Confused by car seats? Mark Bennett, car seat safety expert from BRITAX explains the new regulation called ‘i-Size’ that all parents should know about
To put simply, i-Size is a new regulation for child car seats that will make it easier for parents to choose and install the right seat, making travelling safer for children.
One of the most significant changes parents need to be aware of, is how long a child should remain in a rearward facing car seat. Under existing laws, parents could switch their baby from their rearward facing Group 0/0+ seat into a forward facing Group 1 seat when they reached 9kg or approximately nine months.
The new i-Size regulation means parents will have to keep their baby rearward facing until they are at least 15 months old and the move will be based on the size and age of the child rather than weight. The new length and age classification will help make it easier for parents to check that their child is ready to be moved to the next stage car seat.
The new regulation is also about the reinforcement of ISOFIX seats use, which are easier to fit correctly and safely than those secured with the car seat belt. Only a third of belted seats are fitted correctly which can have serious implications in the event of a crash*. Side impact collisions are one of the most severe types of collisions on the roads** and for car seats to adhere to the new regulations they must pass the newly introduced side impact safety standards.
Why is this regulation coming into force?
Well there are a number of reasons, but in a nutshell, parents are too keen to move their babies forward facing on the premise they believe their child will be happier facing forwards rather than waiting until they have actually outgrown the seat. Parents are also unaware babies are much safer rearward facing in the event of a collision.
Below 13kg a baby’s neck is not yet that strong and keeping your baby rearward facing for as long as possible (up to at least 15 months) will help protect their vulnerable neck in a frontal crash situation.
So much research evidence has built up on this from crash testing that the EU has introduced this new regulation to keep babies rearward facing until 15 months. BRITAX has accompanied and strongly supported the development of i-Size right from the very beginning.
So how does it affect you?
As soon as i-Size approved car seats are on the market parents will be able to choose between a seat that abides by the older ECE R44/04 regulation or i-Size. The current ECE R44/04 regulation is not replaced by i-Size, and instead will continue in tandem until 2018. The introduction of i-Size simply means that consumers now have an extra option when buying a car seat for their baby/toddler.
When should you change to forward facing?
Here are some guidelines on switching:
Don’t do it just because your baby’s feet are pushed against the car’s back seat.
Wait until your baby is closer to, or ideally at, the maximum age (15 months) for her rearward facing seat than the minimum weight (9kg) for the front facing seat.
BUT do move them if their head is protruding over the top of the Group 0/0+ seat. If they outgrow the seat in height but have not reached the minimum weight for a Group 1 seat, you should then invest in a combination Group 0+ & 1 seat. That is simply the safest option.
You can already consider purchasing a combination Group 0+ & 1 seat as your baby’s first car seat from birth. DUALFIX and MAX-FIX from BRITAX will allow your child to travel rearward facing until they reach 18kg
What is the current law when it comes to car seat safety?
The law requires all children to travel in an appropriate child restraint until they reach 135 cm tall or their 12th birthday (UK, NL, DEN) or 150 cm tall or their 12th birthday (GER, AU, CH, IT, CZ) – whichever comes first. It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure this is the case.
Under the existing laws, parents could switch their baby from their rearward facing Group 0&0+ seat into a forward facing one when they reach 9kg (around nine months old).
Now the new regulations, called ‘i-Size’, have come into force mid-July 2013, parents that purchase a child car seat approved under i-Size will have to keep their baby in a rearward facing seat until they are 15 months.
There will be no change to the overall law about child seats being compulsory to the age of 12 or 135 cm/150 cm tall.
*Farid Bendjellal, 6th International Conference on Protection of Children in Cars – Munich 2008
**Casimir “Child Car Passenger Fatalities – European Figures and In-Depth Study”; Alan Kirk; Loughborough University, UK; Conference: Protection of children in cars, Muncih, 2011