Child restraint systems (CRS) must be approved in order to be marketed. The approval proves to the buyer that the chair has successfully passed safety standards that make it safe to use. Currently there are two approval standards in force in Europe: R44-04 and R-129 (i-Size). Before purchasing a child restraint system, we must make sure that the seat has one of these approval standards. To find out, just look at the label.
Car seats improve over time and so do their approval standards. Hence the approved child restraint systems have evolved from R44/01, to 02 and 03 to the current R44/04. With the objective of improving the chairs on the market and their safety, the R44-04 standard is gradually being replaced by the R-129 (i-Size), which incorporates new features such as side impacts, the prevalence of height over weight when choosing a chair or the requirement that babies face backwards until the age 15 months, among other novelties that can be consulted here.
ECE R44/04 has been in force since 2005 and ECE R129, also known as i-size, since 2013. Both the R44-04 and the R-129 currently coexist and are in force, in other words, you can purchase and use seats with both approval standards. However, the R44-04 will slowly disappear. Please note that it is currently not possible to buy or use chairs approved by R44-01, 02 and 03.
The new R129 (i-size) standard, which currently coexists with R44/04, is aimed replacing the latter for good. The most important new features of this standard are a side impact test and the obligation to travel facing backwards up to the age of 15 months.
Below is an example of the label that must be displayed on approved child restraint systems. If it is according to R44-4 it must display a label similar to this one. Here is the meaning of each section:
If the car seat complies with the R-129 standard, the label must indicate this:
We should be aware that a child car seat from the USA, for example, which has been approved according to this country's legislation, is not legally valid in another country, such as Spain, where the approval legislation required is different. The R44-04 and R-129 standards are valid for the European Union, although we can find countries, especially in Latin America, where both approval standards are also validated and can be used. This is why it is important to consult the approval regulations in force in each country when purchasing a car seat in a new destination country.
In all cases, we must be aware that if we do not have an approved child seat in that country, it is always better to travel with an approved CRS, even if it is from another country. In other words, a child seat, generally speaking, is as safe in one country as in another. We therefore recommend that you always use your child seat until you are able to obtain another approved seat according to the requirements of the country you have traveled to. This will always be safer than traveling without any protection.
On car seats we can find other labels indicating that the specific CRS has passed, for example, other independent tests such as the Plus test . The Plus Test is one of the most widely-recognized endorsements on an international level in terms of children's road safety. The tests are carried out in Sweden and stand out for their high standards in all matters relating to child safety. Child seats that allow children to travel facing backwards for longer periods of time, often comply with this standard.
There will also be a label reminding us of the importance of deactivating the co-pilot's airbag if we place a seat facing backwards on that seat (only if the seat is secured facing backwards). Example: