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CHILD SEATS

New regulations regarding the use of child car seats came into force on 18 September 2006 updating regulations dating back to 1993 when fewer cars on the road had rear seatbelts fitted.

The new regulations say that you must not carry a child without a booster seat if they are less than 135cms tall.

As with all these regulations, it is the driver who is responsible for them, so the defence "my child thinks booster seats aren't cool" is unlikely to succeed.

There is a £30 penalty for not following the regulations.

Many drivers responsibly carry out regular safety checks on their car but there is a vitally important area frequently overlooked by even the most conscientious of owners.

All drivers should regularly inspect all five seat belts to ensure that they are undamaged particularly checking any fixings or restraints to a child safety seat. With the exception of some much older vehicles, most cars have 5 seat belts fitted and it is an offense - and just plain stupid - not to use them.

All front and rear seat passengers MUST belt up and all children must use a seat or booster seat suitable for their age and size.

You - and your children - are 10 times more likely to die in a road accident if not wearing a belt, each year 9000 children die or are injured because their parents failed to belt them into the car or sat them in a child seat brought for a few quid from a car boot sale and wrongly fitted.

When buying child seats get the best you can afford. Buy a seat designed by one of the many specialist makers whose products are approved and can be found in the best mother and baby stores and get the seat fitted by a garage, don't botch it yourself. A recent survey found half of all child seats had been incorrectly fitted by parents.

All child seats have to conform to a variety of British Standards - BS AU202a, 3254, AU185 - or European Standard ECE R44. Approval under these standards is only given following stringent testing in a variety of circumstances.

If a seat isn't so labelled don't buy it. Ensure that your chosen seat is appropriate to the child's weight ( all will be labelled with a maximum ) and age.

The Consumers Association - who have tested many child seats - recommend that you will need at least three seats as a child grows. The first should be a rear facing seat for babies to nine months old which must be securely mounted on the front passenger seat but, if your car is fitted with a front passenger airbag, ONLY use a front facing seat.

The emergency inflation of an airbag can cannon a rear facing seat into the seat back which is unlikely to be survivable by a young baby. Given the greater distance between airbag and child in a front facing seat the bag will protect the child as is intended.

As children grow they should be moved into a rear seat mounted, forward facing, seat until about 6 years old. These generally use the adult 3 point rear seat harness for restraint and should be regularly adjusted to remain taut yet comfortable.

From about 6 years old it is best to use a booster seat or cushion depending on the child's size and the comfort fit of an adult belt. A seat is better than a cushion as a young child can sleep more easily if fully supported and is better protected in an accident.

If you care, buy the best you can afford and get it fitted properly into a safe car.

 

Article © Graham Benge 2007

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