Group 1 car seats
Group 1 car seats accommodate little ones that weigh between 9kg and 18kg. After reading the previous Good Egg blog on group 0+ child car seats, you may have noticed that there is a crossover in the weight recommendations. A rear facing group 0+ child seat will last until 13kg, yet a group 1 car seat says it is suitable from 9kg! So are they just as safe as each other?
The simple answer is No. Forward facing your baby at 9kg is not as safe as keeping them rear facing to 13kg.
If your child is moving up to a group 0+1 combination seat in rear facing mode, or an extended rear facing group 1 seat at 9kg, this isn’t such an issue as they still have the protection of being rear facing.
So when should you move to the next stage?
The infant seat should be used right up to the 13kg mark. The only time a child should move to the next stage seat before this weight is reached, is if they have outgrown the infant carrier by height – so when the top of their head is level with the top of the car seat.
If they are moving up to a group 1 car seat and have outgrown their infant carrier by height they must weigh at least 9kg and be able to sit unaided for 30 minutes.
What to look for in a group 1 car seat.
Many people assume that a group 1 car seat has to be forward facing, however there are rear facing group 1 car seats available, which offer better protection for the neck, head and spine in a collision. Many rear facing group 1 car seats encompass more than one group, covering either group 0+1 or group 1,2. Extended rear facing car seats will be covered in greater detail in a separate post, due to be released soon.
Once you decide which direction you are going to face your child, you need to choose your seat - but there are a few things to do first! At Good Egg Safety, we recommend you visit a retailer that can offer good advice from trained staff members. Some retailers offer appointments, so call in advance to make sure there will be someone available to help you.
What information you need to take with you:
1. Your child's weight
2. Your child's height (where their head is in relation to the top of their current seat - do they have space above their head? Are their eyes level with the top of the seat?) Preferably, have your little one with you so you can try them in seats.
3. Your car details, and details of any other cars the seat will be fitted into (including friends, childminders, grandparents) you will need to know the make, model and year of each car.
4. Do the vehicles that the seat will be fitted into all have ISOFIX?
Features and benefits:
There are big price differences between car seats, so what should you look out for to make sure you spend your money wisely?
ISOFIX or seat belt fitment?
If you have ISOFIX points in your car, you will be able to consider ISOFIX car seats. When ISOFIX and seat belt fitted restraints have been tested, with both seats fitted correctly, there is little reported difference in performance and protection offered - both ISOFIX and seat belt fitted restraints perform well.
ISOFIX is considered safer as it dramatically reduces the risk of child car seats being fitted incorrectly. Many come with indicators to show when the seat is clicked in properly for complete peace of mind.
Tension system and easy to fit.
If you are choosing a seat belt fitted car seat, consider seats that have a seat belt tension system and ones that are easy to fit. Some car seats are more difficult to fit than others, so don't be afraid to ask to have a go at fitting each seat if you have a few options! It is important that you are fully confident fitting your child's car seat. Opting for one that is easy to fit will reduce the possibility of it being incorrectly fitted.
A seat belt tension system on a seat belt fitted restraint does exactly what it says - it tensions the seat belt once the seat is fitted. This extra tension is normally applied by pushing a lever or by operating a 'ratchet' to tighten the seat belt up. This helps you get a good, tight fit on your car seat and reduces the risk of the seat belt being too slack - which is why a seat belt tension child restraint is safer than one without.
Side impact protection
Lots of people assume that child car seats provide side impact protection as standard, but it is currently not a legal requirement on the R44.04 crash test and there are seats on the market which do not offer any side impact protection.
So how do you ensure your car seat does offer side impact protection?
1. Look for child seats that have a full, integrated head rest. This will help support your child's head and will give another layer of protection in a side impact.
2. Look at child seats that have deep, padded side wings - this is a good indicator that they may offer side impact protection.
3. Check what crash test awards a seat has received. A seat that has been awarded an ADAC or Stiftung Warentest score has been side impact tested. These additional tests not only test how the seat performs in a side impact, but it also tests at a higher frontal impact force. The ADAC and Stiftung Warentest awards give a car seat a score, the lower the score the better the seat performed. The ratings run from poor to very good.
4. New i-Size regulations and crash testing have now introduced a side impact test, so if you purchase an i-Size car seat, you can be reassured that it has passed the test and offers protection from side impacts.
Adjustable headrest and harness
Child seats come with the 5 point harness which restrains the child, and the harness will have the ability to increase in height as your child grows. There are two ways this can be done on a child seat. Either by unhooking the straps at the back of the seat and re-threading them, or by pulling the head rest up which will increase the harness height at the same time.
Choosing a seat with a harness that you can increase simply by pulling the headrest up removes the need to unhook and re-thread the harness. This is a safety feature as it reduces the risk that the harness will become twisted, re-threaded at the incorrect height, or damaged.
Child seats with a re-thread harness typically only have 3 height options, whereas a harness that adjusts with the headrest normally offers 6 or 7 height options - this will reduce the likelihood that you will end up with the straps at the incorrect height whilst you are waiting for your child to grow into the next slots.
This is also a useful feature for people who will use the seat for a number of children.
Most group 1 car seats come with the option to recline the seat. This offers a more comfortable position for the child to sleep. It does not make the child safer if they're reclined and there is not normally an age or weight limit on using the recline function.
When deciding which car seat to buy, ensure the recline function is easy to operate and that it does not alter the seat belt routing. On some child seats, you must preset the recline when you fit the seat, as operating it once the seat is fitted causes the seat belt to loosen off.
Easy to remove, washable seat covers
Ensure the seat you are buying has the option to wash the seat covers, but that the seat covers are easy to remove from the seat. If you have to undo half of the car seat and pull out all the harness to get the covers off, it is possible that the seat will be put back together incorrectly. Choosing a seat that lets you leave the harness in place when you remove the covers reduces the risk of the harness becoming twisted or incorrectly fitted.
For convenience, check that the covers are machine washable at 30 degrees.