The regulation ECE R129 on child car seats has been with us since 2013, when it entered its first phase. The second phase is due to come into effect this June which affects non-integral child restraint systems for children taller than 100 cm i.e. those in which the child is fastened in by the seat belt. In this article we will answer all your queries.
The first phase of the ECE R129 standard witnessed the creation of 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 that it is 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 tests.
Coexistence of both certification strandars
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 latest changes to ECE R44/04
Since the beginning of the year the latest changes introduced to R44/04 only permit the certification of child seats with a backrest for children taller than 125 cm. Booster seats or cushions without a backrest can only be certified for Group 3 i.e. children weighing between 22 and 36 kg.
The second phase of R-129: what is new about it?
The current Phase 1 covers car seats for children from birth up to a height of 105 cm (only for seats known as integral i.e. those with harness fastenings and importantly, with the ISOFIX system).
Phase 2 focus on car seats for children taller than 100 cm i.e. non-integral seats with ISOFIX, improving safety in cases of side impact and introducing other improvements such as the selection of child seats based on height rather than weight (it has been shown that height is a better indicator for choosing the correct seat). These equate to child seats in Groups 2 and 3.
Additionally, child seats will be able to be fitted with Isofix anchoring or not (it is optional) and all seats must have a backrest. If Isofix anchorage is used then the attachment points must be able to be concealed in the device itself if necessary.
All this means that booster seats without a backrest can only be certified for Group 3 under R44/04 (from 22 to 36 kg).
Can I continue using my child seat?
Whether the child restraint system you use comes under R-44/04 or R-129, you can continue using it. 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.
The new developments only really affect certification i.e. child seat manufacturers, although if you are acquiring a new CRS, it would be advisable to get one that complies with the new standard, not only to get used to the new changes but also because these CRS are submitted to more demanding safety tests.
What will the third phase of the regulation ECE R129 include?
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 them 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.
Summay of the main criteria of the ECE R129 standard
- Reducing the likelihood of poor installation thanks to the 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 km/h).
- Compatibility will be improved and the i-Size CRS will be adapted to each car seat position 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.