Child car seat reviews: FAQs
What is the law regarding child car seat use?
The law states that you must use an appropriate child restraining system (child car seat) when carrying all children up to 135cm/4ft 5in (there are exceptions to this rule, scroll down for more information*).
However, safety experts recommend you use a child car seat for all children under 150cm. For those over 36kg (5st 10lb) but under 150cm, our advice is to go by height, not weight.
|Child seats in cars and vans|
|Age of child||Front seat||Rear seat||Who is responsible?|
|Child up to three years old||Correct child restraint must be used.||Correct child restraint must be used.|
If a restraint is not available in a licensed taxi/private hire vehicle, the child may travel unrestrained.
Child from third birthday up to 135cms in height (approx 4' 5"), or 12th birthday, whichever they reach first
|Correct child restraint must be used.||Where seat belts are fitted, the correct child restraint must be used. The child must use the adult belt if the correct child restraint is not available as follows:|
- In a licensed taxi or private hire vehicle.
- For a short distance in an unexpected necessity.
- Two occupied child restraints prevent the fitting of a third.
A child three years old and over may travel unrestrained in the rear seat of a vehicle if seat belts are not fitted in the rear.
Child over 135cm (approx 4' 5") in height or 12 or 13 years old
|Seat belt must be worn if available.||Seat belt must be worn if available.||Driver|
Passengers aged 14 years old and over
|Seat belt must be worn if available.||Seat belt must be worn if available.||Passenger|
- In taxis
- Emergency (unplanned) journeys where an appropriate child car seat is not available
- Where two occupied child car seats in the rear prevent the fitting of a third child safety seat. In these case, the adult seat belt should be used.
The consequences of ignoring the legal requirements could be expensive (at best) or fatal (at worst). Police are able to administer an on-the-spot fine of £30, or £500 if the case is referred to court.
Remember, it's the driver of the vehicle's responsibility to ensure all passengers are safely strapped in. If you're the driver, always check.
Can I put a child car seat on the front passenger seat?
You should never fit a rear-facing child car seat on a front seat with an active front airbag. If the airbag is deployed, the force on the child car seat could seriously injure or even kill your baby. Ideally, install the seat in your car's centre rear seat.
Some cars allow you to disable the airbag – it won’t deploy so it's safe to install a rear-facing child car seat. But always make sure you activate the airbag again before the seat is used for an adult.
For forward-facing seats, some child car seat makers say you should never place forward-facing child car seats on a front seat with an active front airbag; others say it's safe. We're not aware of any evidence to suggest it really is dangerous.
Our advice is that generally the back seat is safest for children. If you really prefer to have the child in the front, always keep the passenger seat as far back as possible.
Should I stop using a child car seat that did badly in the Which? tests?
No – any approved child car seat is better than using the adult seat belts. And, by law, all children under 135cm must use a suitable restraint.
Although the Which? child car seat tests examine what can happen in very severe accidents, these are quite rare.
Can I use a carrycot instead of a child car seat?
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A carrycot is an easy and flexible way of carrying your baby, as it can be used as part of a pram or on its own at home. We've tested a few models in previous years, but we wouldn't hold out much hope for a baby in a severe car crash like the ones we simulate in our testing and we can't recommend carrycots. We continue to look for new designs that might offer a solution to this problem.
If you're using a carrycot, (which, like all child car seats, must be approved to ECE 44.03 or 04), it's better than nothing at all, but switch to a Best Buy child car seat as soon as you can.
What is buckle crunch?
Only the seat belt webbing should be in contact with the frame of the child car seat. If the buckle of the adult belt lies across the frame of the child seat, pressure on the buckle (in an accident, or even under sharp braking) could cause the buckle to fail. If it fails, the buckle is likely to open, allowing your baby or child to be projected out of the seat, completely unrestrained.
You say ECE 44/04 isn’t adequate. Are there plans for a new standard?
There are plans in place to develop a new standard for introduction in 2012. We're hoping these will follow along similar lines to our own testing and include realistic front and side crashes, as well as ease of use assessments. Until this is finalised and introduced, the best guide as to which seats protect your child in the car most effectively are the results of our tests.