffer injuries to these two delicate areas than in a rear-facing seat. In fact, putting children in rear-facing seats reduces the risk of serious injuries by 80% compared with a 50% reduction for those traveling in a forward-facing position, according to the WHO
What can I do to stop my child from sweating too much in their child car seat?
You can make your child more comfortable in their child restraint system and stop them from sweating excessively by following these recommendations, especially in the summer:
- Block out as much light as possible. Use tinted windows, built-in blinds, etc.
- Put a cover designed for the summer on the child car seat.
- A chair in light colors accumulates less heat than one in dark colors.
- Use sunshades to reduce the heat, especially when the car is parked.
- Before placing the child in their seat, it is a good idea to air out and cool the car down first.
- Maintain a pleasant temperature inside the vehicle and make sure the air vents do not blow directly onto the child.
- Planning trips for early in the mornings, or in the evening means you will be traveling at cooler times of the day.
- Take refreshments (not too cold) in the back of the car and ensure the child drinks regularly.
- Put the child in light and breathable clothing.
Can a newborn baby and a 4-year-old child use the same child seat?
Therefore, a child car seat designed for babies cannot be the same as one for a 4-year-old child. This is why there are specific child restraint systems for babies on the market, such as Group 0, 0+ and i-Size child seats up to a certain height, often 85 cm. Here you can see the different types of child restraint systems available and how they change as the child grows.
In fact, these child car seats are rear-facing seats in the case of babies (compulsory up to a minimum of 15 months old according to the i-Size regulation, although at Fundación MAPFRE we recommend that children travel in a rear-facing position for as long as possible, and until they are at least 4 years old). They also come with support cushions and are usually smaller seats which can recline further.
What type of CRS is best for a newborn baby?
This means child car seats in Group 0 (from 0 to 9 kg), i.e., bassinets and carrycots adapted for newborn babies; child car seats in Group 0+, from 0 to 13 kg, also known as ‘maxi-cosis’; and i-Size child restraint systems, for babies from 40 to 85cm and up to approximately 15/18 months old. Take a look at our guide to choosing the right seat.
These types of child seats tend to be slighter smaller and are rear-facing. i-Size seats allow the child to travel in a rear-facing position for up to a minimum of 15 months old, although at Fundación MAPFRE we recommend using rear-facing child car seats for as long as possible and until the child is at least 4 years old, providing that the child’s physical characteristics allow this.
This type of child car seat can be anchored with the ISOFIX system or using a seat belt. They may also come with a Support leg or Top Tether to prevent tipping and may have support cushions in order to offer better ergonomics and secure the newborn child in place. Many of these cushions also have an ergonomic head rest which helps to regulate the baby’s temperature. In most cases, these cushions are only used for the first few months of the infant’s life as once they have grown they will be big enough to sit snugly in the CRS. Manufacturers usually indicate when the best time for this will be. Normally they will need these cushions for the first 3-6 months, at which point the baby’s neck starts becoming stronger.
Finally, the reclining position should not be excessive or too flat. The best position is midway between sitting and lying.
Can I use any CRS in any country?
No, not all child restraint systems are approved for use in all countries. In order for a child restraint system to go on sale the manufacturer must demonstrate that the child car seat can pass a series of tests in order to guarantee minimum safety levels. All such tests are agreed upon.
Before using a child car seat it is important to be familiar with the relevant legislation. For example, in the European Union child seats approved by the R44-04 and the R-129 standards (i-Size) can be used. The two standards are currently in force, although eventually only R-129 will remain. Both pieces of legislation were drafted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
However, in the United States (6 MB) seats must be approved under FMVSS 213. Furthermore, in Latin America (3 MB) there are countries that have accepted both standards or only recognize one of them. This is why it is so important to check this out beforehand.
It must be understood that a child seat from, for example, the USA, which has been approved according to the regulations of that country, is not legally valid in another country, for example, Spain, where the required approval regulations are different. Moreover, the anchorage systems vary from one country to another (ISOFIX, LATCH, CANFIX and UAS).
Can three child car seats be put on the rear seats?
If the vehicle does not allow for the option of putting three child car seats on the rear seats and you are traveling with three children that need child restraint systems, two of the children will have to travel on the rear seats and the other child must go on the front passenger seat.
Whether it is because of the size of the car or because the middle seat does not allow for this possibility, putting one of the children on the front passenger seat is usually the only available alternative, in which case we should not forget to disable the front passenger airbag when they are traveling in a rear-facing position.
When checking whether or not three child car seats can be placed on the rear seats, we recommend that you check the vehicle’s technical specifications. We should also take into account whether the middle rear seat has ISOFIX fittings (the middle seats often do not come equipped with these anchors. If the child car seat can only be secured with this system it cannot therefore be placed on this seat) or if can be installed using a seat belt.
Three child car seats can be placed on the rear seats at the same time if the installation system allows this, if the seats are of an adequate size, and if none of the child car seats encroaches on another seat. This is usually easier when using booster seats.
How are children required to travel outside of Spain?
In ‘Children’s Road Safety’ we have a specific section on child restraint system legislation in different countries, including within the European Union (where there is a certain degree of uniformity), Latin America and the United States.
We have also prepared infographics where we explain this legislation:
In any event, we recommend checking the current legislation of a country before you travel there, in order to be fully aware of all the rules in terms of child restraints as well as knowing what the legislation dictates regarding driving on the roads, knowing what is prohibited and what your obligations and duties are.
How should I travel with a child and a large dog?
All pets must be protected and secured when traveling in a vehicle. Small dogs can travel with a harness that uses two attachment points or in a small dog carrier placed between the seat and the back of the front passenger seat.
However, in the case of larger dogs, journeys can become a bit more complicated. We must first be aware of how important it is for the dog to be restrained in the vehicle (4 MB). Everything and everyone should be secured inside the vehicle as, if not, they could be thrown forward forcefully in the event of sudden braking or an accident.
If the dog is large, the best option is for them to travel in a transverse carrier with a grid partition separating the passenger area. We also recommend anchoring the dog carrier.
Another alternative is to use a trailer specifically designed to transport large pets.
Do pets need to be secured inside a vehicle?
Any objects, people or animals that are not secured inside a vehicle can break loose and crash into you in a car accident. This is why it is so important to ensure that everything inside the car is properly secured in the safest way possible, even though the legislation does not expressly refer to this (although it does in the specific case of Spain).
For example, Article 18 of the Spanish Road Traffic Regulations establishes that the driver of a vehicle is required to ensure their own free movement, to have the necessary field of vision and to pay constant attention to their driving. They must ensure their own safety as well as that of the other passengers of the vehicle and other road users. This is why you need to be seated properly and ensure that all other passengers do the same. You should also make sure that any loose items or animals have been properly secured in the vehicle so as not to be an obstacle to the driver.
When restraining a pet, it is important to ensure that the anchor will not break in the event of a sudden stop or accident.
My child is over 135 cm tall but has not yet reached 150 cm. Is it safe for them to use a seat belt?
We should have one rule very clear in our minds: children can only wear a seat belt when it properly fits their body, and when no sensitive part of their body is put in danger, such as their neck. Until this point, they should use a child restraint system suitable for their height and weight.
We should not be in any rush. Although the regulations of a country might be more restrictive, a child car seat should always be used whenever necessary. For example, in Spain a child must travel in a CRS until they reach a height of 135 cm. However, at the European level the height of 150 cm is a more widespread cut-off point.
It is important to differentiate between obeying the regulation and making a reasonable use of restraint devices, since it is for the safety of the little ones. 150 cm is the height at which the seat belt, in fact designed for adults, correctly secures the child’s body. We know that this is the case when:
- The upper part of the seat belt goes over the middle of the sternum and collar bone, without resting too close to the neck.
- The lower or pelvic strap of the seat belt goes over the hip bones, not over the child’s stomach area.
Should child car seats have an expiry date?
Although there is no regulation that indicates how long a car seat can be used for, the truth is that some approval regulations are no longer in force. For example, in Europe, R44-04 and R-129 are in force (here we list everything related to regulations, including those of the EU).
Furthermore, manufacturers generally recommend replacing a child car seat after 6 years of use. We should be aware of all the factors that affect a CRS over time. It all depends on what kind of use we have made of the child restraint system and whether we have taken good care of it or not.
At what point can we use a booster seat without a backrest?
The latest changes have been made in terms of approval, i.e., they affect car manufacturers, who cannot approve booster seats with no backrest for Group II (children weighing 15 to 25 kg).
It should be noted that booster seats with a back better position the seat belt and offer greater protection for the child, especially in side impacts. For this reason, it is a good idea to use booster seats with backrests whenever possible, particularly for children less than 125 cm tall.
In this infographic (2 MB) we discuss the benefits of booster seats with backrests and the latest changes to approval standards (only affecting manufacturers).
Can I change a child from a car seat earlier than recommended?
But you can change the car seat to the next level up when the child exceeds the technical specifications indicated by the manufacturer (weight and/or height).
First of all, you have to check if the CRS is too small. To do this, check if the child can be properly placed in the child car seat. You must make sure that their head does not extend beyond the headrest or backrest.
It is also necessary to check that the child is within the parameters indicated by the manufacturer: weight (if approved by R44-04) or height (if it is a seat approved under R-129). If the child is beyond the ranges established by the manufacturer, the CRS will have to be changed. It must be borne in mind that if the manufacturer’s instructions are exceeded, this means that the car seat cannot guarantee optimal safety, but it is always preferable to travel in a car seat than to go without anything. We are referring here particularly to children who may be more than 36 kg in weight but who still need to travel with a CRS.
If you have to change, we recommend opting for a seat that is approved and allows rear-facing travel for as long as possible, especially up to 4 years of age and whenever the minor’s state allows this.
Also, in this article we discuss the different car seats available on the market according to weight, height and approximate age (the latter is not a determining factor).
Lastly, we stress the importance of not moving too quickly to a seat belt. Children can use a seat belt as long as it fits snugly against their body (this is how the seat belt should fit a child with or without a child seat). Until then, the child should use a booster seat, preferably with a backrest (2 MB). You should not be in any kind of hurry, because the booster seat is the guarantee that the seat belt is properly adjusted to the child’s body.
Is it legal to use booster seats without a backrest?
There are currently no regulations that prohibit the use of booster seats without a backrest. The changes apply to approval, i.e., only manufacturers are affected.
You can therefore continue to use a backless booster. Although it should be noted that booster seats with a backrest offer greater protection to the child as this reduces the risk of head injury in a side impact by six times compared to a booster seat with no backrest and, therefore, offers greater lateral protection (the child remains inside the seat in the event of an impact and direct contact of the child against the side of the vehicle is avoided). In addition, they incorporate guides to put the belt through. All this information is included in this infographic (2 MB).
With regard to R44-04, new booster seats with no backrest can be approved as Group 3 for children from 22 to 36 kg and at least 125 cm tall.
In terms of Regulation 129.03, booster seats with no backrest can be approved for children over 125 cm, but it must be ensured that the head interacts with the window airbag of the car, which provides a very acceptable level of protection in case of a side collision.
How should a child be transported in a vehicle with just a cab?
In vehicles with up to nine seats, including the driver, small children under 135 cm in height must travel in the back seats in an approved child restraint system suitable for their height and weight.
There are only three exceptions:
- When the vehicle does not have rear seats.
- If all the rear seats are already occupied by other children in their respective child restraint systems.
- If a child restraint system cannot be installed on the rear seats.
Therefore, in this case, minors must be placed on the passenger seat. It is important to bear in mind that the seat must be fitted well. If the car seat is rear-facing it is compulsory to deactivate the airbag (see how to deactivate the front airbag and when you should do so). If it cannot be deactivated, the minor cannot be placed there in their child restraint system.
In any case, if possible, we recommend that the child travels in a vehicle with rear seats so that it can be placed at the back and preferably in the center.
Are car seats for a specific group safer than multi-group seats?
Multi-group chairs are those child restraint systems (CRS) approved to protect children of various weight and age ranges. For example, you will come across seats in groups 0+, 1 and 2; CRS from groups 1, 2 and 3 and even car seats that cover all the child groups (Groups 0, 1, 2 and 3), namely, one single CRS designed for both newborns and children up to 36 kilograms. The child uses a single seat from birth until they reach a height of 135 cm (legal height at which they can travel without a CRS).
It should be noted that at all times we are talking about approved car seats, which are, therefore, safe. However, keep in mind that the child does not have the same needs at all its growth stages and, therefore, the seat should also be different according to the requirements of the particular child. For example, a newborn baby needs a reclined child seat, both for their health and their well-being, since they spend a large amount of time sleeping and the weight should fall on their back and not their hips. As the child grows, the seat should become less reclined up to the point where they can use a booster with a backrest, which has to be in an upright position.
Tests carried out by PESRI (Child Restraint System Assessment Program) indicate that “multi-group seats can compromise safety and a CRS designed for one single large group tends to perform better when it comes to safety”.
How long can a child sit in a CRS?
This depends on the age of the child. If we are talking about a newborn or baby that travels in a ‘maxi-cosi’ type chair, it is not recommended that they sit for more than an hour and a half. It is advisable to stop after this time so that the baby can change their position and stretch.
This is aimed at avoiding the risk of bradycardia and of the child having breathing difficulties. In addition, this posture is also associated with apnea and oxygen desaturation. The child tends to sit in the shape of a ‘C’, a position which is not suitable for a baby. However, compared to a carrycot, an egg-shaped or maxi-cosi type seat is much safer in the event of a collision. It is therefore recommended to stop every hour and a half so that the child does not stay in the same position for too long.
In 2001, Pediatrics magazine published a study on 100 babies, 50 of whom were premature at 36 weeks, in which they were monitored for 60 minutes in child car seats. The blood oxygen saturation after that time dropped on average from 97% to 94% (normal values are between 96% and 100%), falling to 90% in seven cases. In addition, 12% of premature babies suffered apnea or bradycardia.
Where older children are concerned, it is advisable to stop every 2 hours and whenever necessary, just as it is for the driver or other passengers, as they also need to stretch and clear their heads. It should be noted that in many cases they travel with their legs bent, especially when facing backwards (although this is not dangerous) or with their legs dangling when, for example, they are on a booster seat.
Therefore, children should always ride in a car with a child restraint system appropriate to their height or weight. However, it is advisable to limit its use to the car, and for children to maintain the correct posture when seated in a CRS, with their shoulders staying close to the backrest. It is necessary to stop periodically, especially in the case of infants and newborns and car seats should not be used to put children to sleep in. When have arrived at your destination, you should take them out of the CRS and put them in a suitable place, such as a cot or pushchair.
What is the best way to travel by car with three children who need a CRS?
The current law in Spain establishes that in vehicles with up to nine seats, including the driver, minors who are 135 cm tall or shorter, must travel on the rear seats using an approved child restraint system suitable for their height and weight. There are only three exceptions that allow them to be seated in the front:
- When the vehicle does not have rear seats.
- If a child restraint system cannot be installed on the rear seats.
Although the regulations state that the maximum height is 135 cm, Fundación MAPFRE recommends the use of a CRS up to 150 cm, as stipulated in the European Directive, and until a seat belt can be properly fastened.
If the vehicle is large and has clearly differentiated rear seats, it is possible to install three child restraint systems. It is important that none of the seats interferes with the others and that it is possible to fit them properly, as indicated by the manufacturers. This is usually easier when children are using booster seats (Fundación MAPFRE recommends using booster seats with backrests as these offer greater protection, especially on the sides).
If it is impossible to install all three child seats in the rear seats, this is one of the exceptions mentioned above, and therefore a child in a CRS can be placed in the front passenger seat. It is important to note that the rear seats must all be occupied by children in car seats.
In this case, the front passenger airbag must be deactivated, especially when the child seat is rearward-facing. If for any reason the front airbag cannot be deactivated, under no circumstances should a child in a rear-facing seat be placed in the front.
This infographic (2 MB) provides recommendations for safe travel for large families.
When is my child old enough not to use a car seat?
Do not make the mistake of removing the child restraint system too early.
Once you have reached the highest group seat or, in other words, a booster seat with or without a backrest (Fundación MAPFRE recommends booster seats with no backrest), doubts may arise: When is the child old enough not to use it anymore?
In principle, as stated in the regulation, “In vehicles with up to nine seats, including the driver, child occupants 135 cm tall or less must travel in the rear seats, using an approved restraint system adapted to their size and weight”. So that up to that height a CRS is compulsory. Their weight is not a deciding factor.
However, European Directive 2003/20/EC establishes that all children less than 150 cm tall should travel using a restraint system suitable for their weight. 150 cm is the height at which the seat belt, which is in fact designed for adults, correctly secures the child’s body. It must be borne in mind that not all countries have this height as the limit in their regulations. One example is Spain.
Even though the regulations say that when the child reaches 135 cm they are no longer obliged to use a CRS, ideally, they should continue to travel with a booster up to 150 cm and especially until the seat belt fits properly.
This is how you should travel using a seat belt:
- The top of the chest strap or band should go over the mid-sternum and collarbone. It should not be too close to the neck.
- The lower or pelvic strap of the seat belt goes over the hip bones, not over the child’s stomach area.
- The top of the head and the headrest should be at the same height.
Is it harmful for a child to have their legs bent in a rear-facing car seat?
One of the main concerns of many parents when it comes to rear-facing car seats is that the child may be uncomfortable. Other reasons include the belief that children will become motion sick; or that they could injure their legs in the event of a collision; or that these rear-facing seats are believed to be less safe in the event of a rear-end collision.
All these myths are false. A child is not going to get car sick because they are traveling looking backwards, because they do this from birth. They are used to traveling in this position, and therefore it is unlikely that this is the cause of motion sickness. However, food, a poorly air-conditioned or overloaded environment are more likely to cause motion sickness.
To dispel doubts about the belief that rearward-facing seats are less safe in the event of a rear-end collision. And finally, it is normal for a child to travel with their legs bent when they are facing backwards. This does not mean that they are traveling less safely or that they can break their legs more easily. Rear-facing seats are the safest kind of CRS for children and they should travel like this until they are at least four years old, because this position protects their neck, head and internal organs in the event of a collision. It does not harm a child to travel with their legs bent.
Is it advisable to have a mirror on the headrest to see the child in the seat?
Also, they should be in a rear-facing position for as long as possible. At Fundación MAPFRE we recommend this position until the child is at least 4 years old.
These mirrors, placed on the headrest, allow the users in front to maintain eye contact with the child and watch what they are doing.
Aware of their usefulness, the manufacturers of seats actually sell these mirrors. They can be used but always when taking into account safety rules:
- The mirror must be securely attached. It must not fall and or be thrown off in the event of braking or impact.
- There must be an adequate distance between the child and the mirror.
- The child car seat must be properly installed. Here are some recommendations.
- The child must also be properly restrained in the CRS to avoid a collision with the mirror in the event of braking.
- The mirror must be made of materials that cannot cause serious damage. In addition, it must be shatterproof and unbreakable on impact.
What should we avoid doing when driving with children in the vehicle?
Children tend to imitate everything they see, especially if it is done by an adult. For this reason, and in order to ensure the utmost safety for all passengers, we have drawn up a list of behavior and conduct that should be avoided when driving with children.
- Failing to fasten your seat belt. All passengers must fasten their seat belts to set a good example for young children. We cannot insist that they sit in a child car seat if the adults themselves are not models of responsible behavior.
- Smoking while driving. Apart from affecting the health of all the passengers, it also prevents the driver from reacting quickly enough in an unforeseen situation. The driver must grip the steering wheel firmly but not tightly with both hands.
- An aggressive attitude at the wheel. This sets a terrible example for children and increases driving stress which can in turn compromise the safety of all the passengers.
- Not observing the rules of the road such as speeding, not maintaining an adequate safety distance, jumping the lights and ignoring road signs. If you want to raise responsible pedestrians and drivers this example should be instilled in them from an early age.
- Not respecting the most vulnerable users while driving. They need to know about and witness how we respect vulnerable users such as pedestrians, cyclists or motorcyclists.
- Answering your cell phone call while driving. This is a bad example for a child and is also reckless behavior.
How should a child travel in a van which only has front seats?
In this sense, Royal Decree 667/2015, of 17 July, which entered into force on 1 October 2015, states that in vehicles with up to nine seats, including the driver’s seat, child passengers who are 135 cm tall or less must travel on the rear seats using an approved child restraint system suitable for their height and weight. There are only three exceptions to this rule, when they can travel in the front seat:
- When the vehicle does not have rear seats.
- If child restraint systems cannot be installed in those seats.
Given the fact that the vehicle in question does not have rear seats, we can install the child seat on the front seat. However, we need to bear in mind that if the vehicle has a front airbag we can only use rear-facing seats if the airbag has been disabled.
The passenger airbag is particularly dangerous for children, especially when they are in a rear-facing seat. The main function of the airbag is to protect the passenger from hitting the car windscreen or dashboard. It emerges at a speed of 200 km/h and can be particularly dangerous when the passenger in the front seat is a child. However, airbags cannot be disabled in all vehicles. If it cannot be disabled we do not recommend traveling with the child in the front seat.
At what point can a child travel on the front passenger seat?
In this sense, Royal Decree 667/2015, of 17 July, which entered into force on 1 October, 2015, states that in vehicles with up to nine seats, including the driver’s seat, child passengers who are 135 cm tall or less must travel on the rear seats using an approved child restraint system suitable for their height and weight.
This legislation establishes just three exceptions when children can travel on the front seat:
- When the vehicle does not have rear seats.
- If child restraint systems cannot be installed in those seats.
To this must be added the importance of the passenger airbag being deactivated. In fact, we can only use rear-facing child restraint systems on this seat if the airbag has been disabled.
The safest way for any child to travel is on a rear seat. According to the Directorate General of Traffic (DGT) and referring to a study carried out in the USA of 5,751 children under 15 years old traveling in vehicles involved in serious traffic accidents, traveling in the rear seat had a protective effect and made the difference between serious injury and death.
In addition, the study “Rear seat safer: seating position, restraint use and injuries in children in traffic crashes in Victoria, Australia” found that the risk of death in children under 4 years of age riding in a car crash is twice as high for children in the front seat and four times higher for children under 1 year of age.
Can I use a CRS without using the Top Tether or Support Leg?
If the CRS does not have a Top Tether, then it will come with a support leg which is stretched out in order to be anchored to the car floor. With this support leg we can position many ISOFIX child car seats in a rear-facing position, which is the safest position for young children.
In both cases, the goal of the third anchor point or support leg, as the case may be, is to keep the seat as stable as possible in a collision, thus avoiding forward rotation of the seat which is dangerous for the child.
Therefore, if the restraint system is of the ISOFIX variety (or follows the i-Size standard which, as we know, comes with ISOFIX anchors) we must use the Top Tether or Support leg in order to guarantee the full safety of the occupant.
Should I let my child distract themselves by playing on their tablet on trips?
Is it safe for the child to be play on a tablet or mobile phone in the car? On some occasions it is not enough for the child to be traveling in a suitable child restraint system, something which is fundamental in any case. The child’s safety can be compromised by having loose objects inside the vehicle.
Any loose object inside the vehicle can be projected against any of the occupants, increasing its weight up to forty times at just 50 km/h. If we are talking about a 560 g tablet, its weight could be the equivalent of 23 kg in sudden braking at 50 km/h and up to 75 kg if braking occurs at 90 km/h, which would be the equivalent of a St. Bernard dog directly crashing into one of the passengers. For this reason, a tablet can become a truly dangerous object when traveling in a vehicle.
This is not something which only occurs with tablets but can also happen with toys, games consoles or mobile phones. Although they may seem lightweight, their resultant weight multiplies significantly in a crash.
Lastly, we should note that these objects should be properly secured. The back part of the headrest or front part (in the case of children in rear-facing child seats) is not the best place since the child’s head could end up hitting them if the child seat is not well-secured or does not react properly.
Which car seat is the most suitable for a newborn baby?
When choosing the best restraint system for your baby, you should of course bear in mind that the seat should be suitable for the child in question. Next, you need to choose a CRS based on the kind of fittings in your vehicle, i.e., if the child car seat needs ISOFIX anchorages or a three-point seat belt.
The child restraint should be an approved model. The European ECE R44/04 and R129 (i-Size) standards are currently in force. This means that the child seat has had to undergo certain safety tests before being put on sale.
It is also very important for the CRS to be rear-facing. Remember that according to the latest approval standard, R-129, children must be in a rear-facing position until they are a minimum of 15 months old. At Fundación MAPFRE we recommend that children should continue to sit in rear-facing child seats as long as possible, and at least until the age of four.
Furthermore, you should be able to adjust how much the child seat reclines. The baby should not be seated in an upright position. A slightly reclined position halfway between lying flat and sitting up is the most recommendable. In addition, seats specifically designed for babies will come with a support cushion to ensure your newborn baby fits snugly in the seat.
It is also important to point out that the child car should be placed on the rear seats, with three exceptions: if the vehicle does not have rear seats, if the rear seats are already occupied by other children in child seats, or if child seats cannot be placed on them. If you are putting the rear-facing child car seat on the front passenger seat, the airbag must be disabled.
At Fundación MAPFRE we recommend placing the child car seat on the middle rear seat (426 KB), as it is further away from the doors. However, if the child car seat has ISOFIX points and the anchors are only on the side seats, it is advisable to position the child restraint system in the seat behind the passenger seat in order for better access and so you can see the child more easily. The ISOFIX system is designed to avoid fitting errors.
As the child grows, the child seat should be changed: Find your child car seat
Can I use boosters without backrests so that three children can travel on the car's rear seats?
Elevators or boosters without backrests have not been banned and can continue to be used. If you wish to, you can put three boosters on the rear seats providing they fit properly and can be well-secured.
However, they clearly offer less protection than boosters with backrests given that these reduce the risk of head injury in a side impact by a factor of six in comparison with a booster without a backrest. They also offer better side protection in general, given that the child will remain in their seat in a collision and will not come into direct contact with the side of the vehicle. They also usually include guides for where to thread the seat belt, making it less likely that a mistake will be made and therefore leading to improved safety.
In fact, the latest changes in approval regulations call for boosters with backrests. As such, a booster without a backrest cannot be approved for Group 2 (from 15 to 25 kg) and boosters without a backrest can only be approved for Group 3 (from 22 to 36 kg). Therefore, it is recommended that children up to 135 cm tall should use boosters with backrests, although at Fundación MAPFRE we recommend using them until the child reaches 150 cm tall and once the seat belt fits them correctly (using a child car seat is currently compulsory for children until they reach 135 cm tall). Boosters without backrests cannot be approved under the R-129 safety standard.
This infographic (2 MB) covers all the changes made in this regard.
Can a child car seat be used with a two-point seat belt?
In terms of boosters (2 MB), it might seem that a two-point seat belt can properly secure the CRS. Nevertheless, it is important to bear in mind that we are dealing with a plain and simple booster seat, whose main function is precisely to ensure that the three-point seat belt is properly adjusted to the child.
The safest option for children is to put them in an approved child restraint system suitable for their weight and height. If they are ready to use a booster, it is advisable to get a booster with a backrest which is secured with a three-point seat belt so it can hold the child securely in place.
A three-point seat belt prevents the child’s upper body from crashing into the part of the vehicle directly in front of them, such as the front passenger seat. It also holds the child in place better and prevents injury to the upper part of the body.
How can I tell if a child car seat is out of date?
Summer heat, how the seat is handled, the passing of time, its usage, strong braking and acceleration can all affect child restraint systems and weaken them, especially certain materials.
The majority of manufacturers recommend changing the child car seat every 6 years or 10 years after its manufacture, although it may need to be replaced earlier if any of its components appear to have deteriorated or if it has been involved in a road traffic accident or collision.
We should remember that the child car seat may have internal structural damage, invisible to the naked eye, and may not be able to ensure the child’s safety as a consequence. It must of course be replaced if we can discern even the slightest signs of external damage such as worn out harnesses, clasps or rusty flaps. A damaged buckle or flap or a worn out harness can end up opening itself or breaking during an accident. If we have a collision we must also check with the manufacturer and replace the seat immediately if we notice any cracks or any change of its shape.
It is important to clearly distinguish between the purchase date and the manufacturing date. The date of purchase can only be found on the receipt or the purchase bill. However, the date of manufacture is stated on the CRS sticker on the seat itself. (R44-04 and R-129).
We can also check the approval legislation. Currently, the R44-04 and R-129 standards are in force. If the child car seat is approved under a prior standard, it will definitely be too old to be able to continue using it.
What should I do with a child car seat when I no longer need it?
This of course depends on the condition of the seat, how much it has been used and when it was manufactured. If it is over 6 years old it is best to get rid of it. This is also the case if it is in poor condition, if it has any damage to it or if it has been involved in a road accident.
If this is not the case and the child car seat is in good condition, it can be used again. In this case, the best option is for the seat’s manufacturers to check it thoroughly.
It is important that the seat is checked, since it may have internal damage not visible to the naked eye that could affect the proper functioning of the CRS. Even the mere passing of time can affect the components of the seat and can affect it in the same way that overuse or inappropriate use might. We should also consider whether the seat was involved in an accident or in a situation where very strong braking was required.
How do I know when my child is ready to start using a booster seat?
We need to upgrade a child restraint system or child car seat for bigger children when the one they are using is too small for them, as a result of their weight (R44-04) or height (R-129).
Booster seats are usually for children over four years old, i.e., children who weigh 15 to 36 kg or who are more than 100 cm tall. They are usually used until the child is either 135 cm tall (compulsory limit for use of child car seats in Spain) or 150 cm (the height at which the EU recommends you can start using a seat belt and which Fundación MAPFRE also recommends).
However, it is best to opt for booster seats with a backrest, especially for Group 2 (from 15 to 25 kg).
This type of system uses the seat belt to restrain the minor. The seat, in this case, lifts up the child so that the seat belt can be correctly adjusted to fit their body shape.
Is it safe for my child to be seated in the back of the car with a pet?
This depends on the type of pet and the way in which they are both traveling. Firstly, we should underscore the importance of children 135 cm tall or less traveling with an approved child restraint system suitable for their size and weight. Of course, they should be on the rear seats, and the child car seat should be properly installed and the child should be well secured.
Once this has been dealt with, if the pet is medium-sized or small, it can travel on the rear seat with the child, but should be properly secured. Dogs can wear a certified seat belt secured to their harness or travel in a transportation box. It is important for the transportation box to be tied down. It is best to put it on the floor behind one of the front seats. It is not advisable to fasten it with a seat belt since they do not usually secure this type of system very well. Bear in mind that if your pet is not well secured it could fall out in an accident or strong braking and could crash into one of the passengers and cause them serious injuries.
In the case of larger pets, there should ideally be a separation from the passenger compartment by means of a grille partition and a securely fastened carrier.
Can a child car seat be installed on a bus?
According to the Traffic Rules, in vehicles with more than nine seats, including the driver, the passengers must have their seat belts fastened or use approved child restraint systems. Likewise, passengers three years old or above should use approved child restraint systems which have been properly adapted for their height and weight. When these systems are not available, or the child is big enough, the seat belts must be used, provided that they are suitable for the child’s height and weight.
This means that when we are traveling by bus with children, the vehicle should be equipped with three-point belts (which is relatively unusual) in order to be able to use our child car seat. If the bus is equipped with two-point belts we should find a solution which allows us to secure our usual car seat, such as folding harnesses, which can effectively secure the seat.
However, the best thing we can do is to check whether the car seat we wish to put in the bus seat can be secured with a seat belt and get in contact with the company to confirm if our CRS is compatible with the bus seat. If we have a choice, we should travel with companies that have child seats available for young children.
There is a legislative gap when it comes to three year olds, and there are no obligations in this regard. However, for their safety it is best to try to use a good, approved restraint system suitable for your child’s size and weight.
Is it safer for my child to travel to school by school bus or by car?
Indeed, buses are one of the safest forms of transport. In fact, buses are statistically safer than cars. However, for a school bus to be suitable, it must meet a number of specific characteristics, in particular it must have seat belts and, of course, child restraint systems can be fitted. This infographic (4 MB) provides tips for safe school transport. These journeys should always be made under the supervision of a qualified monitor who ensures the children’s safety, who assists children with disabilities and is able to get the children into their seats, helps them with backpacks and belongings, and guides them on and off the bus safely.
In terms of going by car, this is obviously a place that is much more under a parent’s control. The safety of very young children depends on us and we are in charge of ensuring they follow the rules. One of the main advantages is the possibility of the child traveling with their own approved child car seat suitable for their height and/or weight. This should be properly installed and correctly secured and we must always take as much time as needed to complete this task.
The decision should be made on the basis of the above criteria and there should not be a substantial difference between the two. It all depends on whether the safety criteria established is being followed.
What should I do now that I want my child to start going to school by themselves?
Between the ages of 9 and 12, and depending on the particular case, children have sufficient autonomy and capacity to walk alone in the street, provided they have received adequate road safety education, and know how to recognize the dangers and the best options for any given route. In the case of going to school, it depends on how near or far from home the school is, if there is also public transport available, and a number of other factors.
It is a difficult and personal decision, as well as being the responsibility of the parents. The most fundamental point is that if we see that the child is ready, we can trust them but we should also take the necessary precautions. This belief that they will do things right is important for strengthening their sense of independence, in the same way as going about daily tasks such as getting washed and dressed, tidying their room or getting their own breakfast.
Age is important, but above all it depends on the maturity level of the child and how they act in the street. It is better if the child shows willingness to walk to school alone rather than it being imposed on them. It is important to show the child the safest route to school which is not necessarily the quickest route, and to teach them the advantages of pedestrian zones in terms of their safety.
The best way to give the child their independence, while still going with them to school, is to let them try walking along without holding your hand, or let them walk with their friends a little way ahead while you lag behind so you can watch them but give them their space. This will help build their confidence and make them more aware of the route. Whenever possible, we recommend that they walk to school with a group of friends, rather than on their own.
A final recommendation with regard to strangers: they should completely ignore, and not trust strangers, regardless of how nice or friendly they might be to them. We should make them understand, without frightening them, that there are certain adults who try to deceive children by saying nice things, giving them presents, or with excuses such as saying they know their parents and they have a message for them. They have to learn to say no, to get away from them quickly and, if necessary, run away and get help.
What type of seat belt is most appropriate for school buses?
The two-point belt is the one which is most used on buses. This seat belt is suitable for both children and adults since it fastens under the waist and over the pelvis, meaning that height is not even a relevant factor here. However, this is not particularly safe for children under 6 years old and it offers far less protection than a three-point belt.
The safest option would be buses equipped with three-point belts. In this case, children should be using some kind of child seat since these types of belts are designed for adults and the upper part does not fit well with a child’s height. This is why children need booster seats, preferably with backrests, so that the seat belt does not cause injury and is well secured. The shoulder belt may press against the neck.
In this sense, remember that if the bus has a seat belt, it must be used, both by children and adults, and both inside and outside the town. The ideal option would be for children to travel with a suitable child seat on buses. Nevertheless, due to the characteristics of the bus seats, it is quite unlikely that your child car seat can be used on these seats, since they need to have three-point belts.
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What can I do to prevent the child car seat from being burnt by the sun?
Steering wheel, seats, gear stick… When you park a car on the street during the summer months, every part of the car reaches a high temperature, even to the point of being burning hot. The same thing happens with the child restraint system left installed in the car.
It must be taken into account that if the car seat receives direct sunlight, its parts can reach dangerous temperatures to the point where they could cause burns on the exposed skin of children in summer. For example, the headrest temperature can exceed 60 degrees centigrade, while the seat itself can easily get hotter than 50 degrees. Furthermore, the metal buckles of the harnesses can absorb heat much more quickly which is why it is very important to check how hot they are before putting the child into the seat.
One of the main pieces of advice to follow to prevent the child seat getting scorched by the sun is to park the vehicle in an underground or covered car park, or in a shaded area. Direct sunlight should be avoided whenever possible. If you park in the street, it is possible to fit sun shades, both on the side windows and the windscreen to ensure that the least possible heat gets in. It is also advisable to open up the car a few minutes before getting into it and to put the air-conditioning or climate control on to adjust the temperature of the interior.
Also recommended is the use of seat covers specifically made for the summer and even to cover up the seat while the car is parked. There are currently specially manufactured seat covers available on the market (sun shade covers and anti-UVA covers).
Can I put a child wearing a swimsuit in a child car seat?
It is advisable to ensure that children are wearing comfortable and breathable clothing when they are traveling in a child restraint system and that they are not only wearing their swimsuit. It is just as bad to be overdressed as it is to be unclothed, as the child can be chafed by the child seat, especially if the child restraint system has to act.
Moreover, in an accident or when braking sharply, the only contact between the seat belt or the harness will be the child’s own skin, which could cause burns. The same thing happens to adults when they have a seat belt on and are not wearing a shirt of any kind.
In the same vein, you should also not put the child in the child seat if they are wet. Apart from damaging the child restraint system itself, it could even affect how it works. It is a good idea to wait until the child is dry and to put them in suitable clothing before sitting them in the CRS
In addition, it is advisable to clean the car seat after trips to the beach to avoid sand, humidity or other elements that could affect the safety and operation of the CRS in one way or another.
Why should I choose a booster seat with a backrest?
The trend is towards using booster seats with backrests, as can be seen in the latest changes in terms of approval standards.
It must be remembered that a booster with a backrest reduces the risk of damage to the head in the event of a side impact by six times compared to a booster without a backrest. It offers greater side protection, as during an impact the child is kept in the seat at all times, thus avoiding the child’s direct impact against the side of the vehicle.
It is also necessary to take into account the fact that the backrest has a guide so that the seat belt is in the correct position, and there is less chance of making a mistake.
What should we consider if we are traveling with children and we rent a car?
Whenever they travel in a vehicle, children must be properly protected. In this case, there should not be any difference between our own car and the hire car. However, it is often difficult to transport a child restraint system from one place to another.
As they are aware of this, many rental companies offer child restraint systems with the rental of their cars. If you are planning to take up this option, you should consider a number of factors.
- That the child car seat you are going to use is suitable for the child’s weight and/or height.
- That the child car seat can be properly installed in the rental car. For example, if the CRS we intend to use has ISOFIX fittings, the car must have the appropriate anchor points.
- That the company will help us to fit the child car seat and provide us with an installation manual to help clear up any doubts we might have.
- Of course, the CRS must be clean and with all its elements and parts (1 MB).
- The child car seat should not be very old. Bear in mind the fact that manufacturers indicate that a CRS usually becomes ineffective after 6 years of use, given that the seat will suffer from wear and tear over time.
- It is crucial that you check that the seat is indeed in good condition and that it has not been involved in an accident. We should be aware that this kind of damage can often be internal and may not be visible to the naked eye. You should therefore bring up this point when renting the car.
Can I put an ISOFIX chair in a car that does not have anchorages?
Likewise, the seat manufacturers themselves usually offer a list of the cars in which their seat can be installed.
There are currently seats on the market that allow both options and that can be installed with ISOFIX (previously acquiring the base) or using a seat belt. However, it is the child seat manufacturer themselves who should determine whether or not the CRS allows for this option in their manual.
Why can I not put a child with a child car seat in the front passenger seat?
There are only three exceptions in which a child with a child car seat can sit in the front passenger seat:
- When the vehicle does not have rear seats.
- If a child restraint system cannot be installed on the rear seats.
Scientific evidence must be added to the regulatory obligation. There are numerous studies demonstrating that children are much safer on the vehicle’s rear seats. The Department of Traffic (DGT) mentions a study carried out in the United States with 5751 children under 15 years old who were passengers of vehicles that had been involved in a serious traffic accident. The study revealed that being seated on a rear seat had a protective effect in terms of serious injuries or death.
Moreover, the study “Rear seat safer: seating position, restraint use and injuries in children in traffic crashes in Victoria, Australia” concludes that the risk of death in children under 4 years old travelling in a car crash is twice as high for children in the front seat and 4 times higher for children under 1 year old. In addition, a study carried out by CIREN (Crash Injury Research Engineering Network) indicated that the risk of injury is higher in the front seats, as well as the severity of the injuries.
Are buses required to have seat belts?
This depends on the type of bus. While buses transporting passengers that are part of the public transport system in cities are not required to be equipped with seat belts, all other buses transporting passengers must be equipped with them. Specifically, those which were registered from 2007 onwards. If the vehicle is older, it does not have to have seat belts.
The European Commission passed three Directives making it compulsory to install seat belts in all vehicles. These directives have been transposed into the Spanish legal system. For this reason, since 2007 it has been obligatory for all buses registered to have this safety system on board (Royal Decree 445/2006).
In this sense, they should not only have belts. Passengers are also obliged to use them, as stated in Royal Decree 965/2006, the driver and passengers (companion and children over three years of age) must wear their seat belts throughout the journey. However, a recent study carried out by Fundación MAPFRE shows that only 2 out of 10 passengers fasten their seat belt.
Article 117 of this Royal Decree sets forth that seat belts and other approved restraint systems must be used, they should be properly fastened, both on city and intercity roads, by the driver as well as passengers over three years old where the seats are equipped with seat belts or other approved restraint systems in those vehicles used to transport people which have more than nine seats, including the driver.
Can I reuse a child car seat from a few years back if I change the cover or should I buy a new one?
Keep in mind the fact that child restraint systems have an expiration date. Child car seat manufacturers do not recommend using a CRS which is over 6 years old. Moreover, we should consider any possible damage the seat may have undergone during its prior usage.
Over time and with the daily use of the seat, the CRS components do deteriorate. The seat can deteriorate over time and, therefore, be less effective. Therefore, even if you change the seat cover, the main safety components of the CRS have still been affected and it will not offer the same protection when required to do so.
How can I tell if a child car seat has been badly fitted?
Child car seats secured with a seat belt should ensure that the belt goes through each and every one of the points and slots indicated in the installation manual. The seat belt should be taut and not be folded over or hanging loosely.
However, if the CRS is installed with the ISOFIX system, there is less risk of fitting it incorrectly. Despite this, you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. You should pay special attention to the installation of the ISOFIX base, the support leg or the top tether, as applicable. In the vast majority of cases you will know that you have correctly installed the CRS because they usually have indicators that turn green when the CRS is properly anchored. We recommend this infographic (244 KB) about the ISOFIX system.
- Use this infographic (1 MB) to check that the child seat is installed correctly.
Should ISOFIX anchors be checked?
Even though they do not necessarily appear to be damaged, both the child car seat and the anchor fittings can indeed be compromised, although this is not necessarily discernible to the naked eye. Although these anchors are designed to react in extreme situations and to withstand considerable weight, we should bear in mind the fact that an object’s weight increases exponentially with speed and deceleration. For example, a child weighing 12 kg and traveling at a speed of 60 km/h has a resultant weight of up to 672 kg at the moment of impact.
ISOFIX anchors are welded to the chassis and are designed to hold the child seat and the child in place in an accident. Nevertheless, as a result of these forces, it is a good idea to have them checked if they have been in an accident. This means we can guarantee that they are completely effective and will once again react properly if needed.
Manufacturers recommend checking the child car seat if it has been in a crash at speeds of over 10-20 km/h and it is a good idea to take the vehicle to the manufacturer to have the anchorages checked over.
Are rear-facing child restraint systems available for children weighing more than 18 kg and do they include the Plus Test stamp?
Undoubtedly the safest option for children is that they travel in approved rear-facing child restraint systems for as long as possible and up to at least 4 years old.
There are currently a large number of child car seats that offer this option and which are also designed for children weighing up to 25kg. The complete list can be found in our article covering the Plus Test stamp and the importance of taking this into account.
If a child restraint system (CRS) has the Plus Test stamp, this means that it has successfully passed a series of very demanding Swedish tests. These tests focus on checking the stress that the passenger’s (i.e., the child’s) neck would have to withstand in the event of a head-on collision.
It should be noted that manufacturers submit their products for this test voluntarily and the test does not replace but is rather additional to the European R44/04 and ECE R 129 standards.
Is it safe to use a CRS in a stroller?
In this case we are talking about the so-called ‘maxi cosi’, child restraint systems that can also be fitted, in most cases, to a pushchair, either directly or by means of adapters.
Firstly, we should bear in mind that child restraint systems are designed specifically for cars and to protect the child when needed. ‘Maxi-cosi’ seats can indeed be put in strollers but it is best not to do so for more than an hour and a half, since it is not the most suitable position for a small child, especially if they are babies.
Just as carrycots or bassinets do not offer the best protection in the event of a traffic accident, the maxi-cosi type seats do not offer the best ergonomics and comfort for a child in a stroller. A CRS is designed to be used in a car and bassinets are specifically for newborn babies in strollers.
In this regard, we remind you that one of the main recommendations for parents when carrying their babies in a ‘maxi-cosi’ is to take the child out every hour and a half to two hours so that they can stretch out. This is because this position increases the risk of apnea, oxygen desaturation and bradycardia. Ensuring a good reclining position is a key factor. However, a maxi-cosi type seat is much safer than a bassinet in terms of children’s road safety.
Can I install some kind of system to prevent my child's head from falling forwards or backwards when they are sleeping?
A child restraint system works exactly as it is designed to work by the manufacturer and has been approved according to a series of specific characteristics. Any adjustments to the seat may stop it from working properly. Moreover, it is important to differentiate between securing and protecting the child. It is not safe for the head to be fully upright and held in place, since this prevents the natural forward motion of the child’s neck and head in the event of a sudden braking or crash. In addition, there is always the possibility that this device could cut into the child’s neck and cause serious injuries, or could even fatally wound the child.
Therefore, in order to prevent injury to the head and neck, it is vital that we place the car seat correctly and secure the child properly. The headrest should be positioned at a suitable height and the child restraint system should be reclined as advised by the manufacturer.
The backrest should be at an angle of between 30 and 45º to the vertical. The child car seat should not be too vertical or too reclined. In fact, new born babies or babies usually travel lying flat, and as they grow they can be seated in an increasingly upright position. It is important to consult the child seat’s instruction manual in order to travel with the seat correctly reclined.
We should also take into account that traveling with the child in a rear-facing position for as long as possible (up to 4 years old is recommendable) prevents head, neck and spinal injuries and is therefore one of the best ways to protect these areas of the body.
Is it preferable to take into account the weight or height of the child when choosing a child car seat?
Firstly, we should be aware that the standard is governed by height when determining at what point the child can stop using a child car seat and can move to using a seat belt. In Spain this is when they are 135cm tall. However, it is advisable to continue using a child car seat until they are 150 cm tall, and the point of reference would be to ensure that the seat belt properly fits the child’s physical characteristics See how the seat belt should fit here.
Height is certainly a much more accurate indicator for determining how the child is developing and the type of seat they are going to need as they continue growing. When weight is the determining factor, there is a risk of switching to a higher CRS group unnecessarily. We might then fall into the trap of putting our child in a child car seat which is unsuitable for their development, their physical structure or muscle strength.
Nor can this be measured by age, since there is a great difference between some children and others at the same age. Every child grows at a different rate. The height difference between children of the same age is even more marked in children of different nationalities.
However, both measurement methods are currently valid and it depends on the child car seat’s particular approval standards.
Should we take what kind of vehicle we have into account when choosing the best child car seat?
For this reason, many manufacturers of child restraint systems often offer a list of compatible car models. This is often the case with i-Size child car seats, since they are larger and need bigger seats and ISOFIX anchorages, among other things.
Can I put a rear-facing CRS facing forward if the child is not comfortable sitting the other way round?
Everything depends on the type of child restraint system. There are currently seats on the market that can be placed in either direction. The manufacturer may indicate that the child can travel in a rear-facing position up to a certain height and weight at which point the CRS can be positioned to face forward, although, as mentioned, this all depends on the type of seat. To be absolutely sure it is best to check the manufacturer’s manual.
In any case, it is advisable to get the child used to facing the rear since this is the safest position for them. Rear-facing child car seats offer better protection for the head, neck and spine, which are some of the most vulnerable parts of the body, particularly when it comes to young children. In fact, 80% of serious injuries can be avoided in the case of a collision.
It is worth insisting and making the child understand that it is the safest position. Young children are seated in a rear-facing position from a very young age and now with the R-129 standard they must do so until they are 15 months old if they are using a child seat that has been approved by this legislation, therefore it should not be too difficult to get them used to this position.
Why is the middle rear seat the safest seat?
However, given that the child car seat may be incorrectly placed in this seat, as it does not usually have ISOFIX anchorages, it is best to position the seat on one of the seats that does have this anchorage system available. This will help you avoid incorrectly installing the seat. In terms of the side seats, it is advisable to choose the seat behind the front passenger seat, as the child can be more easily seen and accessed by the driver from there.
You should also choose one of the side seats if the middle rear seat only has a two-point seat belt and you are going to be using a booster seat or cushion as they should be placed on one of the side seats with three-point belts.
Can a CRS be given to family and friends?
- The CRS should not have been involved in a road traffic accident. If it has, it should be thoroughly examined as it may have internal damage which is not visible to the naked eye. In such instances we recommend you do not use the second-hand seat.
- It should have the corresponding labels, as well as its manufacturer’s manual to ensure that you do not make any mistakes when installing it and in order to check that the seat is indeed an approved seat.
- Of course, the CRS must have all its parts (1 MB) and be in perfect condition. It must not be missing any parts, since all of them have a particular role to play. It must also have no signs of wear and tear.
- As already mentioned, the child car seat must be approved according to one of the pieces of legislation currently in force: R44/04 or R-129.
- You must check that the child seat has not been taken off the market due to product recall or because of known defects.
- Of course, you must also check that the child seat can be used in your car and that it is suitable for the weight and height of the child. Remember that not every child seat will be suitable for your child and you may need a specific CRS as they grow.
- It is also not a good idea to use a CRS for more than 6 years. Many manufacturers consider that once six years have passed the seat has aged considerably and a number of its parts may have weakened or been broken and therefore will not offer adequate protection for our children.
Is a rear-facing car seat safe in rear impacts?
Indeed, a rear-facing child restraint is also safe in the event of a rear impact.
On the one hand, we must bear in mind that seats with ECE R44/04 or R-129 approval have passed a rear-collision crash test. For R-129 this also includes a lateral crash-test. Both approval standards are currently in force. Therefore, every chair that is currently approved has exceeded this safety minimum.
We know that rear-facing seats are especially safe in front impacts. However, they are also safe in the event of other collisions. In this sense, we must take into account the differences between front and a rear crashes.
In the case of rear-end crashes, it is important to note that both vehicles are traveling in the same direction, something that does not happen in frontal impacts. In this case, the struck vehicle advances while reducing the impact force. For this reason, shocks are much less aggressive.
Furthermore, in many cases, the vehicle you are driving in may actually be stationary. Here you have to assess the strength and deformation of the car itself. Likewise, the car would move forward, so the force goes in the same direction as the car’s acceleration.
It should be noted that in a rear-facing CRS, the head, the most vulnerable area, is positioned in the center of the vehicle, away from the point of impact. Indeed, at the moment of impact, the head (with its normal weight) tends to move but the force is counteracted by the forward movement of the car. For this reason, the movement suffered by the child’s head is less than in a front impact if the child is facing the direction of travel.
It should also be noted that, in many cases, a rear impact is often subsequently accompanied by a frontal impact against another vehicle, fence or tree. In both cases, the child would be better protected with a rear-facing CRS.
Can a child travel in a CRS with a coat on?
No, before placing the child in the car seat we must remove the coat, otherwise we are providing false support for the child. The harness must be properly fastened. In fact, we should only be able to introduce two fingers into the space between the harness and the child’s body.
If the child is put into the seat with their coat on, although we do the same checks, the fit of the harness will not be the same. The child’s body could slide inside the coat and, moreover, the coat’s bulkiness means that the harness is actually too loose and we could mistakenly think that the harness is fitting more tightly than it is.
Can I use a child seat with a support leg in any car?
No, a child restraint with support leg cannot be installed in all cars. The car floor should be able to withstand the pressure that the leg could exert on its reduced surface area. Therefore it is extremely important to first find out if the child car seat and the car are compatible.
The support leg is an anti-rotation system used with seats in Group 0+ and I, for both rear-facing and forward-facing seats. It is an adjustable metal leg which protrudes from the lower part of the seat’s base and keeps the seat fixed at a distance from the floor, preventing the seat from tipping forward. The floor should be strong enough to support the leg and its weight.
Child restraint system manufacturers offer a list of car models for which this system is compatible and can be used completely safely.
Can ISOFIX anchors be installed in a car that does not have them?
ISOFIX anchors are welded to the chassis of the vehicle, meaning they are included in the factory, and they are not a separate piece or accessory that can be added later. Bear in mind that these anchors must fulfil a series of technical requirements, all of which are assessed, including their positioning. Furthermore, they should be duly approved.
Is it dangerous for a child to be in a child car seat without being properly secured in it?
This is particularly true in winter because of bulky clothing, or on short journeys, when it can be tempting to simply place the child in the child restraint system without fastening it properly. By failing to secure them properly in the seat we are making a very serious mistake since the child could fly out of the seat if there is any sharp braking or a road traffic accident.
The harness or belt is responsible for restraining the child in the car seat if it should be necessary. We recommend that you check out our article entitled ‘This is why a tightly-fitting harness is a safe harness’ and the different ways to secure the child.
As of when is it compulsory for children under 125 cm to use a booster seat with a backrest?
This is a topic that is generating a lot of confusion. Nevertheless, it should be borne in mind that in this case we are talking about approval and that the use of backless booster seats will not be prohibited until this is included in the Traffic Regulations or indicated in Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness regulations.
In 2017, changes to R44/04, which affects the approval of group II booster seats (15-25 kg), came into force. Manufacturers can only get approval for booster seats in this weight group if they have a backrest, i.e., booster seats in Group 3 (from 22 to 36 kg).
In short, it is recommended that children up to 125 cm should use a booster with a backrest even if this is not compulsory, as the legislation change affects approval and does not yet ban the use of backless booster seats.
Are boosters with backrests better?
A car seat with a backrest reduces the risk of head injury in a side impact by six times compared to a backless booster seat, according to a recent study.
CRS with backrests offer greater side protection, as during an impact the child is kept in the seat at all times, thus avoiding the child directly impacting against the side of the vehicle. Furthermore, they incorporate a guide for the seat belt to ensure that it is in the right position.
You can see this in this video.
Do I have to buy a new booster after the latest regulatory changes?
Not at the moment. Until the Dirección General de Tráfico or the Ministry of Industry makes this compulsory in their regulations and standards, you can continue to use a properly approved backless booster.
However, if you are going to buy a new one, we advise you to buy one with backrest for greater security.
What is the best booster seat for my child?
This depends on the physical characteristics of your child. The important thing is that the belt fits snugly against their body. Some young children may be very tall and therefore may skip a group and go directly to a backless booster, or older children may be shorter and need to spend more time in the various car seats.
It is very important not to prematurely transfer the child to a seat that does not correspond to their height or weight.
At Fundación MAPFRE we recommend approved boosters with backrests. When in doubt, the best option is to purchase the CRS at a specialist store.
How should the child sit on the booster seat?
- The upper part of the seat belt has to go over the middle of the sternum and collar bone, without resting too close to the neck.
- The top of the child’s head and the headrest must be at the same height.
- The lower or pelvic strap of the seat belt should go over the hip bones, not over the child’s stomach area.
- The child must be able to sit, bending their legs comfortably.
You can see all of this in our infographic ‘Correctly restraining a child in a booster seat (961 KB)‘.
When do I know that my child can sit in a chair in the next group up?
The most important factors for changing seats are the age and, especially, the size of the child. Check whether the child fits within the chair or if it is too small for them. The most important factor is the child’s height: In no case must the child’s head protrude from the backrest and headrest of the chair. If the headrest is height adjustable, you can push it up to its highest point.
Weight is a reference in terms of the chair’s strength (in other words, if the child is heavy for that car seat, in the event of an accident its structure may not withstand the forces and break).
Remember that children up to two years of age should ride facing the rear, although it is advisable for them to stay in the rear-facing position until they are four years old if possible, as this is how they are best protected in the event of a head-on collision.
Should we get rid of child car seats approved under the R44 standard?
We ought to clarify that we are referring to R44/04, given that the two versions of this standard, ECE R44/01 and R44/02, were banned in the summer of 2008. In Spain, child car seats approved under R44/03 are also no longer allowed to go on sale.
It should be noted that ECE R44 dates from 1982 and has undergone various modifications in terms of its tests and requirements. This is how we have arrived at the latest version, R44/04.
In order for a child restraint system to be sold in Europe it has to pass the approval tests of one of the two approval standards currently in force. This demonstrates that the product is safe and meets minimum security requirements.
On the other hand, we should also take the age of the chair into account, since they do not last forever. In fact, some child seat manufacturers advise against using seats after 5 or 6 years of use.
Can I wash the cover of my child's seat?
In general, yes, you can wash it, but you should read the instructions from the chair’s manufacturer for the specific model you have. You can also look for the label that will be sewn on the inside of the textile cover of the chair, very similar to the ones on clothes, with washing symbols.
Most chairs have covers that can be removed and washed in cold water with a mild detergent (to avoid discoloration). Also check the chair’s instruction manual for how to remove the cover, which may be fastened with elastic, Velcro, press studs or something similar.
What do I do if my car does not have ISOFIX fittings?
Well, you don’t have to worry. There are many models of child seats, of different types and for different ages, designed to be fastened with the seat belt. There are also chairs that, even though they have ISOFIX fittings, can be fastened using a seat belt.
There are really hardly any differences in the safety that the chair provides, whether it is fastened with ISOFIX or fastened with a belt, as long as you make sure that it is correctly installed. Read the chair’s fitting instructions carefully, pass the belt through the intended place and above all, after attaching it to the buckle, tighten it as much as possible so that the chair is held without any slack (this is very important).
Can I fit a CRS with a two-point belt?
The manufacturer usually specifies whether the seat can be fastened with a two-point belt. Three-point seat belts always provide greater safety.
However, Group II and III booster seats and cushions should never be fitted with two-point belts, as these exert pressure on the child, while providing less safety.
At present, there are no products on the market that are fitted using a two-point belt, and for some products this configuration IS ONLY PERMITTED ON AIRCRAFT.
My child unclips their harness, what can I do?
As with any other unwanted behavior, the answer is education. You must be patient and at the same time be firm (which is not the same as getting angry), and explain to the child that they should not remove the harness because then they will not be safe in the car. Explaining clearly and simply why the child should be restrained helps the child better accept what they are being told.
You can reinforce this habit by showing them that you also put on and fasten your seatbelt yourself, or that other children wear it and do not unfasten it (remember that children imitate what they see).
With a little perseverance, the child will get used to it. It is important that you, and all the other members of the family, are constant in this. Whenever the child gets into the car they must always wear their harness. If it turns out that sometimes they wear it and sometimes they don’t (or, for example, that they put it on when they are with you but not when they go in their grandparents’ car), the child will not understand and it will be very difficult for them to get into the good habit of putting it on and keeping it correctly and properly fastened.
Are anti-escape or avoidance systems recommended?
We believe that anti-escape or avoidance systems should be used in extreme cases where it is impossible to keep the child in the desired position for their safety. Many CRS incorporate options for this and offer methods for fastening the child in.
It is important that they do not interfere with the seat buckle and that they do not modify any other part of it. They are all designed to act in the event of an accident.
We remind you that child restraint systems must be designed in such a way that it allows the child to be fastened in or removed quickly and easily. In this respect, additional restraint systems reduce the speed with which a child may be both fastened in and released.
If you do use one, it must be properly approved. We recommend that you ask the manufacturer whether it is appropriate to incorporate a system with these characteristics.
What is a Top Tether?
It’s an anchoring system that complements the ISOFIX system. The two arms of the ISOFIX system hold the base of the child’s seat to the seat of the car, but this does not prevent the seat from tipping over in the event of sudden braking or deceleration.
This is why a third support point must be provided. In front-facing car seats this is usually a Top Tether. It is a strap, typically seatbelt-like, with a hook-and-loop fastener to attach it to a specific anchor point in the car. It must be securely fastened and tightened.
Depending on the car, this anchor point, essentially a ring, may be in one place or another, most commonly on the back of the seat back, although it could also be on the parcel shelf, on the roof or on the floor of the trunk.
Is a chair with a harness or a chair with a shield (or cushion) better?
In principle, one system is not better than the other, it depends more on the specific design of each one (for example, on whether the harness straps are wider or narrower). Tests generally show that in the case of forward-facing car seats the force on a child’s neck is somewhat lower in shielded seats than in seats with a harness.
However, we should not forget that it is really best for the child to travel in the rear-facing position for as long as possible, as this is when the force on the child’s neck is lowest (up to four times less).
How do I know if a harness is tightened sufficiently?
Ideally, the harness should be taut, with no slack. We recommend you read the following article: ‘These are the reasons why a tight harness is a safe harness.’
If there is any slack (even if only a few millimeters), the occupant’s body will move this distance before the belt then holds the occupant in place in the event of braking or a collision. The result is that the harness itself will cause injury, and it will also work incorrectly.
We know that a harness is tight enough when we can only slide a couple of fingers under it.
Finally, we must take into account the importance of placing the child in the seat without a coat that could mean the harness is not fitted properly.
Should I change the car seat if my baby's head sticks out of the CRS and they are rear facing?
Some models of approved car seats are available in which children can travel in a rear-facing position up to 13 kg and others up to 18 kg, and 25 kg or 105 cm. The latter are the seats with the most legroom, allowing the child to be carried facing the rear up to the age of 3 or 4. A child should be kept in this type of seat until it reaches the maximum weight indicated or until the child’s head protrudes above the top of the seat.
The child’s head must rest safely and comfortably on the back of the chair with the harness or seat belt adjusted to shoulder height. If the head goes above the top of the headrest, it is time to switch chairs to a higher group.
I don't really understand the difference between the current car seats and the new i-Size chairs.
The most important change is in the approval procedure. Previously a frontal crash test and a rear-collision crash test were carried out, but with under the new regulations a lateral crash test must also be performed.
A very important change is that it is now compulsory for children to travel in a rear-facing position up to 15 months of age, which was previously only a recommendation.
When it comes to choosing a child seat for your child, something else has changed: whereas there used to be several groups depending on the weight of the child, these groups have now disappeared and you simply have to look at the heights for which the seat is suitable. In other words, now choosing a chair is similar to choosing an item of clothing, and you have to take into account the size of the child.
What should I look for when buying a car seat? The weight, age or height of my child?
The main criteria should be the age and height of the child. The age, because you should wait to use a forward-facing child restraint system for as long as possible. With the new European i-Size regulation at least until the age of 15 months the car seat must be rearward facing, although it is better to wait until the child is 2 years old and whenever possible to wait until they are 4 years old.
Height is also very important because the seat must be suitable for the size of the child. In no case should the head protrude from the back or headrest of the chair, because then it will not be properly supported in the event of an accident, and neck injuries may be suffered.
Weight must also be taken into account, but this is a complementary criterion. This is related to the resistance of the car seat. If the child weighs more than the limit for the chair (36kg), it may not fulfill its preventive functions in the event of an accident.
Is it safer for the child to travel facing backwards or forwards?
Looking towards the rear is the safest position, because the entire back of the seat absorbs the force of a collision. When facing forward, only the small contact areas between the occupant’s body and the seat belt or harness bear the brunt of the impact.
In the case of babies and young children, the neck is one of the most fragile parts of their body (which is why babies’ heads must be continuously supported when being held), so sitting facing the rear is much safer in the event of sharp braking or an accident, as long as the seat allows this.
A practical tip: check the instruction manual for the child seat or ask the child seat manufacturer directly if you have any doubts about the positioning of the seat according to the size of your child.
It is striking, for example, that in the child seats that score best in independent comparisons by European automobile clubs and consumer associations, the child rides in a rearward-facing position.
You can find more information about this topic by visiting our other highlights on our website.
In 2011, Fundación MAPFRE carried out an exhaustive review of international evidence and recommendations in relation to the position of the child seat (installed facing forward or backward). The main conclusions were that:
- Rear-facing seats are much safer than forward-facing seats.
- Children should ride in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible. This prevents certain injuries that may occur even when using forward-facing seats and that do not occur with rear-facing seats.
- As a baby grows and their car seat gets too small, you should change it for a larger one, but one which still allows them to travel in a rear-facing position.
Children should travel facing the rear, in line with the Nordic practice that has been shown to be so effective in real accidents, up to the age of 3 or 4.
I can't believe that children are comfortable if they ride facing the back of the car. Aren't they cramped and uncomfortable?
First of all, bear in mind the fact that the various studies, laboratory tests and crash tests have shown that riding in a rearward-facing position is safer for children, especially younger ones.
In fact, with the new i-Size standard for CRS, rear-facing child restraints are compulsory until at least 15 months of age.
When there is a sudden, sharp, strong deceleration, the head, neck and back are completely supported by the backrest of the chair, diminishing the pressure to which they are subjected, and reducing the risk of injury (e.g., to the neck and cervical spine).
When children are young there are usually no space problems. When they grow a little they can also travel facing backwards with their legs bent. They are not uncomfortable. If you look at the daily lives of children, they spend hours playing and distracted while squatting or sitting cross-legged. There is no major problem.
How long should they ride in a rear-facing seat?
Fundación MAPFRE recommends that children use rear-facing seats for as long possible as it has been demonstrated that they are much safer.
This position gives children greater protection for the head and neck in a collision situation than if they were facing forward. In the event of a collision, a child under the age of four in a front-facing seat is much more likely to suffer injuries to these two delicate areas than if they are in a rear-facing seat. In fact, putting children in rear-facing seats can reduce the risk of serious injury by up to 80%.
If the child’s feet touch the seat of the vehicle, the child restraint system may be inadequate for the child’s height. You should consult the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure correct use.
Do baby car seats also have to be rear-facing?
Indeed, laboratory tests and crash tests have shown that rearward-facing is safer for children, especially the younger they are. In fact, under the new i-Size child restraint standard, child restraints must be rear-facing until at least 15 months of age. We recommend they travel in a rear-facing position for as long as possible.
Is an ISOFIX chair better or a normal one?
The standard system is where the seat is secured using the car’s own seat belt, which is passed through slots, tightened and buckled up.
The ISOFIX system is a slightly newer system that uses specific anchor points on the underside of the seat back. Not all cars are fitted with these, although in general they are becoming increasingly common in new cars.
The advantage of the ISOFIX system is that the seat can be installed more easily and it is more difficult to fit it incorrectly or anchor it wrongly, a problem that occurred all too often in the past, and which detracts from or negates the intended safety of the child restraint system.
Whatever the child seat, it is important that you read the installation instructions carefully, be clear about how it is positioned and fastened, and that it is perfectly anchored. The chairs usually have an additional anchor point or extra support to prevent them tipping over if the driver brakes sharply: don’t forget about this.
What happens if I get into a taxi with my child?
Exceptionally, in Spain the General Traffic Regulations do not oblige children under 12 years old and whose are not yet 1.35 m tall to use a child restraint system, as long as the taxi is travelling in an urban area.
Remember that under no circumstances may the child travel in the front passenger seat. Although it is not compulsory, you can take your seat with you and ask the taxi driver to install it on a rear seat. They should not complain or add any surcharges.
Outside populated areas, on main roads or highways, it is compulsory for the child to use an approved child safety seat.
Can I buy a single chair that will fit my child for as many years as they need it?
Unfortunately the answer is no.
Child car restraint manufacturers try to create products that are as versatile and adaptable as possible, with extendable systems or padding elements that can be removed or added, so that the seat can be used for several years, but even so there is no one seat that fits all ages, from 0 to 12 years.
Remember that the primary purpose of a child restraint system is that it is adapted to the age and size of the child, so that it can properly restrain and protect them. Since the child is going to grow and change, the chair has to do this too, so we have no other choice than to change the chair.
There are child seats at all price points, but even so, it is true that there is a financial cost that cannot be underestimated, especially if you have several children, and if you have to buy several seats as the child grows. You have to think of this, not as an expense, but as a necessity for the safety of your child.
Do child seats go out of date?
Yes, since they are usually built from plastic materials that, with time or exposure to sunlight, can lose their properties and become brittle.
Some child seat manufacturers recommend not using seats that are more than 4 or 6 years old, or pre-used. In case of any doubt, consult the manual for your child seat.
How do I know when a child seat is too small and I need another one?
Fundamentally, you have to look at two factors: the child’s weight and height.
The main parameter is weight: the seats are classified into groups based on the weight of the children who can use them. A child should never use a child seat if they are more than the maximum weight indicated on the seat: the danger of the seat breaking in the event of an accident is too high.
You also have to take into account their height: the child’s head must rest safely and comfortably on the back of the seat. If the crown (or top of the child’s head) is higher than the top edge of the seat back, then it is time to change it and use a larger seat or one from a higher group.
Age is a less important parameter, especially since there can be considerable differences in weight and height between children of the same age. But always remember that until the baby is 1 year old and weighs at least 9 kg, they must travel in a rear-facing position.
The following table shows an approximate relationship between the child’s weight and age:
|Group 0||Up to 10 kg||Up to approximately 9 months old|
|Group 0+||Up to 13 kg||Up to approximately 15 months old|
|Group I||From 9 to 18 kg||From 8 months to approximately 3 or 4 years old|
|Group II||From 15 to 25 kg||From approximately 3 up to 7 years old|
|Group III||From 22 to 36 kg||From approximately 6 up to 12 years old.|
The following table indicates approximately when it is necessary to change the child seat:
|Seat type (group)||It has become small when:|
|Rear-facing baby chair (group 0 or 0+)||The maximum weight indicated on the approval label has been reached OR the top of the baby's head is less than two centimeters from the top edge of the seat.|
|Forward-facing child seat with a five-point harness (Group I)||The maximum weight indicated on the approval label has been reached OR the shoulders are above the highest slots through which the harness exits the seat back OR the child's head protrudes above the child seat and the vehicle does not have a headrest.|
|Booster seat with a backrest (group II or III)||The maximum weight indicated on the approval label has been reached OR the child's head protrudes above the back of the booster seat and the vehicle does not have a headrest.|
If the baby is traveling in a group 0 or 0+ infant car seat and outgrows it before it is one year old, you should purchase a convertible seat from group 0 and I; this type of seat is larger and allows you to continue carrying the baby facing backwards, which is essential at least until the baby is twelve months old and weighs more than 9 kg and, in general, is safer and recommended for as long as it can be done (remember that the weight limit indicated by the manufacturer must not be exceeded).
Can I continue to use chairs approved under the ECE R44/03 standard?
Find all the information about the new regulations here.
Beyond what is allowed legally, the age of the CRS must be taken into account. Today all seats are sold are under the latest two standards. Remember that with the passage of time and use the materials cease to be as effective. The lifespan of a CRS is approximately 6 years.
Can any child seat be used in any car?
According to the approval regulations, “universal” seats are those that use a 3-point seat belt to attach securely to the car. This implies, since all cars have a 3-point belt, that universal seats can be installed in almost all vehicles.
Some child seats are of the “ semi-universal” type, meaning that they have been approved for certain vehicle models. The instruction manuals for this type of car seat contain a list of vehicles in which they can be used.
In the case of ISOFIX seats, to be “universal” they must have a third anchor point or support in the form of a strap that is attached to the rear of the vehicle. ISOFIX seats whose third anchor point consists of a leg that rests on the vehicle floor are of the “semi-universal” type. The third anchor point helps to substantially reduce the forward rotation, or pitch, of the child seat in the event of a frontal collision.
Attention! Even when a child seat is “universal”, it may be incompatible with certain specific vehicle models. This can happen, for example, if the child seat is very large and the space in the rear seat of the vehicle is very small; or if the highly contoured shape of the vehicle seat prevents the child seat being fixed to the vehicle seat in a firm and stable manner. For this reason, it is highly advisable to do a test installation in your vehicle before purchasing any child seat.
Which is the best seat for my child?
One that adjusts to the weight and height of the child, is highly rated in independent crash test and usability comparisons conducted by European automobile clubs and consumer associations, is easy to use and, thanks to all of the above, can be used on all journeys, however short they may be.
Where is the safest place to fit the child seat?
The central rear seat is the safest option due to the fact that is furthest from any potential impact zone, providing that the child seat can be correctly installed in said seat.
Remember that all minors up to and including a height of 135 cm traveling in a vehicle, in addition to riding in a child restraint system appropriate to their size and weight, must sit in the back seats of the vehicle, except:
- If the vehicle does not have any back seats.
- If all the back seats are already occupied by other children with the same characteristics.
- If it is impossible to install any kind of child restraint system on the rear seats.
Only in these cases can children occupy the front seat of the vehicle but always using an officially approved restraint system suitable for their size and weight. If we are talking about a rear-facing CRS, we must always deactivate the airbag beforehand.
Another exception to the general rule is when the child is already tall enough to use the adult seat belt, but the vehicle has a two-point seat belt in the center rear seat: in this case it is better for the child to occupy a side seat with a three-point belt, since the protection offered by the three-point belt is much greater than the one offered by the two-point belt.
If the central rear seat does not have a headrest and the child is tall enough to need one, it would also be safer to use a side rear seat with a headrest.
In terms of the side rear seats, the right seat is safer than the left, given that, firstly, it means that the child can get in and out of the car away from traffic and, secondly, because the driver can see the child better when he or she is sitting on the opposite side and not behind the driver. In the case of forward-facing child seats, the driver can see the child better through the rear-view mirror when the child is seated on the middle rear seat.
Our recommendation: if you have a seat equipped with the ISOFIX fitting system, the general recommendation is to install this in one of the seats of the vehicle equipped with this system, in order to benefit from the advantages offered by ISOFIX, including easier installation, lower risk of incorrect installation and greater safety, in general terms, in the event of an accident.
Does it matter if the child sits in their car seat with their backpack on?
This is very dangerous.
A study conducted in 2009 by the automobile clubs RACE and RACC and by several European consumer associations showed that during a frontal collision at only 64 km/h, the weight of the backpack is multiplied by 40, and a 5 kg backpack becomes a 200 kg slab that can crush the child’s spine and cause thoracic injuries, rib fractures and internal injuries.
In a side crash, serious injuries can also occur if the child is wearing a backpack. As the child would be seated in a very forward position due to the backpack, the sides of the child seat would no longer protect them during the crash. Both their thorax and head would hit the vehicle’s door trims and the probability of serious injury would be very high.
This is extremely important: never sit a child in their car seat when they have a backpack on.
In the event of an accident, can toys and other objects in the car be dangerous?
They are very dangerous.
In the event of an accident, the resultant weight of any occupant or object inside the vehicle is multiplied by 20 or even 40. That means a baby weighing 10 kilograms would effectively weigh between 200 and 400 kg: in this way, a gesture of affection such as carrying a baby in your arms can become deadly, since it is totally impossible to hold the child during a collision.
In the same way, a toy weighing one kilogram could be thrown around in the event of an accident and hit a baby or child with a force equivalent to 20 or 40 kilograms, potentially causing serious injury.
Please remember: under no circumstances should heavy or rigid toys be carried in the passenger compartment, only light and soft toys may be carried.
Of course, luggage must always be positioned in such a way that it is impossible for it to break into the passenger compartment. In vehicles without an adequate separation or physical barrier between the boot and the passenger compartment, there have been cases of baby carriages that have been thrown out of the trunk and have burst into the cabin causing serious head injuries to children who were traveling correctly in their car seats.
My child falls asleep and his head drops forward: is this dangerous?
In the case of older children, and according to the Swedish automobile manufacturer Volvo, the fact that the child’s head is tilted to one side when they fall asleep is not dangerous or uncomfortable for them.
However, it should be emphasized that in the case of babies it can be dangerous for their head to fall forward (chin to sternum), as their airways could be obstructed. If this happens, and always following the seat manufacturer’s instructions, it is necessary to adjust the tilt of the baby seat.
Please remember: if you want to prevent the head and neck from forming an excessive angle to the side, the best advice is to adjust the width of the headrest of the child seat or booster seat, if it has a backrest and headrest.
How can I find out if my child is able to use an adult seat belt?
In Spain, and according to current legislation, children must use a child seat until they are at least 135 cm tall.
On the other hand, group III booster seats are usually designed and approved to be used by children up to 150 cm in height, as long as they weigh no more than 36 kg, so do not rush to stop using the seat as soon as they reach 135 cm.
The best thing for their safety is that children use a child seat until the adult belt fits properly. An improperly fitted adult belt can seriously injure your child, even at a moderate speed.
A seat belt fits correctly when the upper part passes over the collar bone and breastbone, while the lower part rests on the upper part of the hipbones.
If the belt goes over the neck, or very close to it, or over the stomach instead of the hipbones, then it does not fit properly and it is dangerous.
Also, the child’s head should be protected by the vehicle’s headrest: if the headrest is too high, or the vehicle seat lacks one, it would be safer for the child to travel in a booster seat equipped with its own headrest.
Another additional criterion is that, when sitting directly on the seat or the vehicle, the child’s knees must reach the edge of the seat, so that their legs bend at the knees comfortably. If the legs do not bend in this position, the child tends to “slide” downwards, with the consequent risk of slipping under the belt or harness (an effect known as submarining), as shown in the following illustration: in these cases it is clear that the child needs a booster seat.
Your child can wear an adult seat belt if ALL of these conditions apply:
- The child can sit with their entire back against the back of the vehicle seat.
- With the entire back supported by this backrest, the legs bend comfortably and are not “straight” with the calves resting on the edge of the seat.
- The child can maintain that position throughout the entire trip, without “slipping” or sliding down.
- The upper part of the belt (upper or thoracic strap) crosses the collar bone halfway between the shoulder and the neck, and never close to the neck.
- The lower part of the belt (lower or pelvic strap) is below the abdomen and supported by the upper part of the hip bones.
- The vehicle seat has a headrest that protects the child’s neck in case of a rear collision
When should I switch from the harness to the belt to restrain a child in the CRS?
It is recommended to switch from the harness to the belt as late as possible, however, we must comply with the manufacturer’s instructions. If we are dealing with a time of change, we must check whether the belt is already at its maximum size and whether it is actually too tight.
It is best to follow the instructions in the manufacturer’s manual.
We recommend the article ‘Here are the reasons why a tight harness is a safe harness’
What vehicle technology can I use to ensure my child's safety?
Among such technological advances, many new vehicles have rear obstacle sensors and a rear camera. Both systems alert us to the fact that there is an object or person behind the vehicle. These systems exist to try to prevent us running over someone when we are distracted or making careless mistakes.
We should also highlight the Autonomous Emergency Braking and Obstacle/Pedestrian Detection System or AEB.
If the driver of the vehicle does not brake in the presence of a pedestrian or other obstacle, the system automatically stops the car. In addition, the system turns on the hazard warning lights, closes the windows if they are open and tightens the seat belts.
Another extremely useful system is the unbuckled seat belt alert. This alerts us to the fact that one of the passengers has not fastened their seatbelt. There are also advanced frontal airbags, which can detect the type of accident and the size of the passenger, as well as side airbags.
Another very important device installed in cars are the ISOFIX anchor points, which help to ensure that child restraint systems are correctly installed, as well as automatic door and window locking systems, which activate either after you have been driving for a few kilometers or have just got in the car. This prevents children from opening the doors and rear windows. Furthermore, many rear windows can only be wound halfway down thereby preventing children from leaning out of them.
Almost every vehicle on the market today has a means to open the trunk from inside the car. This is particularly useful if anyone is trapped inside it after an accident.
We recommend you read the article: Safety features in vehicles to help protect children.
Is the side airbag dangerous for children?
Side airbags are not dangerous for children if they are properly seated when traveling.
On the other hand, since side airbags are designed to protect an adult, in certain cases the protection that side airbags offer to children can be very reduced. For example, in the case of curtain airbags, these are usually too high for children, so it is still possible for their head to hit the door during a side impact. On the other hand, the other main type of side airbags, those designed to protect the thorax of adult occupants in side impacts, can be too harsh on the fragile thorax of children.
The conclusion of all this is that the protection of children in the event of an impact on the side of the vehicle must be based on the child seat itself and, for this reason, it is necessary that the child seat to be used or purchased has a good overall rating in the independent comparisons carried out by European automobile clubs and consumer associations. To achieve a good rating, the seat must be equipped with side protection and large headrests. Booster seats usually lack such side protection and are therefore no longer recommended; however, a booster, in general terms, is much safer than letting a child wear a seat belt too early.
As stated, side airbags are less effective for children than for adults. For this reason, it should be emphasized that these airbags should only be considered as a complement to the protection offered by a good child seat that is big enough and equipped with padded side “wings”.
On the other hand, it is important to ensure that no objects such as clothes, toys, and so on, are placed between the area where the side airbag is installed and the child or their car seat. This could also be dangerous.
A side airbag could be dangerous when the child’s head is positioned excessively close to the airbag opening area. This could happen, for example, if a child falls asleep on their booster cushion and leans toward the door, or when not seated correctly in the car or lying in the back seat.
Side airbags are less effective for children than for adults. For this reason, these airbags should only be considered a complement to the protection offered by a good child seat, which must be large enough and equipped with padded side “wings”.
THE CHILD’S HEAD SHOULD NEVER BE LOCATED TOO CLOSE TO THE SIDE AIRBAG OPENING AREA
What is safer, a carrycot or a rear-facing baby seat?
These are restraint systems covered by the child seat approval regulations, so both types of systems initially offer considerable protection to babies.
However, BEWARE, keep in mind that NOT ALL carrycots that are sold are approved for use in the car.
In a bassinet or carrycot, the baby travels lying down, in a very natural and suitable position for the smallest babies or newborns, but in some car seats of this type the baby is only fastened in with a belt placed across their stomach, so that, in the event of a side impact, the baby is less well restrained. Some models of bassinets and carrycots on the market have harnesses or “Y” shaped belts (with two straps that pass over the shoulders and a third between the legs) that significantly improve protection in the event of a side impact. When choosing a bassinet or carrycot, look for those with the best ratings in the independent comparisons regularly carried out by European automobile and consumer clubs.
In a frontal impact, on the other hand, the “rear-facing” position is also safer than lying down.
Finally, a bassinet or carrycot may be a preferable option when it is not advisable to carry babies in a semi-seated position for a long time, such as in the case of premature babies or those respiratory problems, for example.
I have heard that removing the backrest from a booster seat can be dangerous, is that true?
Some booster seats can be used both with and without a backrest. In other words, in some restraint systems it is possible to remove the backrest and turn the booster seat into a simple booster cushion. Without a backrest that offers side protection, the child’s chest or head could slam violently against the car door in a side collision, for example, at an intersection. For this reason, and in light of the results of independent comparisons carried out by European motorist clubs and consumer groups, it is not recommended to remove the backrest or, more generally, to use a booster without a backrest.
In any case, it is always essential to consult the instruction manual of the child seat to find out if, for a child of a certain weight, the backrest has to be removed or can be kept (some seats have been approved for a certain weight without a backrest, so it would not be safe to use that particular model with it).
Side airbags, on the other hand, offer much less protection for children than a seat with a back that has good lateral protection.
Any of the above-mentioned child restraint systems -both with and without backrests- must have the corresponding approval, which means that they have passed the safety tests required by the current regulations. Some restraint systems, when the backrest is removed, can only be used by older children, so it is necessary to pay attention to the corresponding weight group for use with and without the backrest.
Are the child seat tests from EuroNCAP and car clubs the same?
NO, they are not. The independent child seat tests routinely performed by European motorists and consumer groups are different from the European New Car Assessment Program (EuroNCAP) child car safety evaluation. In this program, which examines different aspects of vehicle safety (including the safety of children riding inside the vehicle), it is the vehicle manufacturer who decides which specific child seats should be installed in their vehicle. This program therefore provides an assessment that is valid only for a specific child seat/vehicle combination, whereas the periodic European motorist and consumer group surveys assess the safety of child seats in general and for a wide range of vehicles. In short, when choosing a child seat, the information offered by European motorist clubs and consumer associations is the most useful: in Spain the bodies that carry out these tests include the Royal Automobile Club of Spain (RACE), the Royal Automobile Club of Catalonia (RACC) and the Consumer and Users Organization (OCU).
In summary, the EuroNCAP program is useful when choosing a safe vehicle model, and motorist and consumer studies are better when choosing a safe child seat.
What is the submarining effect and how can I avoid it?
The submarining effect occurs when a child slips under the harness or seat belt, which can cause the pelvic strap of the harness or belt to press on the soft parts of the child’s abdomen, with the consequent risk of injury.
This submarining effect is normally produced either by the incorrect adjustment of the seat belt (for example when, despite the need for a booster seat or cushion, the child travels directly on the vehicle seat using the adult seat) or when traveling with excessive slack in the harness or belt.
To avoid this submarining effect as much as possible, it is important, as mentioned above, to avoid any slack and to ensure that the child sits as close as possible to the back of the seat (on long journeys, it can be difficult for the child to always sit upright with the back against the backrest, another reason to make frequent rest stops during the journey).
I am going to travel to the US, can I use my child seat in there?
In principle, each country may require child seats to pass certain approval tests, which may be different in different countries. In the case of the US, the approval regulations (the tests that the seat must pass before being put up for sale) are different from those in force in Europe.
This means that a “European” seat that has passed the “European standard” cannot be sold in the US, as it has not passed the US standard (unless it has also been “approved” according to the US standard). And the same happens when using the seat: in order to “legally” use a child seat, it must have been approved for sale according to the approval regulations of that country. Otherwise, we could risk being fined by an agent of the corresponding traffic authority.
However, it is clear that using a child seat is always safer than not using one. For this reason, and with the child’s safety in mind, parents who travel with their child seat from one country to another (for example, from Spain to the USA) should use their own child seat until they can get hold of another seat approved according to the requirements of the country to which they have traveled.
The above situation does not arise within Europe, since the European ECE R44 approval regulation and the new European regulation regarding child safety seats for cars, UN R129 i-Size, which complements (but does not replace) the first one, it is valid throughout the European Union.
What standard should I check when buying a car seat?
The standard that will disappear in 2018 is the ECE R44/04, while the standard that will remain is the ECE R129.
The R44 standard divides the chairs by groups (0, 0+, 1, 2 and 3) according to the weight of the child, while the R129 standard does not consider groups and each chair must indicate for which age range and height of the child is valid.
Basically the new standard uses the criterion that the chair has an adequate size for the child’s size, and that when it is too small, then it is time to move up to another model.
Keep two things in mind:
- i-Size approved seats can only be attached to the car seat using ISOFIX anchors, or a combination of ISOFIX and a seat belt (for example for a booster with backrest), but not only using a seat belt, so if your car does not have ISOFIX fittings, you will not be able to use them.
- We are currently in a transition period and on the market are both car seats approved according to regulation R44/04, as well as those approved according to Regulation 129.
I have bought a chair but I can't get it to sit properly on the seat and it moves a lot, what can I do?
This, unfortunately, can happen. The first and most important thing to do, although it may be late in your specific case, is to make sure you choose a chair that fits on the seat of your car, since due to the design of the seat, some chairs may not adjust well. If necessary, and you are in time, you can return it and exchange it for another one, since it does not serve its purpose (if it is not used and in its original packaging, you should not have any problems).
Very important: slight looseness may be normal, but if the seat moves a lot you should not use it, because its main function, that of restraining the child in the event of sudden braking or an accident, may be compromised and it will not offer the same level of safety. Remember that the chair has to be perfectly assembled, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, with the anchors (or seat belt) tight, well secured and with no slack.
You could try visiting a car manufacturer to see what solution they can suggest for setting up the child seat correctly in that type of seat (or at least tell you which child seats will fit). You can also contact the manufacturer of the seat in case they have an additional platform on which to anchor it, which adapts to slightly special car seats.
Do children get more car sick if they travel in a rear-facing direction?
This depends, but they shouldn’t. In general, this idea is more myth than reality, although it is true that there are children, and also adults, who are much more sensitive and prone to suffering motion sickness when riding in a car (in these complicated cases, if there is no other choice, you can ask your pediatrician for some children’s medication against motion sickness).
Physically, there is no reason for becoming more motion sickness, since the nausea usually originates when the sensation of movement that our brain has through our sight, and the sensation of movement (and acceleration) that our sense of balance has from our hearing, do not match.
If the child is riding backwards, their sense of vision is aware of this, and the sensation of movement is of going backwards, there should be no nausea. In principle, it is more a matter of habit. If the child gets used to travelling in a rear-facing position in the car from when they are a baby, there are usually no problems.
Remember that for children under 4 years of age it is highly recommended that they sit in the opposite direction to the direction of travel as this is safer. Also, according to the new European standard for the approval of i-Size car seats, it is compulsory to ride in the opposite direction (or rear-facing) until the child is at least 15 months old.
It also helps, of course, if you drive smoothly and do not go too fast in curvy areas. Think that as a driver, concentrating on driving while looking straight ahead and holding the steering wheel, you can go fast through a curvy area without feeling motion sick, but passengers (children or adults), who are distracted by other things and who are not holding the steering wheel, will feel nauseous before you do.
Also pay attention to other situations that can cause nausea: For example, the child is doing other things while in the car: playing with a toy or a video game, reading a story, or watching a movie.
The ISOFIX system seems safer to me, but my car does not have it, can I put ISOFIX anchors in my car?
The ISOFIX anchor system is not necessarily safer than securing the chair using the car seat’s own seat belt. The most important thing is that the chair is correctly fitted and fastened down, according to its particular instructions, and that the child uses it and is fastened in properly.
It is true that the ISOFIX anchorages prevent errors in the assembly of the seat, or cases where it may not be properly secured by the belt, and it is even somewhat faster to put in and remove the seat.
If your car does not have ISOFIX anchor `points because it was built a few years ago, the answer that it depends.
Some cars could be designed to carry ISOFIX anchors, but certain versions, or countries, did not add them. Some cars speak of “pre-installation” ISOFIX. Keep in mind the fact that the anchors are directly attached to the steel chassis of the car, the sturdy structure under the seat, they are not “put in” in any way.
Go to an official car garage for your make so that they can check the chassis number of the car.
If they can be fitted, there are manufacturers that market ISOFIX anchor kits with everything necessary to set these up safely, by making some small adaptations to the seat, for example, plastic nozzles that the anchorages can poke through and not remain hidden.
To be completely safe, it is essential for the ISOFIX to be installed perfectly, according to the manufacturer’s instructions (better if this is done in a trusted garage by an experienced mechanic who knows about this assembly). If the car was designed for this, they can also give you an approval certificate, so that you can go to the vehicle inspectorate to legally register the anchor points and avoid any problems.
If the car did not provide in any way for the installation of ISOFIX anchorages, then you will not be able to install them, and if you try to do it in any way as a DIY task, they will not be legal and may not be safe either.
I have noticed that the seat belt is a bit frayed, is it dangerous?
Yes, it can be dangerous, but don’t be alarmed. The seat belt must withstand high stresses when braking, or worse, when an accident occurs (e.g., a crash that triggers the airbag).
Its function is to restrain you, prevent you from being thrown out of the vehicle and hitting certain parts of the car’s interior. This is complemented by the airbag. If the textile of the belt is damaged, with scratches, cuts or frayed areas, it may not withstand these high stresses and could break.
If the damage is very small it is not worrisome, but if the damage is greater, it is. Our advice is that you go to a specialist or your usual trusted garage and ask them. If the belt is damaged, it can be replaced: it is not a complex operation, it does not take much time and it is not very expensive, and remember that it is worth it, because it is for your own safety or that of your children.
Can an extendable belt be attached to the belt to secure the CRS in the car?
Seat belts, as well as child restraint systems, are approved. Adding another item can detract from their effectiveness. In fact, manufacturers advise against using any external element that may influence the seat.
Child restraint systems are subjected to approval tests that guarantee their safety. These test involve the use of seat belts or ISOFIX systems, not seat belt extensions.
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Remember that these elements must be taut and with no slack in order for them to be effective.
In some cases, you can use the vehicle’s own seat belts or the belts provided with a bassinet/carrycot.
What should a car first aid kit contain?
It is not compulsory to carry a first aid kit in the car. Also, if you do want to carry one, it does not need to be very large, or carry everything. In the first instance, in the event of a serious accident, the most important thing is to have materials available to staunch bleeding for as long as necessary until specialized help arrives.
So the must-haves in a car first aid kit are gauze, dressings to stop bleeding, and bandages. To complement these elements, it is good to also carry scissors, tape and latex gloves (and make sure everything is sterile, to avoid infections).
For minor injuries that may arise in everyday life, such as a small cut or scratch, it is useful to carry band-aids of various sizes and a disinfectant (hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, iodine, etc.)
If you have doubts about making your own first aid kit, you can go to a pharmacy or to a center specializing in car parts, where they usually have ready-made kits.
Is it advisable to use the climate control or air conditioning when my child of just a few months is in the car?
Yes, this is okay, but as with almost everything in life, in moderation and adequately adjusted. Extremes are usually never good. Very high or very cold temperatures are neither comfortable nor healthy.
Bear in mind, for example, that in summer the inside of a car parked in the sun can exceed 40 and even 50 degrees Celsius, a temperature that is dangerous for the baby, who could suffer heat stroke and dehydration very quickly. Obviously, then, air conditioning is a good way to maintain a suitable temperature. Consider using the air conditioner at a reasonable, intermediate temperature.
In winter it is not necessary to put the heating on much higher than 18 to 21 degrees Celsius. In summer it is fine at about 24 or 25 degrees, but it is not advisable to lower the temperature below 20 degrees Celsius. What you can and should do is prevent the car’s air vents from directly blowing cold air on the baby, to avoid colds.
Is it better to take my child out of the car when refueling and paying or leaving them sitting inside?
As a general rule, a child should never be left alone in a car, much less with the doors and windows closed.
It is a matter of logic and safety. Parents are responsible for the safety and well-being of their child at all times, and if you are not there, anything could happen, and you could not do anything about it.
In addition to this, the interior of a car is dangerous for a child who is left alone and locked up because the ventilation is very limited (since the air conditioning is not turned on). In addition, small children cannot roll down a window to breathe fresh air, and in many cars the windows do not actually go down if the car is locked.
Another problem is that children become dehydrated quickly, and the interior of a car, especially in summer, can get very hot. If the child does not have water on hand to drink, and if the child is small they will probably not drink anyway, so the risk is even greater.
Our advice is that you take your child with you when you get out and walk away from the car.