Making the safest choice in car seats – all about booster seats & their regulations

As a parent, you want to make the safest choices but sometimes there is so much information out there that the decision can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ll help you figure out everything around booster seats in this overview.

Take for example the regulations about child car seats – do you know if you comply, or even what the laws are? And how do you choose the safest child car seat for your child? Let’s take a look at the facts.

The statistics – child car seats reduce the risk

In Europe, there are ten children killed on the road each week and over 1100 injured*. The use of child car seats is one of the most important actions in preventing injury in a car crash. Child car seats can reduce the risk of injury by up to 95 percent. However, car seats can only improve safety if correctly installed. A recent UK survey showed that over 52% of seat-belt installed car or booster seats were incorrectly installed, with 27% containing major faults**.

Confused about UN R129? Here’s what you need to know.

In July 2013, the United Nations Economic Committee Regulation No.129 (UN R129) came into effect. To put it simply, UN R129 aims to ensure that children travel as safely as possible and to make it easier for parents to choose the right child restraint system (car seat) and install it correctly.

At the moment, both the old regulations (ECE R44) and the new UN R129 co-exist. In 2018 it is expected that more and more new child car seats will comply with the new regulation.

BeSafe Flex FIX car seatPhase 1: UN R129 made things safer

Phase 1 of the UN R129 regulation dealt with ISOfix car seats for children from birth up to 105cm in height and has two categories: ‘i-Size’ and ‘specific vehicle’. The aim was to improve safety and protection in six important areas:

  • All children must be rear facing until they are at least 15 months old (accidents and crash tests show that children in rear-facing seats are five times safer)
  • Mandatory side impact testing on car seats, as side impacts are the second most common source of serious injuries in car accidents
  • Use of stature height measurement rather than weight to make it easier to ensure an accurate fit and as parents usually know their child’s height better than their weight
  • Mandatory ISOfix installation to make fitting easier
  • Use of innovative crash dummies which closely represent the effects of a crash on the body of real children
  • Better compatibility so that seats in the i-Size category will fit in any i-Size ready seating position in a car (seats in the specific vehicle category should be test-installed individually to check for fit)

When the UN R129 phase 1 regulation came into force, BeSafe was ready to live up to it with the BeSafe iZi Kid i-Size. It was one of the first child car seats in the world to meet the new standards.

BeSafe is part of the decision-making committee

“BeSafe has worked as a member of the committee developing this new benchmark,” says Okke van Mourik, head of product development at HTS BeSafe.

“We are glad that with the new UN R129-02 great steps have been taken to set new and stricter safety standards for high back booster seats.”

In addition, we at BeSafe are implementing our own safety ambitions by developing solutions like the SIP+ that provides additional impact protection exceeding what is required by the regulation.

Phase 2: the newest and safest standard to date

The regulation evolved further in June 2017 with the introduction of phase 2 of the UN R129 regulations. This time, the legislation targeted child car seats for children between 100 cm and 150 cm in height. This second phase focused on high back booster seats and added the following safety requirements:

  • Measurement classification of booster seats changed from weight to stature height
  • Mandatory side impact testing of booster seats
  • All booster seats must have a backrest

Just like phase 1, UN R129-02 also has two different categories: ‘i-Size’ and ‘specific vehicle’.
The ‘i-Size booster seat’ category ensures that a booster seat in this category fits in all positions in vehicles that have an i-Size marking themselves for a child’s stature height up to 135 cm. Additionally, it allows for a maximum width of 44 cm for the booster seat and requires stowable ISOfix arms, so that the booster seat can be installed both with and without ISOfix.
The ‘specific vehicle booster seat’ category allows for widths above 44 cm, so that the fit in terms of height and width depends on the vehicle and should therefore always be tried out before purchase.
It is also possible to combine the categories ‘i-Size booster seat’ and ‘specific vehicle booster seat’ into one booster seat.

Why is a high back booster seat the safest choice for older children?

Children from 100 to 150 centimetres tall (around 4 to 12 years old) are often placed on backless booster seats, the so-called ‘booster cushions’. This increases the risk of severe injury in a car crash.

Backless booster seats don’t offer any side impact protection or make sure that the shoulder belt sits at the correct height. A high back booster seat lifts the child and helps to ensure the correct position of the vehicle belt. Further advantages of high back booster seats compared to booster cushions are:

  • Additional support and protection for the head, neck and torso
  • Side impact protection
  • Shoulderbelt guides to ensure the seat belt is in the correct position and stays in place.

Is it time to change to a high back booster seat?

When to change seats is another confusing topic for many parents but an important one to get right. We at BeSafe advise you to keep your child rear facing for as long as possible or at least until the age of four. Therefore, we recommend you to move your child to a booster seat only when all three of the following conditions are met:

  1. Your child should be at least four years old
  2. Your child has reached the minimum requirement of the seat (15kg when approved to ECE R44 or 100cm when approved to UN R129) – this is legally binding by the regulations
  3. Your child has the mental maturity to sit still in the high back booster seat. When leaning forwards a lot, your child is outside of the seat’s protection zone, so the seat would not protect your child as intended.

BeSafe iZi Flex FIX i-Size – the first booster seat on the market to meet the new safety standards

Safety has always been and will always be BeSafe’s main priority. All children shall travel as safely as possible in the car, meaning rear facing for children up to at least four years of age and in a booster with a fixed back rest for older children.

We therefore welcome the further development of UN R129 including and promoting high back booster seats with fixed back rests.

Naturally, we develop our products with the latest safety developments and regulations in mind. We proved this in 2013 by launching one of the first child car seats in the world approved by UN R129: the iZi Kid i-Size.

We have now implemented BeSafe’s safety standards together with the requirements from UN R129 and are taking safety to a new level by developing the BeSafe iZi Flex FIX i-Size – a high back booster seat that meets the severe impact criteria of UN R129-02 and is truly flexible based on your family’s needs.

Make it a safer journey and enjoy the ride!

Once you’ve ensured your children are correctly positioned in the appropriate child car seats, follow these simple tips to make it the safest journey possible:

  • Take your time – ensure you’ve made all the right preparations before you leave and take your time on the road
  • Don’t drive for long periods – take regular breaks to refresh and revive and if you can, swap drivers regularly
  • Give your full attention to the road – ignore your phone!
  • Always remove thick jackets on all passengers to make sure the belts work as intended – find out why
  • Tighten the car seat belt/vehicle belt regularly during the drive

And of course: Don’t forget to have fun and create some happy memories along the way!

Sources:
(* WHO 2007, EEVC Working Group 18 Report Child Safety (Feb. 2006))
(**www.goodeggcarsafety.com)