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Transporting children safely in the car the child seat ABC

Buckling up children properly in the car – this is important not only when traveling. We tell you what to look out for when buying and installing child seats and who should sit where – with or without an airbag.

70 percent of parents do not secure their children correctly in the car © BlueSkyImages -

70 percent of parents do not secure their children correctly in the car

Even children who are unruly, shouting, suffering from motion sickness or unbuckling themselves are no excuse: anyone who fails to secure his or her child during the journey will have to pay a fine of 40 euro and a point in the central traffic register in flensburg can be expected. In an emergency, parents have to stop and calm the child or buckle it back in before continuing their journey – or do without a car ride.

The best place for children according to the ADAC, the back seat, preferably in the middle. If it is occupied, children should sit on the right side so that they can get out or be taken out on the walkway side.

Babies under three months in the slightly curved position in a baby car seat, children are not in the best possible position and may have breathing problems. During this time you should not transport the baby in the car for a long time and take many breaks.

Official regulations

Compulsory child seats have been in place since 1993. Since 2008, all seats sold in Germany must comply with ECE regulation no. be certified 44/03 or higher.

Since July 2013, a new EU directive has also been in force in addition to ECE 44: all new child seats for infants must now allow rearward-facing transport up to the age of 15 months, ensure side impact protection and be based on body size rather than weight. It is not yet known when the transitional period for this rule will end and the "old" child seats will be banned – but safety experts welcome the introduction without reservation and hope that it will be extended to 24 months.

ECE 44 divide child car seats into several classes that must exactly match the weight of the child being transported (age is only an indication for guidance):

  • Class 0: infant carrier from birth to 10 kg or 9 months, with five-point belt (installation only rear-facing or transverse to the direction of travel)
  • Class 0+: from baby car seat from birth to 13 kg or 18 months, with five-point belt (rear-facing only)
  • Combination class 0+/I: from birth to 18 kg backwards, from 9 kg also possible in the direction of travel; up to about 3.5 years (with five-point and three-point belt)
  • Group I: 9 to 18 kg or 9 months to 3.5 years, with five-point belt, in or against direction of travel (reboarder)
  • Class II: 15 to 25 kg, from 4 years (mostly in the direction of travel with three-point belt, also as reboarder)
  • combination class II/III: 15 to 36 kg, 4 to 12 years (in the direction of travel with three-point belt)
  • Class III: booster seat from 22 to 36 kg, up to 12 years (in the direction of travel with three-point belt)
  • combination class I/II/III: from 9 to 36 kg or 9 months to 12 years old

By the way: children must also be secured in cabs, but the company must be able to secure a maximum of two children and provide a maximum of one group I child seat. Baby seats must be brought by the passengers themselves. Which regulations in other countries for the safety of children in the car, you can read in detail in our article "with or without car seat on travel".

In addition to the weight of the small passenger, whether a particular child seat model "fits" and how long it will fit often depends heavily on body size and stature. Seats in groups 0 to I may only be used as long as the head does not protrude over the edge of the seat and the shoulders are below the exit points of the five-point belt. Older children often find the seats too tight around the hips, while combination models from several classes often offer too little support for younger children.

so: always "try it on" – and don’t wear thick winter clothing, footbags or the like!

When is a child "too big" for the car seat?

For the 'big ones' a child seat is obligatory up to 12 years © natasnow -

For the "big ones a child seat is compulsory up to 12 years of age

Without a booster seat, the child’s head is often still too high in the abdominal area, as the child’s pelvis does not yet have the typical "side horns" that hold the belt down in adults. In the event of braking or impact with the car, the belt can cut into the abdominal cavity of children and cause serious abdominal injuries.

Class III booster seats are permitted for children weighing 15 kilograms or more. The cheapest models have no backrest and therefore neither side protection nor a guide for the diagonal belt. Often the guides for the lap belt are also missing, then during heavy braking the seat cushion can simply slide forward under the child’s bottom. Sleeping children also often tilt to the side and slip out of the top belt. Smaller children who have just outgrown group II should not be transported without a backrest and side cradles.

The right car?

Even the smallest must be well secured in the car © tan4ikk -

Even the smallest ones must be well secured in the car

Even reboarders sometimes need a lot of space. And many infant carriers cannot be fitted because the three-point belts on the back seat are simply too short. Many child seat manufacturers therefore have lists of reliably fitting vehicle models, and some explicitly restrict the use of their seats to these models. If your car is not on the manufacturer’s list, check with your car dealer to make sure that the car seat of your dreams will fit or has been tested in your car.

What is ISOFIX?
ISOFIX was developed to facilitate the installation of child car seats and prevent application errors. The connectors that secure the child seat to the body are integrated in most new cars; if they are missing, the ISOFIX seat can also be installed with the three-point belt.

Disadvantage: not all ISOFIX systems fit in every car (universal approval is required), sometimes the ISOFIX eyelets on the passenger seat are missing. In addition, ISOFIX child car seats are sometimes much more expensive than "normal" ones.

also let the child seat salesman show you the correct installation and handling (but be careful: many salesmen are hardly trained for this or even give wrong instructions). On youtube the manufacturers of many child car seats have posted their own installation instructions).

Installing child seats correctly

Over 70 percent of parents do not secure their children correctly in child seats. Typical mistakes:

  • The carry handle of the infant carrier is not engaged in an upright position.
  • the five-point seat belt is not tight (often because of too thick clothing). Rule of thumb: an adult hand should fit flat between belt and child.
  • Incorrect belt routing when securing infant carriers and group I seats
  • The car seat is not mounted firmly enough or is not properly locked onto the station.
  • The three-point belt does not pass over the middle of the shoulder.
  • The pelvic belt is too high (it should go as low as possible over the groin).
  • The child’s head is not inside the head support, especially when sleeping.

Installation problems

A very widespread problem are the safety belts, especially in station wagons. Sometimes the belt buckles are too long for correct installation, and often the upper belt anchorage points of the outer seats are too far forward, so that the backrest of a forward-facing child seat in group II or III hits the automatic retractor. If the child sitting in the seat then leans forward, the belt is no longer tight.

The same situation occurs, by the way, if the group II/III child seat is used on the front passenger seat. The manuals of most cars recommend that the passenger seat be pushed all the way back, which prevents the retractor from working properly because the child seat sits behind the seat belt anchorage point. ADAC tests from 2012 also showed that there are hardly any cars in which three child seats side by side fit in the back seat.

Integrated child seats
integrated child seats can be installed in many models for an additional charge. Advantage: they take up little space and can be used spontaneously. disadvantage: they are not as safe as "real" child seats, usually offer a worse sleeping position and no optimal belt guidance. Integrated child seats are therefore more suitable for grandparents who only have to transport a child from time to time and not over long distances.

Child seats and airbags

Properly secured in a child seat - right? SerrNovik -

Properly secured in a child seat – or?

§ 35a stvzo prescribes: when the passenger airbag is active, a rear-facing child seat must never be mounted on the passenger seat. If there is no room in the back seat or if it is difficult to calm your baby there, you will have to deactivate the passenger airbag; in some makes of car this can be done with a key switch, others have to have the airbag deactivated in the workshop and in some models the airbag is deactivated in response to a specific transponder signal – in this case only special child seats from the vehicle manufacturer may be used.

Forward-facing child seats are allowed in the front passenger seat unless the car or child seat manufacturer specifies otherwise. To be on the safe side, you should push the seat as far back as possible and put the backrest in an upright position. When installing a group I child seat, it helps if you first tilt the backrest back a little and then stand it upright again after tightening the three-point belt to tighten the belt.

And: make sure that the B-pillar with the belt anchorage point is behind the child!

Opinion is divided among vehicle manufacturers and child seat brands on side airbags and head airbags. It is assumed that these additional airbags are safe for children as long as they are seated in a correctly installed child seat. However, if a child leans against an airbag exit opening while driving, it can be dangerous (this also applies to adult passengers, of course).

What to do when only one lap belt is free?

Especially when several children are to be transported in the car, parents encounter a problem: the middle seat in the back is often only equipped with a lap belt. Fortunately, there are also some lap belt-compatible child seats that are suitable for children up to 25 kilograms body weight. As a rule, you can also take this seat with you on an airplane, where only lap belts are available.

All two-point belt seats can always be used with the three-point belt; however, the "pelvic belt suitability" ends at the latest at 25 kilograms body weight.

Saving tips

Child seats are expensive, no question. At least you can save a little without sacrificing safety in the car:

  • Discontinued models from brand manufacturers that have been well tested by the ADAC are often cheaper
  • Combi models that go across several age and weight categories are cheaper on an extrapolated basis.
  • Child seat hire: baby seats are available from automobile clubs such as the ADAC or oAMTC.
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Christina Cherry
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