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23rd April 2018

Health visitor blog Car Seat Safety

Car Seat Safety

In line with the nursery’s ‘Family Safety Week’ commencing the 23th April, I thought I would talk about car safety in so far as what information I as a health visitor provide to families based on the government guidelines and the EU safety regulations.

Car safety is of paramount importance and this is echoed by the Child Accident Trust (2018) that identified that approximately 10 children under the age of 12 yrs in the UK are killed or injured as passengers in a car every day.

Car Seats

Seat belts are designed to keep individuals in their seat with the aim of reducing the risk of injury during an accident (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA), 2017). That said, they are not intended for children as they do not fit appropriately across their body. Legally children under the age of 12 yrs of age or who are less than 135 cm in height, must travel in a child restraint (Gov.Uk, 2018). To ensure maximum safety it is necessary to use an appropriate car seat that is correctly fitted to the car.

It is advised that infants should only be placed in a car seat for travel purposes and not for longer than necessary (BLISS, 2018).

With preterm babies and the risks associated with them travelling in car seats, often babies being discharged from neonatal units will undergo a ‘car seat challenge’ whereby the preterm infants will be assessed for cardiorespiratory stability in their car seat before going home.

What is an appropriate car seat?

An appropriate car seat would be one that conforms to the UN standard ECE Regulation ECE R 44/03 or ECE R 44/04 ( marked on the label on the seat) or approved under R129 ( also known as i-size). The  EU safety regulations have been enforced to enable ease of fitting , better car seat protection for side impact and maintaining children rear facing for longer. Car seats can be selected based on either the child’s weight or height.

Weight based car seats use ISOfix car fitting points and encourage children to remain rear facing until 15 months (ROSPA, 2018). Car seats designed in relation to a infant’s weight are split into 3 categories:

  1. Group 0+ are rear facing and suitable for infants up to a weight of 13kg  (approximately 15 months)
  2. Group 1 are forward facing seats suitable for children between 91-18kg (up to approximately 4.5 yrs of age)
  3. Group 2/3 are high backed booster seats suitable for children from 15-36kg (approximately 3-12 years).

* New regulations have been introduced meaning booster cushions for children shorter than 125cm/less than 22kg (approximately 4-6 years of age) can no longer be made, with the aim of phasing them out completely (ROSPA, 2017). Second hand car seats should also not be used due to the risk of them previously been involved in an accident and therefore not providing adequate safety (ROSPA, 2017).

Fitting a car seat

It is really important to ensure a car seat is fitted correctly. There are licensed support centres that can provide advice on the appropriate seat according to the car model (InCarSafetyCentre,2018). It is advised that the safest position for a child to travel is in the back of the car. If a chid is placed in the front passenger seat, airbags have to be deactivated (GOV.UK, 2018).

The ROSPA (2018) also state that a child’s clothing can also affect how securely the seat harness fits and it advises against wearing coats or bodysuits in the car.

It is vital that when you buy a car- seat, you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for installation as it will vary from car-seat to car-seat.