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Children and excess of weight: advice for traveling by car safely

Sobrepeso y niños: consejos para un desplazamiento seguro en coche

01/03/2021

Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  In fact, it is estimated that more than 41 million children under the age of five worldwide are overweight or obese.  The WHO defines overweight and obesity as "an abnormal or excessive accumulation of fat that poses a risk to health". When it comes to traveling by car, confusion can arise as to the best way to get around. What happens if a child exceeds the maximum weight allowed for the child restraint system?  Which is the best car seat for overweight children?  Healthy lifestyle habits such as a balanced diet and physical exercise are key to prevention. 

The main problem when traveling with them by car is choosing a suitable child restraint system. The child might weigh more than the maximum weight indicated for the car seat that would correspond to his or her height.  

First of all we must consider that the weight and height are fundamental when choosing a CRS. To this extent, we must highlight that cars seats approved by the R44-04 standard are classified according to weight and the R-129 (i-size) seats are classified according to height. In all cases, the car seats have a maximum weight. This represents the maximum weight for which the CRS has been approved. The manufacturer guarantees that the child seat provides full protection up to this maximum weight. 

We must consider that once the child exceeds the maximum weight for which it has been approved, the car seat is no longer safe. The approval of the chair is subject to a series of tests carried out under certain parameters (including weight and height). Outside these parameters, the safety of the occupants is in question.  

We must insist on the importance of using child restraint systems whenever the child is under a height of 150 cm (depending on the country, we may find that it is compulsory to use them up to a height of 135 cm, as is the case in Spain). In all cases, a seat belt will fit properly as of a height of 150 cm (here height and not weight is important). Check here what the belt should look like at this point

If the child is under 150 cm tall but has exceeded the maximum weight (usually around 36 kg), the child must still travel with a child restraint system. In this case, he or she must still use a seat booster, preferably with a back rest for greater safety. 

In other cases, if the child is overweight but he or she is not ready to use a booster seat with a backrest, our recommendation is to use R-129 (i-Size) approved child restraint systems. In this case, the important element for choosing a car seat is not weight but height. Here we refer to larger car seats. In fact, the vehicle seats need to be larger to allow for proper installation. Here we address how vehicles have been adapted to the new standardization rules.

How can we know the maximum weight or height of a CRS? Approved car seats have a label (usually on the side), which indicates the standard they have passed and the maximum weight and height for which they have passed these tests. This information can also be found in the CRS manual.

For all other matters, a child overweight must follow the same recommendations as for all other children when traveling:

-They should travel in car seats rearward facing for as long as possible and at least until the age of 4.When they reach this age, the child's muscles are stronger, although as previously mentioned, it is best that they travel in this direction as long as possible. 

-They must travel on the back seats and preferably on the middle seat. Remember, if the child is traveling front passenger seat, this is only allowed for one the exceptions listed in the regulations and the airbag must be deactivated, especially if the seat is rear-facing. 

-The car seat must be secured according to the manufacturer's instructions (using a seat belt, the Isofix system or a combination of both). Take the time needed to install it correctly. Isofix anchor points prevent installation errors. 

-Children must always be correctly secured. Here we talk about the importance of tightening the harness and how bulky clothing can affect this harness

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