Why do children need to be restrained in the car?
The greatest risk to a child after the age of one in the UK is an accident. Crashes on the road account for over half of these.
In the first 14 years of life one in every 50 children will have been killed or injured travelling as a passenger in a car. Children that are properly restrained in a car are:
- 90 per cent less likely to be killed
- 75 per cent less likely to be seriously injured
- 67 per cent less likely to be slightly injured
Most crashes happen within a few miles of home, on everyday trips and at speed of less than 30mph.
It is on these short, local journeys where the risk is highest, that many children sometimes travel unrestrained often because the distance is short or parents are in a rush.
In a crash children are more vulnerable than adults because:
- They are smaller and more likely to be thrown around or flung out of the car.
- Their neck muscles and spine are weaker, ribs and pelvic bones are underdeveloped and some organs less well protected. This makes internal injury more likely.
- A child’s head is bigger and heavier in relation to body size, which means they are more likely to be thrown head first and suffer head injuries.
- A young child’s skull is not as protective as an adult’s so life threatening brain injuries are more likely.
Adult seat belts are designed for people over 1.5m (4ft 11ins), not children. The legal height when a child doesn’t need to use a booster cushion is 1.35m (4ft 5ins), but to keep your child safe and the adult seat belt fitted properly they are better using them until they are 5ft tall. This may not be popular but is certainly safer so don’t be in a hurry to stop using the booster cushion, particularly if the adult seat belt would go across your child’s neck or the lap belt above their hips.
Choosing a seat
All child restraints must have the United Nations “E” mark.
The latest version of the standard is R44.04. Older versions (for example R44.02) will not provide the level of protect given by the current standard.
Many seats are not fitted properly in the car and will not protect your child in a crash. Always make sure a seat fits properly in your car before you buy it. Many retailers have staff trained to fit car seats but check you are happy with it before you buy.
Be very careful of old or second-hand seats. They may be damaged (the damage may not be obvious) or worn out, may not come up to current standards and fitting instructions may be missing.
Many vehicles have ISOFix fittings. ISOFix seats are fitted directly onto the fittings located between the back and seat cushions of the car’s seats. They are quick and easy to fit and don’t have the problems often found when fitting a seat using the adult seat belt.
The I-size standard for child seat was introduced throughout the European Union in 2013. This will run alongside the R44.04 standard and eventually replace it. I-size is based around the ISOFix system and in the end will mean that every child seat will fit in any car. The standard should remove the fitting problems that affect many child seats – particularly those fitted with an adult seat belt.
I-size is based on a child’s height, rather than weight, which will make it easier to be sure you are using the correct seat. One of the benefits is that children will be in rear facing seats for longer – until they are at least 15 months old. This gives much better protection for your child’s head, neck and vital organs.
- put a child in the same belt as an adult. In a crash the adult would crush the child
- put more than on child in a seat belt
- carry a baby on an adult’s knee. Even at low speeds the forces involved in a crash are so huge would be impossible to hold on.
Pregnant women must wear seat belts as normal except the lap belt should be kept lower, under the bump and not across the unborn baby.