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The effectiveness of the child restraining systems when it comes to avoiding injury varies depending on the type of seat and it’s orientation with regard to the direction the car is travelling in and where it is positioned inside the car.

Being efficient

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In the case of babies carrycots and baskets are much less effective than child seats facing backwards, carrycots and baskets generally only prevent 25% of all injuries. There again in certain cases (children with breathing difficulty for example) the pediatrician may recommend a carrycot or basket instead of another type of seat.

Up to 4 years of age the child seats that are facing backwards are much safer than those facing forward: As the former prevent 70% of all injuries and up to 90% of the most serious or mortal injuries, those facing forward only prevent 55% of them. Children under 1 year of age must always travel facing backwards.

In children aged 5-9 years old, while adult seat belts only prevent 24 percent of all injuries, child seats prevent 57 percent. In other words, the effectiveness of child seats for this age group is more than double that of a seat belt. This is why it is so important that children aged 5-9 always use a child seat or a booster cushion rather than simply using the standard adult seat belt.

It is preferable for the booster seat or cushion to have a backrest as this offers greater side protection and reduces the risk of injuries to the head and neck.

Apart from being mandatory, it is worth reminding everyone that the back seats are much safer than the front ones: just by putting the child seat in the back seat of the car instead of the front one reduces the probability of injury by 15 percent.

Different studies have demonstrated that these seats are much safer for children than the front seats. 

You can only install the child restraint system on the front seat under one of these three exceptions. If the vehicle has a front airbag it must be disabled, especially for rear-facing child restraint systems. If the airbag cannot be deactivated then the child must not travel on the front seat.

We should bear in mind that a child restraint system is safe as long as all the manufacturer's instructions have been followed. We should point out that not every child car seat is suitable for every child and not all of them are installed in the same way. 

In their technical specifications, the CRS manufacturer clearly indicates the weight or height range  that the seat is designed for (find advice here on how to choose the most suitable seat) and explains how the child seat should be secured in place: with a seat belt, with ISOFIX anchors or with a combination of both (take a look at the different ways of installing a seat here). The vehicle in question must of course allow for the particular method of installation required.

The child's safety can only be guaranteed if they are in a CRS suitable for their height and weight, if it is an approved seat and if it has been anchored and secured to the child according to the manufacturer's specifications. 

For improved safety, as established in current legislation children under 135 cm tall should travel on the rear seats. At Fundación MAPFRE we recommend they use the middle rear seat. If the car only has ISOFIX anchors on the rear side seats and the CRS uses this particular system, it is best to use the rear seat behind the passenger seat in order to avoid making mistakes during its installation.

Lastly, it is a good idea to use a rear-facing child car seat for as long as possible in order to ensure your child's maximum safety. Use of these seats is compulsory until the child is 15 months old and is recommendable up until at least 4 years old, providing that the child's physical conditions allow for it.

When it's time to start using a booster seat, we recommend choosing one with a backrest. In this way, the protection achieved resembles as closely as possible the previous child restraint systems. 

Here are the advantages of booster seats with a backrest:

  • It reduces the risk of damage to the head in the event of a side impact by up to six times compared to a seat without a backrest.
  • It offers greater side protection, as during an impact the child is kept in the seat at all times, thus avoiding a direct impact against the side of the vehicle.
  • It includes a guide to ensure that the seat belt is in the right position, thereby reducing the possibilities of error in its placement. 

Its importance is such that a booster seat without a backrest cannot be certified for Group 2 car safety seats (33 to 55 pounds).   Only Group 3 (from 49 to 79 pounds) boosters, in other words, when the child is over 49 inches tall, without a backrest may be certified (all of this for CRS certified under R44-04).

Regarding child restraint systems certified under regulation R-129, all of them are required to have a backrest. 

We can find a whole host of products on the market that seek to provide enhanced protection or to improve the ergonomics or the journey of young children in vehicles. However, not all products will necessarily be able to keep our children safe.

There are currently two child restraint system approval standards in force: R44-04 and R-129 (i-Size). These standards establish which requirements a child car seat must comply with in order to be safe and which safety tests they should pass. These standards define what the straps, the harness, and the materials should be like or where certain information should be displayed as is the case with rear-facing child car seats and the requirement to disable the airbag if the seat is installed on the front passenger seat. 

The harness should be opened with one single movement. They are only allowed to be opened with two clicks in the case of baby carriers, bassinets or seats in groups 0 and 0+. And the reason? It makes it easier to get the child out of the seat if necessary. Therefore, all systems designed to make it harder for the child to unfasten the harness can stand in the way of their compliance with this part of the R-44 standard. 

Furthermore, legislation requires that seats display an airbag warning sign. This warning should be on the top left-hand side of the seat. However, putting seat covers over the seat can cover up this sign and this means that the seat would not be in compliance with this aspect of the legislation.

That is why is is always best to use approved devices recommended by the manufacturer.

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