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What do I need to consider if traveling abroad by car?

¿Qué debo tener en cuenta si voy a realizar un viaje internacional en coche o en autocaravana?

20/07/2020

Thinking of taking a trip by car that crosses borders? Do you know the guidelines to keep in mind? Which child restraint system should I use? Traveling by car is one way to enjoy your vacation: we can enjoy the roads while staying safe at the same time. 

Plan the journey, choose the most suitable and safest routes, take rests , pack you luggage properly and, of course, use safety belts and place children in approved child restraint systems according to their height and weight. This image gives advice for traveling long distance by car with children.

If our car trip involves driving outside our home country, it is important to know the applicable regulations. In this case and as far as the use of child restraint systems is concerned, we recommend you consult beforehand which type of car seat is mandatory and when they should be used. 

The same applies to motorhomes. This image give you recommendations for traveling in this kind of vehicle. 

The country we are traveling to might be less restrictive regarding the use of child car seats or have 'softer' rules, so to speak. However, at Fundación MAPFRE we believe children should continue using child restraint systems until they reach 1.50 m tall even if the law only obliges until 1.35 m, as this is when the belt can be properly adjusted, sometimes also with the help of a booster seat. 

If traveling in the European Union:

The regulatory differences are less noticeable. Here you can read about the legislation. You can also consult the EU regulations in our computer graphic

The European Commission's Directive 2014/37/EU indicates that children under 1.50m in height occupying M1,  N1, N2 and N3 vehicles fitted with safety devices shall be restrained by a child restraint device according to their height and volume or weight. In addition, it points out that if they are not equipped with safety devices, children under three years of age will not be able to travel. Children three years of age or older but less than 1.5 m tall must occupy any seat apart from the front seat (i.e., they must ride in the back).

Approval of the seats used is also important. In this respect, the devices must be approved in accordance with the rules of UN/ECE Regulation 44/03 or Directive 77/541/EEC or UN/ECE Regulation 129 or any subsequent adaptation.

If traveling in the United States:

There is no single set of regulations in the United States on the use of child restraint systems. It should be noted that the approval regulations are different from the approval regulations in force in Europe and that due to the pandemic caused by Covid-19 there could be restrictions on air travel.

This means that a "European" car seat that has passed the "European standard" cannot be legally sold or used in the US, as it has not passed the US standard (unless it has also been "approved" according to US standards). In the United States car seats must be approved according to the FMVSS 213 (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards).

In this computer image we indicate the United States regulations regarding the use of child car seats. Furthermore, the organization Safe Kids Worldwide has developed a page listing the regulations in force in each State. Read about them here. 

If traveling in Latin America and the Caribbean:

Depending on the country, they must comply with some of the approval standards currently in force: UN-R44, UN-R129 (as mentioned above, both are European), NBR 14400 (from the ABNT - Asociación Brasileña de Normas Técnicas, based on the European ECE 44 R04 standard), or FMVSS 123 (in the United States).

It is important to know the current regulations of the country we are traveling to, so we do not violate its legislation. This image shows the applicable regulations. 

We would like to highlight that in certain countries the regulations on the use of child restraint systems are very relaxed, which is why  the death rates in child accidents in Latin America and the Caribbean are more than double the rates in Europe and in general, in developed countries. Therefore, although it is not compulsory, we recommend the use of approved car seats and at least up to 1.50 m tall. We also recommend that children travel on the back seats and, if possible, facing backwards as long possible. 

Finally, we would like to point out  that at Fundación MAPFRE we have a section on 'International regulations' which is constantly being updated and which includes the legislation on the use of child restraint systems.

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