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Child restraining systems: this is what you need to know about them


Do you know what a child restraining system is? The term refers to what we generally know as a child car seat. It is a device that is installed on the seat of a car so that babies and children are properly supported and so, much safer when the car brakes or is involved in an accident.

When children are very small, they cannot use the car seatbelt because it cannot be adjusted to fit them. Not being properly supported could result in them being injured (if for example the shoulder strap of the seatbelt is too close to their neck or the lower strap is over the abdomen), or at the very least, expose them to danger (if the child is uncomfortable, for example because they cannot bend their legs, or they start to slide forward on the seat)

This is why it is obligatory for children to use a child restraining system in the car. In Spain, since the first of October, the legal imperative is that all children of 1.35m in height or under, must use one, and must travel on the rear seats of the vehicle. They cannot use the front passenger seat (except in exceptional circumstances such as when the rear seats are already occupied by children under 1.35m in height, when the vehicle has no rear seats or when a CRS cannot be installed on the rear seats)

Remember that there isn’t just one type of restraining system, as babies grow into children, and right up until they reach adolescence, and car seats are adapted for use according to their size and weight. The child must fit into the seat: their head should never be above the seatback or the headrest.

At the moment there are two different regulations for approving child seats. Both of them are valid until 2018, and you can buy seats that are perfectly legal and safe, and that comply with either one (this basically affects you when it comes to buying a seat or when it has to be changed as they grow).

The old regulations are known as ECE R44, which will disappear in 2018. These regulations divide the seats into five groups according to age and weight.

The new regulations, known as ECE R129, or i-Size, have been in force since 2013. These regulations don’t divide the seats into groups and weight is just a limit to the resistance offered by the seat, the most important criteria for choosing a seat is age, and above all the height of the child.

As a way of summarizing, keep in mind that there are seats for babies and seats for small children, both of which have their own harness, or a similar, and side head supports, (or booster seats), with or without a backrest for bigger children, to be used together with the car seatbelt. All of them are known collectively as child restraining systems./p>

There are different seats that can be installed either forward or backward facing. All of the laboratory tests show that it is much safer for children, above all, very small children, to travel backward facing, as during deceleration, the force of inertia on the body is much less, when properly supported by the seatback, the same is true of both the head and the neck.

Up to two years old, it is recommended that children travel backward facing and it is advisable, when their height allows (or while they still fit the seat), up to four years of age, or for as long as is possible.

Although a car seat should always be used for short trips around town, on a main road or on a motorway, it must be suitable for the age, height and weight of the baby or child and most importantly it must be properly installed on the car seat.

There are car seats that are fixed using the car seatbelt. Carefully read the installation instructions and make sure the seatbelt is tightly fastened.

There are others seats that are not fixed using the seatbelt, and include two anchors in the base, called Isofix, which are used to fix the seat to lugs that stick out from the car seat. These seats often include a third anchoring point: a strap with a hook, called a Top Tether, or a support leg on the base. This infograph explains the important points you must pay particular attention to when installing the seat.

Remember, there are no valid excuses for not using child restraining systems. Not only because it is obligatory and you could be fined if you don’t, but because the safety and the protection of children must condition our behavior at the wheel.

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