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Changes to the regulations of my child seat: R-129 or R44/04: which seat should I use?

Are there any regulatory changes concerning my child's child seat?  R-129, R44/04, but what seat do I use?

14/04/2017

The ECE R129 standard on child seats has been with us since 2013. The change was always planned to be a gradual process, and for this reason was divided into three separate phases. The first phase kicked off in 2013, and was entirely to do with the approval of child restraint systems and the equipping of new car models to accept these kinds of seats.

This first phase of the ECE R129 standard witnessed the birth of the i-Size child seats in line with the new certification, which offer additional safety benefits compared to the current ECE R44/04 standard that was established in 2005 (the 04 suffix indicates the fourth version since the ECE R44 standard was approved in 1982). The biggest advantages concern side protection, as side collisions are now included in the safety tests.

In our article on the ECE R129 standard you can find more detailed information on the new certification and how the tests to guarantee children's safety are conducted. These seats are better than those governed by the ECE R44/04 standard thanks to the improvements in side impact response.

But can I use the ECE R44/04 seat I already have? Will they continue to sell these seats?

For the time being, both regulations will coexist alongside each other. Anyone can buy a child seat certified in accordance with either of the two standards, although there will come a time when it will no longer be possible to use seats covered by the R44/04 standard. Until it is stipulated otherwise, retailers can continue to sell these child seats to consumers.

The deadline has not yet been set and 2018 is being suggested as the year from which R44 certified seats will be phased out. There are clear reasons for facilitating this coexistence: there needs to be a transition period, and furthermore vehicles need to be updated and ready to accommodate the R129 standard seats.

The current Phase 1 covers car seats for children from birth up to a height of 105 cm (only seats known as "integral" ones, i.e. with harnesses and, most importantly, with the ISOFIX system), and although the second phase has no exact date on which it will come into effect, everything points to summer 2017 as being the opportune moment. You will still be able to use seats with the R44/04 standard, in other words the joint authorization will continue into the Phase 2 period. 

This new phase will focus on child seats for children over 100 cm in height; i.e. non-integral seats with the ISOFIX system, thus improving their safety against side impacts and introducing other improvements.

Furthermore the sale of booster seats without a seat back will not be permitted, something that is currently allowed for seats with the R44 standard that since January 2017 fulfill this requirement, and children under a height of 125 cm will not be able to travel without a seat back.

Thanks to the seat back, there is the guarantee that car seats covered by any of the current regulations will provide better seat belt guidance and positioning. Check out our infographic.

What will the third phase of the ECE R129 standard entail?

During the third phase the necessary modifications will be established to update the ECE R44 standard with regard to non-ISOFIX child seats (those that need a seat belt to secure the seat to the car seat) and the ECE R14 and ECE R16 standards (on seat belts and their anchorings to the vehicle). Thus any CRS without ISOFIX will comply with the new criteria included in Phases 1 and 2 of the ECE R129, and the changeover will be complete.

Summary of the main criteria of the ECE R129 standard

  • Reducing the likelihood of poor installation thanks to the mandatory ISOFIX system.
  • It is compulsory to use an i-Size rear-facing child seat until the child has reached a minimum of 15 months old.
  • The classification of children (i.e. the choice of the most suitable child seat for each child) will be done based on their height and not on their weight.
  • All the new child seats governed by the ECE R129 standard will be subjected to a side impact test (at speeds of around 25 kph).
  • Compatibility will be improved and the i-Size CRS will be adapted to each position of the car seat suitable for i-Size. The challenge for vehicle manufacturers will be adapting to this certification as soon as possible.
  • To ascertain whether a CRS with ECE R129 certification can be installed in a seat there will be a special label to this effect.


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