Car Seats - Does Your Child Have One?
On September 18 2006, the UK Government introduced a new law stating that all children under the age of 12 (unless taller than 135cm / 4'5") traveling in a car must use some form of car seat.
Four months overdue - the UK should have changed their laws by May 2006 to abide by the European Union's directive - the new law was welcomed by parents, manufacturers and retailers alike.
Mother and Baby magazine reported in 2001 that 80% of car seats were not fitted correctly. When coupled with a report from 'Which?' in the same year that found that of Britain's 22 best-selling child safety seats, the majority of them would fail to prevent serious of fatal injuries, it is worrying that it took five years before any change was brought into place.
The new laws were estimated to save around 2,000 child deaths or injuries a year. However, when the AA conducted research provided in 2007, this may not be the case, as they found that over two thirds (71%) of parents still didn't know the new height and weight restrictions for using the correct child restraints. Several factors were blamed, including not enough literature or advertising being provided giving detailed information on the changes to the law.
From a personal view, I would like to believe this isn't a problem any more. However, I don't believe this to be the case. Reminiscent of the introduction of chip and pin technology in the UK, the Government gave all citizens 18 months to remember a four digit number. Did all remember their PIN? No. Is it actually that difficult to remember? No. So why did so many people forget them? Probably due to the fact that everyone was used to signing for their purchases. It was a complete change to a daily habit. The change to car seat legislation was no different. Parents were so used to walking into a store and asking for a car seat for their toddler, when they heard that there were changes to the law, and they needed to choose a correct car seat for their child based on their height and weight, they read about it first and then forgot about it. Parents needed to have this information reinforced into them. Not just once. Not twice. But constantly.
A friend put it into context - traveling with fine bone china, an adult would wrap it properly, pack it properly and make sure it was safe in the event of an accident. So why are some adults so naïve to think that any car seat would be suitable for their child?
This information is freely available all over the internet. However, if one parent reads these next few lines and it helps them understand which car seat they need for their child, then it has done its job.
The child car seats and safety restraints were split into four categories:
These are the first car seats your child so have. Suitable from birth to 13kg (approximately 9 to 12 months), these are rear-facing baby car seats providing the best support for your baby.
Forward facing car seats, suitable from 9kg to 18kg (approximately 9 months to 4 years)
Once your child has grown out of their Group 1 car seat, it's time to move onto Group 2. These are booster seats and are suitable from 15kg to 25kg (approximately 4 to 6 years).
The final group is Booster Cushions suitable from 22kg to 36kg (approximately 4 to 12 years).
When your child reaches 12 years old (or 135cm tall, whichever is sooner), they are no longer required to use a car seat or booster seat. They are then treated the same as all other passengers traveling in a vehicle and must wear an adult seat belt by law (if fitted).
There are a small amount of exceptions to the law.
It isn't expected that all taxis in the UK can have the correct car seats to hand for every journey. Therefore, unless the passengers can provide a suitable car seat, under 3's may travel unrestrained in the rear only. Children 3 years and above must use an adult seat belt in the rear only.
An "unexpected necessity" was cited as another exception. Any child 3 years or above may travel using an adult seat belt for a short, unexpected journey. This does not cover regular school runs nor does it cover children under 3 years. Children under 3 years must have the appropriate car seat to travel (except in the rear of a taxi).
The final exception is if a car has 3 rear seat belts, and 2 car seats or booster seats are already fitted, a child of 3 years or above may travel using an adult seat belt. However, it would be safer if the child could in the front seat with the appropriate car seat or booster seat.
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There are several points I'd like to mention further, that I will take into a new article. The main focus of this article was to show that the car seat laws needed to be changed and to reinstate the point that all children under the age of 12 (or 135cm tall) need to have a car seat or booster seat. It's not a choice now, it's a requirement - and it might just save your child's life.