Child car seats: what you should know – baby and family

Backwards or forwards? What is an impact shield? Does our car have Isofix at all? Buying a child car seat poses parents many questions. Here are the ten most important answers

The practical test shows whether the seat fits. Therefore, let the child sit with a sample when buying

According to Interconnection Consulting, over 2.4 million child car seats went over the counter in Germany in 2016. A whole lot. But children are only allowed to ride in the car in an appropriate seat – as long as they are not at least 12 years old or 1.50 meters tall. This is a legal requirement. The most expensive seat is not necessarily the best: In tests by ADAC or TÜV, high-priced models do not automatically perform very well. 10 things parents should also know:

1. Sit forward or backward?

The fact is that sitting backwards is safer for babies and toddlers. "The problem with forward sitting is the head", explains Dr. Cora Behnisch-Gärtner from the children’s orthopedics department at the Technical University of Munich at the Schwabing Clinic. "The muscles are still too weak for the child’s heavy and large head. Even in a rear-end collision at low speed, it falls forward with force. This can lead to serious injuries to the cervical spine." This danger is averted if the child is sitting against the direction of travel.

2. What is a reboarder?

Reboards are rear-facing seats. They increase safety, but are more expensive than front-facing seats and require more space. Under no circumstances may a rear-facing system be placed in a passenger seat with an active airbag. If the seat is installed on the back seat, the front passenger seat has to be pushed far forward, the installation can be complicated and large children often cannot stretch their legs properly. Some people also feel nauseous when sitting against the direction of travel. Which seat is good also depends on the child: Katja Lenz from ADAC North Rhine in Cologne advises: "Always take the child with you to purchase, install the seat in the car and test it in peace."

3. What good are growing systems?

"Growing seats are always a compromise", says Katja Lenz. "The proportions and needs of the children change, not every seat takes part."

4. It must be an Isofix seat?

Depends on the car. If it is equipped with Isofix holding eyes, an Isofix seat is useful. "This is firmly connected to the body via retaining lugs", says Lenz. "So the seat is securely attached. The risk of incorrect operation is also low. This improves security."

5. What does i-size actually mean?

The term refers to an EU directive (R129). It came into force in 2013, raising the standards for child safety in the car: in seats that comply with this standard, children drive backwards up to 15 months. The seats all have Isofix. The choice of seat is not based on body weight, but after Child’s height. Child car seats that have been approved according to ECE regulation 44/04 are still valid.

6. It also does a used model?

"Only if you can be sure that the seat has not been damaged", says Katja Lenz. Before buying, remove the cover and check the seat for deformation, cracks and breaks. Check: Are the instructions available and complete? For harness belts: are the belt pads there? Can the belts be operated properly? Lenz advises: "If you buy or rent a seat used, then it is best from the circle of friends." Renting a baby seat is usually okay, the seats are not used for so long. But important: It must be approved according to ECE regulation 44/03 or 44/04. "If the seat has ever had an accident, be sure to buy a new one", says Ralf Diekmann from TÜV Rheinland in Cologne.

7. Why do some seats have an impact shield??

The small table can protect the head and neck in the event of an accident, but can increase the strain on the chest and stomach. Here, too, it depends on what the child and parents like. Some children sweat more through the table or try to push it away. The plus: "When buckling up, fewer mistakes can happen than with systems with harness belts because the impact shield is close to the child", says Katja Lenz.

8. Child seat with airbag – what good does it do?

Since autumn 2017 there is a seat with an integrated airbag in the shoulder pads on the Market. ADAC or TÜV could not test this model, which promises more protection for the neck and head, until the editorial deadline. In the event of an accident, the airbag should be triggered by a signal on the Isofix anchorage. "The idea sounds good, the timing of the ignition and deployment of the airbag specified by the manufacturer also corresponds to the sequence that would be necessary for the protective effect", says Diekmann. Now the seat has to show in tests whether it is safer than the usual systems and its price (just over 600 euros) is justified.


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Christina Cherry
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