Car Seat research can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. When researching what car seat to buy, you need to keep in mind the laws surrounding car safety and car seats. These laws apply to both the European Union and the Republic of Ireland.
All children under 150cms in height or 36kgs (79lbs) in weight must use a child restraint system (CRS) suitable for their height and weight while travelling in a car or goods vehicle (other than a taxi). An example of a CRS would be a child car seat or booster cushion.
An airbag which deploys (opens up) in front of a rearward-facing child car seat can cause serious injury or even death if there is a collision.
There is no law against children sitting in the front seat, as long as they are using the right child restraint for their height and weight. However, as above it is illegal to use a rearward-facing child car seat in a passenger seat protected by an airbag. The deployment of an airbag where a rearward–facing baby seat is in place can cause serious injury to the child or even death.
There is now a penalty for drivers who place a rearward-facing child car seat in the front where there is an active airbag. You may receive at least 3 penalty points on your driving licence as a penalty. Drivers have a legal responsibility to ensure that all passengers under 17 are appropriately restrained in the vehicle.
Children should always travel in the back of the car, away from active airbags and the dashboard.
Taxi drivers are exempt from supplying child car seats.
Car Seat Standards
All seats sold in Ireland must meet EU standards UN ECE Regulation 4403/04 or Regulation 129. (See i-Size)
Look for the ‘E’ mark.
ISOFIX and i-SIZE
What is ISOFIX?
ISOFIX is the international standard of built-in attachment points in a car’s structure to fit a child seat.
Many new vehicles have ISOFIX points built in when they are manufactured, and child seat manufacturers are more commonly producing child seats that suit the ISOFIX system.
What is i-SIZE?
The key benefits of i-Size-standard seats are that they can be fitted to most ISOFIX systems and they provide increased support for the child’s head and neck. They also provide better side-impact protection in the event of collisions. An i-Size seat also allows your child to stay rear-facing for much longer (up to 15 months in a rearward-facing baby seat). The categorisation of these seats is based on height and size rather than height and weight.
Both i-Size (Regulation 129) and Regulation R4403/04 (referred to earlier in the Law section) are both legal for use and will run alongside each other until the R4403/04 is phased out.
Types of child car seats
A properly fitted child restraint system keeps the child in their seat, preventing them from being thrown about inside or being thrown from the vehicle. It also absorbs some of the impact force.
An appropriate child restraint is one which:
- conforms to the UN standard, ECE Regulation 44-03, or a later version of the standard, 44.04, or new i-Size (Regulation 129). Look for the E mark;
- is suitable for the child’s weight and height;
Buying a child car seat
When choosing a new child seat, make sure that it fits in your car (or cars, if you use it in more than one) and is suitable for the height and weight of your child. Use the checklist at the back of this booklet to help you select the child seat that is most suitable for your child and your vehicle(s).
1. Is the child car seat suitable for my child?
It is very important to make sure that the child car seat is suitable for your child’s weight and height. Refer to the manufacturers guidelines on each car seat.
2. Is the child Car Seat suitable for the type of car I drive?
The shape of car seats, the length of seatbelts and the position of seatbelt anchor points are different in different cars. So, not all child seats fit all cars. For instance, the seatbelt in a particular car may be too short to go around a particular child seat. Make sure you check that the child seat you buy will fit in your car and that it will fit in all the seat positions you intend to use it (for example, the back passenger side, the third row in people carrier, and so on). The manufacturer’s instructions should help you fit the child car seat.
3. Did I get expert advice when I was choosing the car seat?
Make sure you get advice from a child car seat expert retailer or the RSA child car seat expert. Some retailers know more than others about suitable options of child car seats. An expert will be able to advise you on which type of car seat is suitable for your child’s height and weight. You should also choose a retailer who can expertly fit the child car seat into your car to make sure it is a suitable match. They should also show you how the child car seat should be fitted into your car.
4. Does the seat I’ve chosen meet the correct EU standard?
Check that the seat you are buying meets the EU standard R4403 /04 or i-SIZE (Regulation 129). If it does, you should see a yellow or orange sticker with an ‘E’ mark and weight guidelines on the seat.
5. Are the instructions easy to understand and follow?
Make sure the child car seat comes with an instruction manual. Try to have the car seat fitted into the car before you buy it. Ask the expert to show you how to fit the car seat. If this is not possible, you should make sure that there is an easy-to-follow instruction manual with the seat and that you fully understand it.
6. Did I think about airbags?
It is very dangerous and an offence to place a rearward-facing child car seat in the front seat if the front seat is protected by an active frontal airbag.
7. Does my car have back seats?
A rearward-facing child car seat must not be used in the front seat where there is an active airbag. Remember to choose the biggest and strongest child to go in the front. Think carefully about driving with a child in the front seat – even in the forward position. A child, even in a child car seat. Does not replicate (copy) the typical position of an adult in the passenger seat.
8. Does my car have the ISOFIX or i-Size system?
Check if your vehicle(s) has an ISOFIX system suitable for the seat.
Some seats have a ‘foot’ that extends to the vehicle floor for stability. If this is the case. Check that it does not rest on the cover of an underfloor compartment. They provide increased support for the child’s head and neck. They provide better side-impact protection in the event of collisions.
Rear Facing for longer
An i-SIZE seat also allows your child to stay rear-facing for much longer. Up to 15 months in a rearward-facing baby seat. The categories of these seats is based on height and size rather than height and weight. Both i-Size (Regulation 129) and Regulation R4403/04 (referred to earlier under ‘Law’) are both legal for use. And will run alongside each other until the R4403/04 is phased out.
9. Should I buy a second-hand car seat?
It is better to buy a new car seat. However, if you decide to buy a second-hand car seat, you need to be aware of certain risks and ask some important questions. For example: How old is the seat? Generally, manufacturers recommend use of car seats for no more than 5 years due to wear and tear and possible weakened parts. Check the manufacturer manual for advice.
Has the seat ever been in a crash?
You should be satisfied about the history of the child car seat. Damage might not be visible, so you should inspect it thoroughly and make sure the frame has not been weakened or damaged. If there was more than bumper damage caused to the car, you should consider replacing the child car seat. Are there parts missing? You should be certain that all the parts required to fit the seat safely are there and intact – for example, lock-off clips, tensioning wheels, and so on. Does it meet the EU standards? You should investigate whether the seat conforms to EU standards. Remember to look for the E-mark.
Will it fit my car?
You should also be certain that the seat it suitable for your child and is compatible with your car. Does it still have the manual and fitting instructions? You should make sure that the seat comes with a manufacturer’s manual and fitting instructions.
10. If it was involved in a crash, has it been inspected thoroughly?
A car seat which has been involved in a crash should be carefully inspected and if there was more than bumper damage caused to the car, you should consider buying a new seat. Damage or weakened points may not be visible and the child car seat may not perform as well as it should in a collision.
Premature and low birth-weight babies
If you have a premature or low birth-weight baby. Ask the hospital to assess if it is safe for the baby to travel in a baby seat. If you are in any doubt at all about your child travelling in the car. Consult the hospital or your GP for further advice.
All information is accordance with the Road Safety Authority of Ireland and the European Union laws.