An infant safety seat, a "child restraint system" or "restraint car seat" is a restraint which is secured to the seat of an automobile equipped with safety harnesses to hold an infant or small stature people in the event of a crash.
Generally, countries with passenger safety rules includes laws regarding child safety in a manner that the child must be restrained depending on their age and weight. It is important to note that these regulations and standards are often minimums and that for each graduation to the next kind of safety seat, there is a step down in the amount of protection a child has in a collision. There are many ways parents and caregivers can help to reduce the risk of injury and death to children who ride in vehicles.
Car seats should always be placed in a rear seat if possible. Car seats have been found to cause severe and fatal injuries to the child when fitted in a seat with airbags.
In 2003, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that infants "“should spend minimal time in car seats (when not a passenger in a vehicle) or other seating that maintains supine positioning” to avoid developing positional plagiocephaly ("flat head syndrome") .
In 1990, the ISO standard ISOFix was launched in an attempt to provide a standard for fixing car seats into different makes of car. The U.S. version of this system is called LATCH. While some manufacturers have started selling ISOFIX-compliant baby car seats there has been a long delay in agreeing the technical specifications and the standard is still yet to become widely used. Generally, ISOFIX system can be used with Groups 0, 0+ and 1.
There are several types of car seat depending on the position of the child and size of the seat. The United Nations standard ECE R44/04 categorises these into 4 groups: 0-3. Many car seats combine the larger groups 1, 2 and 3. Some new car models includes stock restraint seats by default.
Group 0 carrycots hold the baby laying on its back.
Carrycots are secured by both seat belts in the rear seat of the car. Both types have handles to allow them to be easily moved in to and out of the car.
fastened carrycots, prams or car beds, are not as safe as the seat as they offer less support to the baby's neck in the event of an accident or sudden braking. However, a premature or very young baby may not have the neck strength to maintain an airway in a normal rear-facing infant carrier. Consequently, using a normal infant carrier for some babies carries an additional risk of suffocation. Physicians and hospital maternity departments are able to advise parents of the proper choice for their infant. Whichever is deemed the most appropriate initially, it is always true that newborns should never be left in baby seats any longer than necessary until they are old enough to lift their heads (4 months old), and they should never be without adult supervision.
Carrycots generally includes a stomach belt and a connecting to the (three points) safety belt.
'Infant carrier' means a restraint system intended to accommodate the child in a rearward-facing semi-recumbent position. It is so designed as to distribute the restraining forces over the child's head and body excluding its limbs in the event of the frontal collision.
For young infants, the seat used is an infant carrier with typical weight recommendations of 5-20 lb. All infant seats made in the US can now be used to 22 lb and 29 inches and the graco safe seat 1 can be used to 30 lb and 32 inches. In the past most infant seats in the US went to 20 lb and 26 inches. Infant carriers are often also called "Bucket Seats" as they resemble a bucket with a handle. Some (but not all) seats can be used with the base secured, or with the carrier strapped in alone. Some seats do not have bases. Infant carriers are mounted rear-facing, and are designed to "cocoon" against the back of the vehicle seat in the event of a collision, with the impact being absorbed in the outer shell of the restraint. Rear-facing seats are deemed the safest and children must remain in this position until at they are least 1 year of age AND at least 20 lb.
Infant carriers should be placed at no more a 45 degree angle, allowing appropriate neck and head support for the child. The harness straps should be threaded through the slots that are at or below the shoulder (North America), coming up and over as they push down to restrain the child.
As previously mentioned, most bucket seats accommodate children up to 20 or 22 lb. (depending on the seat). However, many children outgrow this weight before reaching one year of age. Therefore, they must remain rear facing in another seat.
Convertible seats can be used throughout many stages. Many convertible seats will transition from a rear facing seat, to a forward facing seat, and some then can be used as a booster seat. Many convertible seats allow for 5-35 lb. rear-facing, allowing you to keep your child in the safer rear-facing position up to 35 pounds.
Convertible safety seats can be installed either rear facing or forward facing. There is a large selection available to choose from and weight limits, height limits and extra features vary from seat to seat and by manufacturer. Seats with a 5-point harness is considered safer than one with an overhead shield
Convertibles aren't considered the best choice for a newborn because the bottom harness slots are often above the shoulders on most newborns. If you want to use a convertible from birth choose a seat with low bottom harness slots.
Rear facing weight limits range from 20 lb (9 kg) to 35 lb depending on the manufacturer and country of origin. Forward facing limits range from 17.6 lb (8 kg) to 65 lb depending on the seat model and the manufacturer and country of origin.
All convertible seats in the USA have at least a 30 lb rear facing weight limit, and some allow as much as 35 lb. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP,) recommends that children remain rear-facing until they outgrow their convertible seat, regardless of how old they are. You should continue to leave your children rearfacing until they have either outgrown the weight limit for their seat, or the top of their head is within an inch of the top of the shell of the carseat.
In fact, it is recommended that children sit rear facing for as long as possible. In Scandinavian countries, for example, children sit rear facing until around 4 years old. Rear facing car seats are significantly safer in frontal collisions which are the most likely to cause severe injury and death. Rear facing group 1 car seats are becoming more widespread but are still difficult to source in many countries. For comprehensive information on rear facing car seats, try a site such as www.rearfacing.co.uk
Booster seats are recommended for children until they are big enough to properly fit a seat belt. Seat belts are engineered for adults, thus being too big for small children. Children under the age of 4 and/or under 40 lb should use a seat with a 5-point harness instead of a booster seat.
Booster seats "boost" the child and allow the seat belt to sit firmly across the collar bone and chest, with the lap portion fitted to the hips. If the seat belt is not across the collar bone and the hips, it will ride across the neck and the stomach, causing internal damage in the event of a collision. The seat belt will tighten up and travel to a hard location to restrain its occupant. So if the seat belt is on the stomach, the sought hard location is the spine, resulting in internal damage as the seat belt slices through the organs to reach it.
There are two main types of boosters high back (some of which have energy absorbing foam) and no back. When possible use a high back booster because they protect better in a side impact crash then no back boosters. Low back boosters are good for riding with grandparents, friends, and are good for kids who are too tall for a high back booster but can only be used if the car has head support. A new generation of booster seats comes with rigid LATCH connectors that secure to the vehicle's LATCH anchors, improving the seat's stability in the event of a collision.
People often make the mistake of claiming that children should be out of a booster at a certain age. As every vehicle is different, children will fit each seat a bit differently. Some children need a booster in one vehicle, but fit the seat in a different vehicle. It is all individual.
The 5-Step Test to see if a child is ready to ride without a booster.
1. Does the child sit all the way back against the auto seat?
2. Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
3. Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm?
4. Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs?
5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?
Used for Groups I, II and III.
After reaching one year of age AND 20 lb, children may travel in a forward facing seats, however it is significantly safer to remain rear facing to at least 30 pounds and two years old. The reason your child MUST be one year of age and 20 lb is closely related to how the forward facing seat is designed to work. In the event of a collision, the harness straps retsrain the child, and the impact of the crash is absorbed on thespinal column of the child. If the child is not 1 year old, however, they will not have the bone development to retain such force. It is significantly safer for younger children to remain rear facing until the convertible seat is outgrown, regardless of their age as the spinal column has not solidified until 3-6 years.
The harness should be snug, with the straps tight enough that one cannot pinch a fold in the harness horizontally at the shoulder. Straps should come from at or above your child's shoulders, which is the opposite of the rear-facing position.
Most forward facing seats must be in the upright position, secured tightly into your vehicle's seat. To find the requirement for your child's seat, read the manual. The seat must also be tethered by law (in Canada). The purpose of the top tether is NOT to restrain the top portion of the Child Restraint, keeping it in place in the event of a collision. The tether's purpose is to decrease the distance the child travels forward in a crash. A tether should not run more than 30 degrees from the seat to the anchor. The location of the tether anchor is determined by the manufacturer of your vehicle, and you should NOT attempt to install it yourself as you do not know the pressure points of the vehicle.
When installing a forward facing seat, do not be afraid to put your weight in it in order to get it secured tightly. Seats are meant to withstand the force of a collision, which is a lot more weight then we are placing on it with our knee(s). The seat should not move more than one inch front-toback or side-to-side once it is installed properly and tethered tightly.
By law (in Canada and some US states), children NEED to be restrained until they are 40 lb and 4 years old. After both requirements are met, they can move into a booster seat. No child under four years old should ride in a booster. The brain synapses that govern impulse control are not developed enough until 5-6 years old, and a child who leans over to retrieve a cup or toy will be seriously injured or killed in a crash.
Child restraints are sometimes the subject of manufacturing recalls. (See the list maintained by the NHTSA for details). Recalls vary in severity; sometimes the manufacturer will send you an additional part for the seat, other times they will provide a new seat entirely. Always contact the manufacturer. The purchase of a used seat is not recommended. Due to the previous concerns discussed about expiry dates, crash testing, and recalls, it is often impossible to determine the history of the child restraint if it is purchased second hand.
Children traveling by plane are safer in a child safety seat then in a parent's arms. The FAA and the AAP recommends that all children under 40 lb use a child safety seat on a plane. Booster seats can't be used on airplanes because they don't have shoulder belts.
For all children, the child safety seat is typically placed in the back seat. Not only is it safer (i.e. further away from a potential front impact), airbags in the front seat are too powerful for the relatively meager weight of a child, which can cause serious injury or death in the event of airbag deployment. All cars with front airbag have a warning that kids 12 and under shouldn't be in the front seat but new research says children should ride in the back until the age of 14.
A study of car crash data from 16 U.S states found that children under the age of 3 were 43% less likely to be injured in a car crash if their car seat was fastened in the center of the back seat rather than on one side. Results were based on data from 4,790 car crashes involving children aged 3 and younger between 1998 and 2006. The center position according to data was the safest but least used position by parents.
Carrycot is recommended to be installed in the rear central seat.
By law every child restraint sold in Australia must carry the Australian Standard AS/NZ1754 sticker (pictured right). Most overseas child restraints, including restraints from countries such as the UK and USA, do not comply with these Standards and cannot legally be used in Australia.
The responsibility for children under 16 years using restraints correctly rests with the driver. Penalties for drivers not ensuring their passengers, under the age of 16, are properly restrained involve a fine of $165 and three demerit points or, if convicted in court, a fine of up to $500 and three demerit points. Possible suspension or cancellation of licence may also apply.
Exemptions to the law:
The Australian regulations for restraint of children have been reviewed and changes are proposed. If this is approved by the Federal and State Ministers then children will need to be in a dedicated child seat or infant restraint (each with a built-in harness) up to their 4th birthday and a booster seat will be required up to the 7th birthday.. The details are in proposed regulation amendments that include a review of international requirements and the anthropometry of child restraint design. As part of this package the Australian Standards for child restraints are being revised to cater for older, larger children in booster seats.
Children less than 150 cm in height occupying vehicles fitted with safety systems must be restrained by an integral or non-integral child restraint system suitable for the child's mass between zero and 36 kg (up to 79 lb). In practice, child restraint systems must be able to be fitted to the front or to the other rows of seats.
Children may not be transported using a rearward-facing child restraint system in a passenger seat protected by a front air bag, unless the air bag has been deactivated
Where a child-restraint system is used, it must be approved to the standards of the UN-ECE Regulation 44/04 or Directive 77/541/EEC, or any other subsequent adaptation thereto. However, until 9 May 2008 Member States may permit the use of child restraint systems approved in accordance with their national standards.
EuroNCAP has developed a child safety protection rating to encourage improve design. Points are awarded if universal child restraint anchorages ISOFIX are provided’ for different types of child restraint provision and the quality of the warning labels or presence of de-activation systems for frontal passenger airbags.