Over and above this primary requirement of restraining a child in their seat while in a vehicle, the improvements that have been introduced to the design of the seats means that they don’t just simply restrain, they offer much better protection and safety. This concern for safety has led to them being officially regulated, as demonstrated in the i-Size regulations, which includes within it, a test for lateral impact that wasn’t included in the previous regulations.
We must take into account, that should we suffer a lateral impact, and when considering children, it can be a very compromising situation, since many vehicles are still not equipped with lateral airbags in the rear seats, if they have curtain airbags, they can provide much better protection to children depending on their size.
In a lateral impact the child will experience a jolt that will shake their head and neck from side to side. Apart from the effects of this on the neck, there is a risk of the head banging against the rigid structure of the vehicle, such as a window or the door. This is why it is important that the design of the child seat includes various protection features in case of a lateral impact.
The first of these is that the seat back should include wings, or sides that stick out to wrap around the body of a child and so reduce any movement from a jolt.
This should be taken into account when choosing a booster seat or a child seat with a backrest. The latter is the most effective.
The wings must provide support for both the shoulders and the head. A headrest with wings will also stop the child’s head from slipping to the side too much while they are asleep, by providing support to the head. The wings must be padded to cushion the head.
The seat must be firmly fixed to the car seat with no loose straps that could allow the seat to move when jolted in a lateral impact. If the seat is anchored using the ISOFIX anchors it is much more difficult for it to move. If it is not fixed using ISOFIX, there are cleverly designed slots through which you can thread the seatbelt, which will keep is securely fixed, reducing any possible movement.
Depending on the manufactures design, the side wings sometimes include air cushions that absorb the energy produced in an accident. Another solution is supports fixed on both sides of the seat at shoulder height, made of an absorbent material which allows the side of the seat to rest against the door and would contain any side to side swinging, while guaranteeing a minimum distance between the head of a child and the rigid structure of the vehicle.