Children in the car: transport safely

In collaboration with Chicco

One of the first things to do immediately after the birth of a child is the urgency of getting a car seat. Article 172 of the Highway Code, which regulates the transport of children in vehicles, in fact provides that from the first days of life, children traveling by car must be compulsorily protected by adopting suitable restraint systems (child seats or adapters) . In particular, children under 150 cm in height must always be secured with regularly approved restraint devices suitable for their weight and height: up to a certain height, only car seats for children should be used, as well as being able to use them. also adapters, also called risers or backsplashes.

The only exceptions concern cars used for the public transport service (for example taxis), in which children with a height of less than 150 centimeters can circulate without child seats only if they are positioned in the back seat and always accompanied by a passenger of not less than 16 years old, and vintage cars that do not have seat belts, in which it is however forbidden to carry children under the age of 3.

Car seat: the 2017 legislation

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In 2017, the two car seat regulations currently in force - ECE R44 / 04 and ECE R129 - underwent some additions with the stated aim of increasing the safety of the youngest passengers in the car. Currently, therefore, there are two parallel regulations, both valid:

  • ECE R44 / 04 regulation: this regulation, which classifies car seats based on weight, from January 2017 allows the homologation of the new seats without backrest (boosters or backsplashes) as Group 3, therefore for children over 125 cm . This novelty only concerns the newly developed backless risers. Therefore, the boosters available on the market and approved for Group 2/3 (15-36 kg) can still be sold. Child seats with backrests are the best solution for transporting children because they ensure optimal protection in the event of a side impact and also the correct positioning of the diagonal belt on the child's shoulders. In any case, Group 2/3 car seats without backrest can still be sold.
  • I-Size or R129 standard: entered into force in 2013, classifies child seats based on height and not weight, promotes the use of the Isofix system (which allows you to fix the seat without belts, directly to the car, thus reducing the risk of incorrect installation) and requires installation against the direction of travel at least up to 15 months. From the summer of 2017, the second phase of the legislation concerning child seats with a height between 100 and 135 cm came into force and provides that all car seats approved according to the i-Size legislation are equipped with a backrest.

Before purchasing a child seat in the car it is important to be sure that it is approved according to the ECE-R44 / 04 standard or according to the i-Size or ECE R129 regulations (check the appropriate orange label). The old ECE R44 approvals / 01 or 02 have been banned for some time. On the label there are also the words Universal (the seat can be installed on any vehicle) or Semiuniversal (it is necessary to check that your car is included in the list of compatible models supplied with the seat ), the weight of the child, the code, the country and the name of the manufacturer.

Child seats: all types

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The European regulation ECE R44 divides the different types of child seats that are used to protect our children during car journeys into five weight groups:

  • Group 0 car seat: for children weighing less than 10 kg, it concerns the "carrycots", suitable for very small children and, when approved for cars, attached to the rear seat using a safety kit.
  • Group 0+ car seat: includes "eggs", seats designed to follow children from birth up to 13 kg. They are always installed against the direction of travel, deactivating the airbag if present. They can be installed with car seat belts or with the Isofix system, thanks to the special base.
  • Group 1 car seat: for children weighing between 9 kg and 18 kg (approximately 1 to 4 years old). It is mounted in the direction of travel and can be secured with the Isofix system or using the car's seat belts.
  • Group 2/3 car seat: for children weighing between 15 and 36 kg. They are equipped with a backrest that adjusts in height and width, to ensure proper protection and comfort; they have a wide and soft seat for travel in full comfort; ensure the right shoulder and head protection in the event of a side impact.
  • Group 3 car seat: for children weighing between 22 and 36 kg and from a minimum of 125 to a maximum of 150 cm in height (approximately 6 to 12 years). These are boosters, backsplashes or cushions without armrests to be used on the vehicle seat to increase the height of the child while seated so that, even in this case, he can use the normal seat belts.

Car seats approved for multiple groups that follow the child's growth by adapting to different sizes are available on the market.

The first phase of the i-Size regulation (ECE R129) provides for the approval of child seats for children from birth up to 105 cm (approximately up to 4 years of age). This first phase can be summarized in these five points:

  • classifies the seats based on the height of the child and not based on weight, as in ECE R44 / 04;
  • Promotes the use of the ISOFIX system, with the aim of reducing the risk of incorrect installation;
  • Involves side impact tests and the use of "Q" series mannequins, equipped with multiple sensors;
  • Provides for installation in the opposite direction of travel for at least 15 months;
  • Guarantees perfect compatibility with i-Size homologated cars and, basically, i-Size car seats conform to almost all cars equipped with ISOFIX hooks.

How to choose the child car seat and how to mount it

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When choosing a car seat for children, you must always check that it is suitable for the weight and height of our puppies. If it were too wide, in fact, it could not perform its safety function well. On the contrary, if the seat was too large. tight, it could cause annoyance and impatience during the car journey.There are three elements that must be taken into consideration: safety first of all, then comfort for the child and ease of installation and use.
Speaking of the first element, it can be said with certainty that all car seats on the market with an orange homologation label are safe, provided of course that the device is installed correctly. Comfort is also essential, because for every trip, whether short or long, it is important that the child is always at ease (in this regard, at the time of purchase, it is better to make sure that the seat is soft and welcoming, that the headrest can be adjusted in height at the same time with the seat belts and that the seat can be reclined. to avoid risks of improper use.

As for the assembly of the seat, however, the rule is always valid that only a seat that is correctly installed is truly safe.The restraint systems for the safety of children in the car must be installed with due calm and tranquility, carefully following the instructions provided by the producer. During the assembly phase, it is advisable to make sure that the seat is perfectly adaptable to the car seat and that there is no space between the seat and the seat. Be careful to tighten the straps so that they fit snugly against the child's body and remember that the diagonal section of the belt (in the case of Group 2/3 seats) must never pass under the arm or behind the back, but must always be adjusted the belts at the right height: neither too high nor too low in relation to the shoulders.

Where to place children in the car: front or back?

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This is the classic question that many mothers and fathers ask themselves: where is it better to place children in the car, in front or behind? The seats of the smallest children (those of group 0+) must be placed in the opposite direction to that of travel: therefore better on the front seat which allows you to always have the baby under sight. In this case it is necessary to deactivate the side airbag. passenger: if the car model does not allow this, the seat must be installed on the rear seat.
As for the car seats of groups 1, 2 and 3, the best place to transport your child is probably the central rear one (because it protects him from any side impacts), but only if the car is equipped with even in that seat belt position. If it does not have it, the safest and most comfortable place for positioning the child is the one on the right side. However, remember that the highway code does not prohibit carrying the child on the front seat, even when it becomes older (groups 1, 2 and 3): in this case the seat must be placed in front of travel with the seat all the way back and the airbag active.

Up to what age should the child seat be used in the car?

The highway code says that "children under 150 centimeters in height must be secured to the seat with a restraint system appropriate to their weight", without mentioning the age of the children. In other words, the years do not count but the age. "height (first of all) and weight.
The question "up to what age should the child seat be used in the car" is therefore answered not with legal rules but with common sense: since it is assumed that when the child reaches 150 centimeters in height, the child is approximately 12 years old, the child seat in the car it is compulsory up to that age. However, if the child reaches 150 centimeters before the age of 12, the obligation lapses and he can travel by car using the normal seat belt of the car, without any booster. Conversely, if a child is already 12 years old but has not yet reached the height of 150 centimeters, he must continue to use an appropriate restraint system.
The same thing obviously applies to all intermediate growth steps classified in the various groups.