The Good Egg Car Safety Blog

The hidden projectile in your car - Booster seats

The hidden projectile in your car - Booster seats

 

When children are younger, they use a child car seat that contains a harness to restrain them. This seat is fitted into the car, where it normally stays strapped in, so even when your little one is not in the car, their seat remains restrained.

 

  

 

The next stage seat - boosters

When it comes to your child moving up to a booster seat, both the seat and the child are restrained with the adult seat belt.

 

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This means that unless you buy an ISOFIX booster seat, you need to remember to strap the booster in when not in use.

 

Why?

An unrestrained booster will multiply its weight by the force of a collision, so if you have a crash when your child is not in the car, but their booster is sat on the back seat - you have a very heavy projectile waiting to hit someone!

  

Spot the Error!

 

Spot the error! Take the above child seat, the Britax Adventure. This seat is known for being lightweight and portable, so it is easy to move between vehicle's. This child seat weighs just 3.9kg. In a 30mph collision, the seats weight will be multiplied, and when the seat flies forward, it will hit whatever it impacts with a weight of 117kg - or 18.4 stone! If you have a little one sat next to the seat that is flying around, or a passenger in the front, or even if the seat is behind you as a driver - 18 stone hitting the back of the seat, or a person is not good news! So for the safety of all, remember to strap in your non ISOFIX booster seat!

 

ISOFIX Boosters

 

KIDFIX_II - edited

 

ISOFIX boosters don't need to be strapped in when your little one is not in the car, because the ISOFIX provides a rigid attachment to the vehicle. Just one of the great benefits of ISOFIX! Both ISOFIX and non-ISOFIX booster seats offer great protection for a child, but remember to strap in the non-ISOFIX booster when your child isn't out and about with you!

 

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My child escapes the harness when I am driving - help!

 

Does your child escape the harness?

Lots of parents have had the moment when you are driving along, glance at your little one and they’re having the time of their life on the back seat – with their arms in the air and out of the straps! So what can you do when your little one develops this habit?


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So what can you do when your little one develops this habit?

Be sure to remove any coats or puffy jackets and snowsuits  These thick items of clothing create a gap between your child and the harness, making it super easy for them to wriggle out!

Check the strap height – The straps should be level with your little one’s shoulders, at the point where the straps come out of the seat. If you can’t get the straps quite level, they may dip slightly below when rear facing, and sit just above the shoulders when forward facing.

Make sure the straps are tight enough – Pull the harness tight, and do the ‘dual test’. This is: ensuring you can fit no more than 2 fingers between your child and the harness at collar bone level, then check that you cannot pinch the harness strap together.

 

They still do it!

If you have done the above, and your child still escapes, you may want to try an aftermarket product designed to block the gap they get their arms out of.

 

5-point-plus 

The 5 point plus is a fully crash tested and approved anti escape device, which is also recommended by child seat manufacturers.  It is a long piece of breathable fabric which sits behind your child, and comes under their arms to wrap around the straps.  This then blocks the gap that they are getting their arms through to wriggle free.

 

Chest clips

There is a lot of confusion surrounding chest clips in the UK.  It is currently illegal to sell a child car seat in the UK, with a chest clip as part of the child seat.  This is because our approval requirements state that a child must be released from the child seat in one movement.  However, this does not apply to aftermarket products, and you can legally fit an aftermarket chest clip to your child’s car seat.

If you do choose to use a chest clip it is very important to check the following points:

That the clip safely and securely fits to the harness straps – it must not interfere with the placement of the chest pads on your child’s car seat.

The chest clip MUST sit at your child’s armpit level. It is very dangerous to get this wrong.

Once your child has broken the habit of wriggling their arms out, remove the chest clip.

 

Nothing works…

If nothing else works, you may need to buy your child a different child car seat.  For children very determined to escape the harness, or for those that really dislike it, an impact shield car seat is an alternative. 

 

Cybex Pallas

 

These can be better for children who often escape, as there is no 5 point harness in the seat to restrain them.  Instead they are restrained with an ‘impact shield’, which is placed over them, and the adult belt is placed over the shield to secure the child.

These seats often cover group stage 1,2,3, and will convert to be a high back booster, so it will be the last seat you need to buy your child.

 

Has your child ever escaped the straps?  What did you do to teach them to keep their arms in?

 

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Britax State of Safety Q&A

Our very own Good Egg Safety Expert, Kat, took over the Britax Twitter page last night to hold a Q&A. She received some great questions and you can find the answers below!

Kat


Q: I’d love to know the laws on taxis and car seats.


Kat: Under 3's - no seat required no seat belt. Over 3's - no seat, adult seat belt. Children should be in rear. We would prefer to see seats used whenever possible though!

 

Q: Hi Kat, when is the law coming in for rear facing longer?

Kat: iSize came into effect in July 2013, it's part of R129 and will be fully implemented by 2018. R44 seats are still legal to use.

 

Q: When Picking A Car Seat, Especially One That Will Go Behind The Driver What Is The Best Kind Of Seat To Go For?

Kat: It really depends on your child's weight and height, what car(s) the seat will go into. Britax fit finder is a great tool!



Q: What are your top tips travelling abroad this summer and hiring cars or using local taxis?

Kat: We have a great blog on flying with young children which covers what to do with car seats abroad.

 

Q: My littles one's car seat only goes up to 13kg and he's already 10kg at 6 months lots of bigger ones are forward facing.

Kat: There are combination rear facing car seats available that offer rear facing to 18kg/25kg the Britax Fit Finder tool can help you find a rear facing seat.

 

Q: I know SIDS can occur in car seats. How can I ensure my 7 month old is safe and always breathing on long journeys?

Kat: Always ensure you plan regular breaks into car journeys to give your baby plenty of time to stretch.

 

Q: Is there an easy way to temporarily disable airbags if the child rides on the front seat?

Kat: You need to check your vehicle manual, as each car can differ in how to disable the airbag - some cars don't allow it.

 

Q: I've always planned to stay rear facing as long as possible but my 2.5yo is tall and it's getting difficult. What's the new law and recommendations?

Kat: We have a great blog post on this which explains iSize.

 

Q: My son is 15.6kg, I plan to buy a 2nd car seat for use in grandparents car, should I buy a 15kg+ or an upto 18kg?

Kat: Your son is safer in a 5 point harness until 18kg, so long as he fits in the harness. the Britax Evolva is a great 123 seat, harness to 18kg and then it converts to HBB. Britax's fit finder will tell you if it fits your car.

 

Q: What car seat is best for extended rear facing for new born or 9 month old I have an isofix Britax car seat and base?

Kat: It really depends on the child and if it fits the vehicle, Britax's fit finder can help you highlight suitable seats.

 

Q: Is it best to rearward face as long as possible?


Kat: Yes we recommend that you rear face for as long as possible.

 

Q: Do car seats expire after a length of time?

Kat: Our blog explains car seats and expiry.

 

Q: Is there anywhere you can get the car seat fitted properly?

Kat: Good Egg run checking events throughout the country, and have a retailer charter.

 

Q: Height, weight or age. Which is most important?!

Kat: R44 seats go by weight, iSize seats by height, it's important to take age into account too (so not forward facing a 6 month old at 9kg)

 

Q: I want to keep my 18 month old rear facing long as possible. Is it less safe if running out of leg room?

Kat: No, legs are in very little danger when rear facing and very unlikely to get hurt.

 

Q: What age/weight is rear facing recommended to? Hoping to use my brother in law's old seat for new baby, is this still OK?

Kat: We recommend rear facing for as long as possible. Our blog will help with re-using a child car seat!

 

Q: What are the most important points to look for when choosing a toddler car seat?

Kat: That the seat is suitable for their weight and height, fits all cars it will be used in, is easy to fit and the level of side impact protection.

 

Q: We don't have isofix in our car, does that mean our car seat isn't as secure/safe?

Kat: Not at all, belt fit seats are safe, just ensure the seat is compatible to your vehicle and fitted correctly if you have a Britax seat, the fit finder can help you confirm it's compatibility.

 

Q: Is the max child height 105cm for all rear facing car seats?

Kat: No the 105cm only applies to iSize car seats.

 

Q: When we move onto the next stage seat should I take weight or height into consideration first?

Kat: It depends what seat you've got, as to when it's outgrown - but it's weight or height, whatever comes first.

 

Q: Realistically to what age can you rear face until? I'll be checking the height/weight but roughly what age?

Kat: To age 4, although some seats (such as the Britax Multi Tech or Max Way) will go to 25kg - approx age 6!

 

Q: Does certain clothing effect the safety of a harness on a car seat?

Kat: Yes. Thick, puffy or bulky clothing can cause an unsafe harness fit - best to remove all coats before strapping in!



Britax

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Global Road Safety Week Q&A!

Today our expert Kat took part in a live Q&A session over at Road Safety GB for Global Road Safety Week!

The session was very busy, with lots of questions answered - the hottest topics were iSize and booster cushions.

Do you have a burning question that isn't asked?  You can ask our experts at any time!

 

Ask an expert

 

1. Is an extended rear facing seat really safer than a forward facing Group 2/3 car seat? Why?


Child car seats which are tested under R44, are broken down into ‘group’ stages. The main stages are:
Group 0+ (infant seat)
Group 1 (toddler seat)
Group 2,3 (booster seat)

It is possible to have combinations of these seats, such as group 0+1, or group 123. Your question asks about group 2,3 car seats which are for children weighing 15kg, however, extended rear facing car seats are another option to group 1 toddler seats.

Rear facing children, after the infant seat stage, has been found to be safer. It is safer because a young child’s neck and spine are still developing, and their head is very heavy in proportion to this. In a frontal collision, which is the most dangerous and most common type of collision, a child’s neck is put under great amounts of strain. This is because the forward facing car seat secures their torso, but their head continues with the forward momentum. When rear facing, a child’s head, neck and spine remain fully aligned in a collision, which hugely reduces the force they are subjected to.

Countries which have their children rear facing until the age of 4 years have very low numbers of serious injuries and fatalities, and evidence does show that up to age 4, children are safest rear facing. Forward facing car seats have hugely reduced the numbers of children being killed or seriously injured, and we do not know how the misuse level affects the number of children getting hurt.

The risk of misuse is something to consider as well, as extended rear facing car seats can often be more difficult to fit – they are improving however and becoming easier to fit.

So in a nutshell, yes, rear facing is undoubtedly safer for children up to the age of 4, but it is important to ensure you fit and use the seat correctly.

 

2. Booster cushions (which I believe are a seat pad with no back) according to the .Gov website:  "should only be used for children over 22kgs." However they are being sold in high street stores as suitable for Group 2 with a 15kgs minimum weight limit on them.  Does this mean they are legal to use from 15kgs, or is the .gov website the law? Or does a child from 15kgs up to 22kgs have to have a "Rear or forward-facing child seat (booster seat)" as the .gov website says? Could you be prosecuted for having a child under 22kgs on a booster cushion?


Booster cushions are approved from 15kg, and may be used once a child reaches this weight, provided the adult seat belt fits across them safely (lap belt low on hips, and the shoulder belt running from their hip and across their shoulder). However, children are safest using a high back booster, over a booster cushion – although you won’t be prosecuted if you do use a cushion. Both high back boosters and booster cushions may be used from 15kg, up to 36kg/12 years old/135cm – whichever comes first.


3. I'd love to see some more evidence that impact shields aren't as safe as harnesses as there's a lot of confusion caused by how those seats perform in tests where dummies can't record the internal injuries, but apparently loads on the necks are lower than in forward facing harnessed seats?


Impact shield car seats spread the force of a collision over a wider surface area, which reduces the forces a child’s neck is subject to – these forces are lower than when a child is using a 5 point harness. The test dummies do not currently measure abdominal forces and there is currently no evidence available to show if impact shields are less safe due to abdominal loading.


4. Are high backed boosters with Isofix any safer than ones without? Thanks.


There is little safety difference in performance between ISOFIX and non ISOFIX high back boosters – both will protect a child well in a collision. ISOFIX is beneficial however, as it keeps the booster locked into place when the child is not in the car. A loose booster is a very dangerous projectile if you were to be involved in a collision, and the ISOFIX removes this risk as the seat is attached to the car.


5. I have heard it is unsafe for newborn babies to be in an infant car seat for extended periods of time. However some reports quote for as little as 20 minutes whereas others quote 2 hours. What is the recommended length of time for a baby to be safely in a car seat and if it is unsafe why are infant seats still being sold with pushchairs as a viable option for a newborn?


The research to show the safe amount of time a baby can be in a car seat has shown that the car seat can cause a baby’s oxygen saturation levels to drop. When tests have been carried out, the oxygen saturation levels have been shown to drop within 30 minutes. The ‘2 hour rule’ is generally thought to be the maximum amount of time a baby should be in their seat at any one time, although some organisations cite 90 minutes. There are other risks associated with infants spending too much time in their car seat, such as the development of ‘flat head syndrome’. Your baby must always use their car seat when in the car, but parents and carers should ensure they plan time for regular breaks of at least 20 minutes. If a car seat is going to be used on a pram chassis, it should only be used for quick trips, and the baby is safest being transferred to the lie flat pram if you will be out for any length of time.

 

6. Why are backless booster seats still available to buy if they offer no body protection for children?


Booster cushions are tested under R44.04 which tests for a frontal impact, rear impact and roll over - there is currently no side impact test required under R44. A booster cushion is designed to lift a child up enough so that the adult seat belt fits safely across their hips and upper body, it does not offer any protection for the torso, head or neck. A child is safer using a high back booster over a booster cushion whenever possible.

 

7. BeSafe say that their ERF seats are 5x safer. I know it relates to the load on the child's neck in the event of an accident. However, 5 x safer than what? 5 times safer than ANY forward facing seat, or 5 times safer than a harnessed seat? If this is true, why do seats with impact shields top the Which? Best Buy charts, and the first ERF seat is 11th in the chart, and only scores 4 stars for overall safety rear facing (not 5 stars.) What is the truth behind the marketing? Are ERF really safer? Are impact shields safer for the child as the Which results imply?


The 5x safer rule comes from a report which was undertaken in Sweden, which found that children were 5 times safer rear facing, than if they were forward facing in a booster seat. In Sweden, children are either rear facing up to age 4, or they are put into a booster seat – forward facing harnessed car seats are not available there, and so there is no evidence relating directly to them. What we have seen, however, is that Sweden has a very low casualty rate, whereas the UK rate is still too high. There is no doubt that forward facing car seats do a very good job and protect children in our cars, however, rear facing car seats do offer the best protection, particularly for younger children.

WHICH? take into account many things, as well as crash performance. One of the things which can bring a score down is ‘ease of fitting and use’ – extended rear facing car seats are considered to be difficult to fit and use, which is why they score more poorly. Impact shield seats score highly because they slightly reduce the force to a child’s neck and are considered easier to fit and use, and are quick to transfer between vehicles. However, based solely on crash performance, rear facing car seats are safer.

 

8. Is it true that although i-Size keeps children rear facing until 15 months old, this also means that the smallest 15 month olds - the lower 25% of 15 month olds will legally be able to forward face even if they weigh just 6, 7 or 8kgs? Will any minimum weight or height limit be added to an infant carrier to protect these children or will they really be fine forward facing at 15 months old?


i-Size does require children to rear face to 15 months old, and they are allowed to turn forward once they are 15 months, as there is no lower weight limit. However, i-Size child seats do have a lower height limit, so a child will not be allowed to use a seat they are not tall enough for, even if they are 15 months. A child may use the infant seat past 15 months, if they are within the height limit of the seat –the height on i-Size infant seats is 83cm.


9. I'm having trouble with my ERF, ISOFIX, swivel seat. I am speaking to the company but it looks as though I'm going to have to have a different seat. I'm not going to be able to have rear-facing (she's 18 months) so my choice will be between forward facing static ISOFIX seat or forward-facing swivel non-ISOFIX. Having a swivel seat makes my life easier, and I feel I can pull the straps tighter, but I want the one which is safest for my child. If fitted correctly, do you think a non-ISOFIX seat can be as safe as ISOFIX?


A non ISOFIX child car seat will perform just as well in a collision as an ISOFIX seat if they are both correctly fitted, however ISOFIX is considered safer as it is easier to fit.

With any child restraint that you buy, it is vitally important to visit a retailer who can give you advice and ensure the seat is compatible with your child and vehicle, as well as show you how to fit and use the child seat.

There are a number of swivel seats coming to market, many of which also do forward facing and are ISOFIX.


10. I'm confused with ISIZE as a lot of websites say it's the new regulation but then others say it's just a part of a new regulation. Which is it?


i-Size is both – it is a new regulation, but it is also part of an ‘overall’ regulation – which can become a little confusing!

The new regulation is R129, which i-Size is part of. i-Size covers phase 1 of the new regulation 129, and phase 2 which is looking at the safety of booster seats, is currently underway with completion aimed for 2016. Finally, phase 3 will be looked at, which includes all belt fitted only seats, the aim for completion on this is 2018.

So i-Size is a new regulation, but it is part of a larger regulation – R129.

The older regulation R44 is still valid and will be for some time yet, you do not have to replace your current car seat if it is not i-Size.

 

11. I was recently at a road safety conference in Dublin. In a survey the Irish Road Safety Authority found that 3 out of 4 child seats were incorrectly fitted and would therefore not meet required performance in the event of a collision. They have initiated "Check it fits" roadshows visiting supermarkets, etc. Are any similar initiatives planned in the UK?


Good Egg Safety runs a national child car seat awareness campaign and we conduct child car seat checking events across the UK. We are just about to launch a Child Seat Checking Roadshow throughout Scotland. You can find a list of checking events on the website: www.goodeggcarsafety.com

We have checked over 21,000 child car seats nationally since 2001 and data from our most recent 5 year average (12500 checks) indicates that 57% of child car seats are incorrectly fitted or used – last year alone 71% of seats in England and Wales were incorrect and 64% in Scotland.

It has prompted the development of a powerful new advert which will be screened here on Road Safety GB’s GRSW site on Monday 11th May so stay tuned and keep checking goodeggcarsafety.com for all the new child seat checking events clinics being booked throughout this year.


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How to fit an ISOFIX car seat

ISOFIX car seats are considered safer than seat belt fitted child seats, because the risk of them being incorrectly fitted is reduced.  However, not all ISOFIX seats fit all vehicles, and mistakes can still be made.



fitting ISOfix

 

Here are some tips to help you fit your child’s ISOFIX car seat


 

Tip1

You must check the vehicle compatibility list to ensure your ISOFIX car seat is compatible to your vehicle.  Not every ISOFIX seat fits every car, so it is important that the child seat manufacturer confirms that it is a safe fit. You can find the fitting list on the child seat manufacturer’s website.

Don’t forget!  The seat must also be suitable for your child!


 

Tip2

Once you have bought your seat, read the manual thoroughly.  This will not only give you specific instructions on how to fit your seat safely, but you will also find information which is essential to your child’s continued safety.

 

Tip3

To begin fitting your seat in the car, locate the ISOFIX points in your vehicle and attach the ISOFIX guides if required.  Once you have done this, release the ISOFIX arms, so they are extended, and ensure the support leg is away from the seat base.

 

Tip4

Attach the ISOFIX arms to the ISOFIX points in your vehicle, you should hear an audible ‘click’ and the indicators will turn green.  You may now have to push the child seat firmly into the vehicle seat back to secure the fit.

 

Tip5

Now lower the support leg to the floor, so that it fits firmly, but is not pushing the base of the seat upwards.  If your seat uses a top tether strap instead, pass this over the back of the vehicle seat as instructed by your manual, attach to the tether point, and pull firmly – there should be no slack in the tether strap.

*please ensure you attach your tether strap to a top tether point, indicated in your manual – and not onto a luggage hook.

 


fitting isofix seat

 

If your child seat fits using a separate ISOFIX base, you can now click the seat into place.  Remember to follow your manuals instructions - some combination ISOFIX seats require you to fit it in full recline!  Once you have clicked the seat unit into place, check that all of the indicators have turned green.



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What is a car seat base?

 

A car seat base normally is used with group 0+ infant car seats.  It is sold separately from the infant seat, and normally remains permanently fitted in the vehicle - it then allows you to simply click the infant seat on and off the base.

Some group 0+1 and group 1 car seats have a separate base, however at the next stage, seats are normally sold in one unit.

What are the options?


There are two options available for fitting bases - seat belt fitment, or ISOFIX.  Some seats will have only ISOFIX or seat belt fitment, but others have both options.

This base may only be fitted with the seat belt.

 

This base may only be fitted with the seat belt.

This base may only be fitted with ISOFix.

 

This base may only be fitted with ISOFIX.

This base may be fitted with ISOfix or the seat belt.

 

This base may be fitted with ISOFIX or the seat belt.

ISOFIX is considered safer than seat belt fitment, as there are indicators to show you that the base is fitted correctly, when you have a newborn baby this gives you much needed peace of mind!

 

Is it safer to use an infant car seat with a base?


Infant seats are safe whether they are on a base or not, provided they are compatible to both the car and child; as well as fitted correctly on every journey.

Bases are considered safer as these generally remain fitted in the car, either with the seat belt or using ISOFIX.  Your infant seat will click on and off the base, with indicators to show it is fitted properly, which reduces the risk of incorrect fitment and misuse.

 

Fitting issues


Car seat bases experience fitting issues the same as any other car seat, and it is important that you check your base is compatible with your vehicle before you use it.  ISOFIX bases will be listed on a compatibility list, but it is also advantageous to visit a retail store in person that has properly trained staff members to check your base and seat fitment.

 

Should you buy one?


If your budget allows it, and there is a base available to suit your child seat and your car then it is a good choice to buy a base for the car seat.  Not only does it give you peace of mind and makes your life easier with not having to fiddle with seat belts, but it has the added bonus of keeping the seat belt away from the little one's knees as they get older.

Seat belt fitted infant seats normally route the lap belt over the baby's lap, through two blue guides and the chest belt routes around the back of the seat.  Whilst this gives a secure fit, it does mean an older baby or toddler may experience the seat belt pressing on their lap.


Elena SC

 

This is not unsafe or dangerous, however it doesn't look very comfortable and it can be a trigger to move the baby up a seat stage too early.


0+ Car Seat

 

Both little ones are 100% safe whether they use a base or just the seat belt.

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Second hand child seats - Tips for buying

Welcome to the next installment in our second hand child seat series!  This post is looking at how we can use second hand seats as safely as possible.


Whenever possible, your child's car seat should be purchased as a new product, from a retail store who are able to give you good advice.

In purchasing from a retailer and taking advice, you can be sure the seat you buy is suitable for your child, compatible with your car and you will be shown how to fit the seat.  You will also know that your seat is brand new, and can be confident that the seat will do its job should you be involved in a collision.

Sometimes though, financial hardship can leave no choice but to buy a second hand seat, or a family member or close friend offers you a seat that you know is in perfect condition.  In this situation, what can you do to ensure the seat is used safely?

Our Good Egg Expert has put together 10 things to do before you decide to take a second hand seat!



Tip1



Only buy from family or close friends

Is the seat from someone you would trust with your child's life, such as a close friend or family member? Don't be tempted to buy a seat from a friend or family member to spare their feelings!

Only buy a seat you 100% know the history of - if you have any doubts about a seat, don't use it!



Tip2



How much is the second hand seat?

Can you buy a brand new seat for the price of a second hand seat?  There are many options available, and a benefit of buying new is being able to get advice and seat fitment - check out our blog on top seats for under £100!



Tip3



Find out the make and model of the seat.


What seat is it that you're buying?  Is it a well known brand?  Be aware that there are fake seats out there!



Tip4



Check the ECE approval label:

Does the seat carry an approval label?  A seat must carry a label for R44.03, R44.04 or R129 iSize.



Graco 44.03 OLECE LabelOL
 

Tip5



Check that the seat is suitable for your child

Does the seat accommodate your child's weight and height?  If the seat is forward facing, don't move up until the rear facing seat is fully outgrown!  Our chart will help you find out if the seat is the correct group:



Pic5

 

Tip6



Check the seat will fit your car

Some child seat manufacturers have fitting lists or online fit finders to help you find out what is compatible with your car.  Research what will fit your car - does your car have issues with buckle crunch?  Floor storage boxes or forward anchor point?



Tip7



Research the seat

    • Is the seat still currently available?

 

    • Has there been any recalls on the seat?

 

    • If it isn't available in shops now, why not?

 

    • Is it an old seat that is no longer manufactured?



If the seat is currently available, visit a store to see it close up as a new product - what does it look like new and what items comes with the seat.  Ensure the second hand seat has all parts present and instructions!



Tip8



Inspect the seat

Once you know what the seat looks like new, inspect the second hand seat - is the seat shell plastic, foam protection under the covers and harness in good condition, with no marks, rips, dents or tears?  If the seat shell, foam or harness is damaged in any way - don't use the seat!



Tip9



Are safer seats available?

Check out what your options would be buying new, is a safer seat available, or a seat that is more compatible with your vehicle or easier to fit?



Tip10



Get the fitment checked!

If you decide to take the second hand seat, get the fitment checked at a Good Egg Clinic or with your local road safety team (if they do car seat checking).  We won't be able to confirm your seat is safe without knowing the history, but we can confirm if the seat is fitted and used correctly!


 

 

GE

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Can I add a cushion to my child's booster seat?

Can I put a cushion on the booster seat?


A recent Ask the Expert question:

“My child complains that the booster seat is too hard and that it hurts their bum. I have noticed that the seat is very hard, there’s no padding at all. Can I add a cushion to the seat to make it more comfy?”

We have also had this enquiry in the past:

"My 3 year old keeps escaping from the 5 point harness, so he has moved to a high back booster seat with adult seat belt.  The seat belt sits up on his neck though, even when it's through the red guide.  Can I put a cushion under him to lift him up more so it doesn't rub on his neck?"

Example of what we've seen at our free car seat checking events

 

Booster seat     Booster seat 1

 

(NOTE: above pictures would be considered incorrectly fitted)

 

This blog is going to look at the potential risks involved in adding a cushion to the booster seat, and what else you can do to make the seat more comfortable.


In infant seats, group 1 seats and group 123 car seats, you normally find that the seat has some sort of insert in it that can be removed as the child grows. This doesn’t happen with high back boosters however, the seat comes as is, and it grows with your child by increasing the height of the head support.

When a child moves up to a high back booster (group 2,3) car seat, the booster is used as a belt positioning device. It lifts the child up so the adult seat belt will fit across their hips correctly. Booster seats nowadays go a step further than this, with many offering additional torso support and side impact protection.

 

What would the risks be if I put a cushion on the booster seat?


The potential risk is that the cushion would compress in an impact and cause the child to slip underneath the seat belt. This may cause them to be ejected from the seat belt, or receive greater injuries due to the belt not being positioned correctly.

 

I need to put a cushion on though, as my 3 year old doesn’t fit, and he can’t go in a harness seat because he escapes!


If a child has moved up to a high back booster seat they must weigh a minimum of 15kg, and be tall enough to fit within the seat belt – this is defined as the lap belt being flat over the lap, across the hips, and the shoulder belt running from the child’s hip to their shoulder. The shoulder belt should sit diagonally across their body and run level across their collar bone/shoulder. It shouldn’t slip off the shoulder (head rest too low) or sit up on their neck (head rest too high).

If a child doesn’t physically fit into the booster seat, then they are too small for it and are not able to safely use the seat. The child must return to their harness seat, or a seat with impact shield may work better. See our blog on the car seat harness for tips on how to stop your little one escaping.

 

How can the seat be made more comfortable?


If you do long journeys with your child, you may want to consider replacing their seat with something more padded – there are differences between the boosters and what comfort they can offer. Some boosters are very hard, which won’t be at all pleasant on a long journey!

We would not suggest padding a seat out with memory foam or DIY inserts – these have not been crash tested and there is just no way of knowing how they will effect the performance of a seat until you have a crash.

 

What about an adult seat cushion?


There are many cushions available for the adult vehicle seat, but these are mainly to assist with posture and back issues. They have not been developed or tested to be used with a child restraint and may effect the performance of the seat.



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The child car seat harness - Updated

Generally, child car seats come equipped with a 3 point or a 5 point harness in group 0+ seats, and a 5 point harness in a group 1 car seat. The job of the child car seat harness is to restrain the child in the child seat in the event of a collision.

 

Is there a safety difference between a 3 point and a 5 point harness?


Group 0+ rear facing car seats may have either a 3 point harness or a 5 point harness. In a collision the child is pushed back into the seat, which spreads the force across the whole seat back - putting much less force on the child and better protecting their neck and spine. The job of the 3 or 5 point harness is to hold the child in the seat.



Harness Use 3 overlay

Harness Use overlay



A 5 point harness has additional hip straps to help spread the force of a collision. This is very important when forward facing as the harness takes a lot of force which is then spread across the child’s torso.

 

How is the harness attached?


The child car seat harness is made up of two long straps, which attach to the buckle. The harness is secured at either end so that it sits over the strongest points of a child’s body – their hips and shoulders.

The hip straps on the harness are attached to the seat by metal hooks (picture below) which slot through a specific gap in the seat shell. These must always be attached completely and it is worth checking the harness is fully attached every journey.



Hip strap overlay



The shoulder straps on the harness attach at the back of the seat, often to a ‘Y’ shaped metal hook (picture below). The straps should always be securely attached and only removed from the hook if you must re-thread the harness to change the harness height position.



Y hook overlay



Many car seats now come with a harness that you can simply click into a different height position, removing the need to unhook it – this removes the very high risk of the harness being misused.

Each harness strap will have a plastic attachment on it, which joins together to click into the buckle.

 

Harness height


To set the correct harness height, the straps must come over the child's shoulders and down towards the buckle.  The harness must be level with the child's shoulders, although this isn't always possible. If you can't get the straps level with the child's shoulders (due to them being between height limits, for example) then the following is how you can figure out the best height:

Rear facing: Level with, or just below the shoulders.



RF harness height



Front facing: Level with, or just above the shoulders.

 

FF height overlay

 

Harness tension


You should be able to get two fingers flat between your child’s chest and the harness at collar bone level.



harness tension 2 overlay

 

Harness pads


The pads on the straps of a car seat normally need to be pulled down the straps so they sit on the child's chest.  You will often find the pads are attached to fabric, which ensures they are pulled down to the correct height.

 

The pads on this seat need to be pulled down onto the child's chest. 

 

The pads on this seat need to be pulled down onto the child's chest.



Other harness pads are attached to the top of the child seat, and will sit over the child's shoulders.


head support

 

The pads on this seat are attached to the top of the harness


 

The buckle


Every car seat in the UK which has a 3 or a 5 point harness must have a buckle to click into. Both pieces of the harness must come together first, before clicking into the buckle. This is to ensure that both parts of the harness are always attached. The button of the buckle is stress tested to ensure it can withstand the thousands of clicks and un-clicks it will go through in its lifetime. The buckle is also pressure tested to ensure most little fingers can’t un-click it, but that it is also easy to undo in an emergency.



BUCKLE overlay

 

Clothing in the car seat


What children wear when they go in the car differs with each journey, for this reason it is useful to loosen the straps before you take your child out of the car seat – the next time you buckle your child in you can pull the straps tight to ensure the correct tension every journey to suit what your child is wearing.

Puffy winter snowsuits, coats and jackets can cause big problems with the car seat harness – they should never be worn under the harness. The harness is designed to fit close to the child’s body, and it is tested in this way. Puffy snowsuits, coats and jackets create a gap between the child and the harness.  Even if the harness feels as though it is pulled tight, in a collision it may still not work properly.



Jessy coat overlay



Children should be wearing light, thin layers when in the car seat – a thin fleece at the most. Remember, children heat up 3-5 times faster than adults and they do not regulate their body temperature as well as adults. It is very easy for babies and children to overheat in the car; so don’t be tempted to pad them out – your vehicle will soon heat up leaving you with a very hot and sweaty little one for the rest of your journey!



Jessy blanket overlay

 

Cleaning the harness and buckle


Car seats become grubby very quickly and wiping over them with a damp cloth isn’t always enough and a full wash is required! It is very important that the harness is not washed, as this can break down the fibres within the harness and weaken it.

When cleaning the buckle, again wipe over it with a damp cloth and remove any food that is in or around the buckle and red button – hoovering the buckle helps ensure most of the crumbs and muck is removed.



Caution

When cleaning the harness, fully extend it and wipe over it with a damp cloth – nothing more. Do not use fabric cleaners, anti-bacterial sprays or soap on it as the chemicals in these products can damage the harness.

 

Removing the covers


Some car seats have easy to remove covers and you don’t have to remove the harness at all to get the cover off – however there are still lots of car seats where you do need to remove the harness to get the cover off!

When removing the covers, it is very easy for the harness to become twisted or incorrectly routed or fitted. When you are taking the cover off, as often as possible, re-thread and attach the harness back where it is supposed to go to help avoid it becoming incorrectly routed or twisted.

 

FAQ

 

My child has the habit of un-clicking his harness, what can I do?


This is extremely frustrating to any parent or carer; and very scary the first time the little one finds out they can do it! Some children will learn to undo the harness buckle, even with the regulated amount of force it must take to pop the buckle open.

1) Check the harness height – if the harness is too low, children can ‘wedge’ their shoulders under the straps and use the force to push down on the buckle.

2) Check the harness tension.

If your child continues to undo their buckle and they don’t seem to be growing out of the habit, you may want to try them in another weight suitable child restraint to see if they are less able to unclick the buckle on that seat.

A child un-clicking the buckle is not a good reason to move them up to a high back booster and adult seat belt, especially if they are below the weight or height limits.



Caution

The buckle must NEVER be obstructed – it must always be accessible to allow the child to be released from the seat quickly in an emergency.

 

My child wriggles out of the straps – what can I do?


As with the above issue, this happens very often! First things to check:

1) Harness height – is the harness at the correct level?

2) Harness tension – is the harness too tight or loose on the child?

3) Clothing – is the clothing allowing a gap for the child to wriggle their arms through? Thick and puffy jackets often cause this!

4) There are some after market products you can try with your seat, that are designed to stop children wriggling out of the straps.  If you choose to try an aftermarket product, ensure you read and fully understand the instructions of use before using it with your child's car seat.  Also make sure that it is not interfering with the way the harness sits on the child.

Maxi Cosi recommends the '5 point plus' for use with their car seats.

If the child continues slipping the harness, try them in a different weight appropriate restraint to see if they will wriggle the straps off in that seat.

A child wriggling the straps off is not a good reason to move them up to a high back booster with adult belt – especially if they do not meet the weight or height limits.

 

Alternative seat:


If your child does not seem to be growing out of the habit of removing their straps or un-doing the buckle, an impact shield style seat may solve the issue. These seats do not use a 5 point harness, but a “shield” is placed across the child.



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What is ISOFIX?

ISOFIX is an international standard of fitting child car seats.  In most modern cars, and even some older cars, there are ‘D’ shaped hooks in the base of the back seats on either side (some vehicles may have ISOFIX points in the middle or front seat) to find out if you have ISOFIX, either put your hand in the join between the passenger seat base and the back and run your hand along it until you feel them, or check your manual.



Isofix 1



ISOFIX is considered safer than a seat belt fitted child seat as the risk of fitting the seat incorrectly is very small.  An ISOFIX child seat is also quicker to fit, easier to fit and is attached to the chassis of the vehicle.



isofix 2


ISOFIX seats also come with other safety features like an impact leg or a top tether.  These devices must be used, if supplied, as they reduce the rotational and forward movement of the child and the seat in an impact.



Caution

If you have a car with passenger floor storage boxes you cannot use a seat with an impact leg, as the floor isn’t strong enough to support it in an impact


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