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  • Writer's pictureDeerness Valley Nursery

Car seats: staying safe on your way to and from nursery

A guest blog post from Senior Educator Helen


At Deerness Valley Nursery we prioritise the safety and wellbeing of your child, including when they travel to and from nursery. When travelling in vehicles car seats are designed to protect your child in the event of a crash, and the correct choice and use of your child’s car seat is vital in ensuring your child’s safety.


Since 2006, all children must use a car seat until they are either 12 years old or 135cm tall (whichever is first).


How do I choose the right car seat?


A car seat needs to be the right one for your child’s size, weight and height.


i-Size car seats are organised according to the height of your child. However, most car seats in the UK are split into groups according to the weight of your child:

Group 0/0+

Group 1

Group 2

Group 3

Newborn – 13kg

9-18kg

15-25kg

22-36kg









Rear-facing

Rear-facing / forward-facing

Rear-facing / forward-facing

Forward-facing

Approx. 7-12 years

Approx. 0-15 months

Approx. 15 months-4 years

Approx. 4-7 years

Approx. 7-12 years


The ages recommended for each group of car seat are approximations – it is more important that your child fits correctly into their seat than they are the ‘correct’ age for the seat group (see below in ‘How do I make sure my child is fitted in their seat correctly?’).


Did you know? The rules for backless booster cushions (like the one shown here) changed on 1st March 2017, due to concerns over their safety. They are now only approved for manufacture for children who weigh over 22kg or who are over 125cm tall.

If you already own one from before 2017 you may continue to use it. However, this not considered the safest option.



Rear or Forward Facing


Children must be in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 15 months old.


However, many car seats in group 1 and 2 allow children to sit rear-facing until they weigh 25kg (usually around age 4-6). There are even group 3 seats that allow rear-facing!


It is highly recommended that children stay rear facing for as long as possible, and at least until the age of 4.



Seat belts and harnesses


Children cannot use the vehicle’s own seatbelts (rather than a 5-point harness) until they weigh over 15kg.


Some group 2 forward-facing car seats have top-tether straps that can extend the use of your 5-point harness. It does this by increasing the harness’ weight limit from 18kg to 25kg! You should read the instructions for your car seat carefully to be sure you have installed it safely.



How do I make sure my car seat is fitted correctly?


1. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Every car seat should come with clear instructions about how to fit it in your vehicle.

a. Before you purchase a car seat, always check it is compatible with your vehicle.

b. If you prefer, some shops offer free professional car seat fitting services (e.g., Halfords). Always ensure this is provided by a reputable retailer.


2. Use the correct fittings for the car seat. All car seats use either the vehicle’s own seatbelts or ISOFIX connectors (some use both). The car seat should feel secure, with no excessive movement.


3. Put car seats in the back seat(s) of a vehicle, where possible, as this is the safest location.

a. Rear-facing seats should not be put in the front of a vehicle with an active airbag, as this is extremely risky in the event of a crash.



How do I make sure my child is fitted in their seat correctly?


Your child needs to be fastened in correctly for every journey, no matter how short.


1. Their harness/seatbelt should be fastened correctly, with straps snug against their chest.

a. There should be no twists in the straps, and any pads should be correctly attached at shoulder height.

b. There should be enough space that the child can breathe comfortably, but not enough that a child could take their arm(s) out of the straps.


2. Move your child to the next stage of car seat when they outgrow their current one.

a. If your child is over the weight limit for their current car seat, they must move to a larger car seat. You may also need to consider if they have moved beyond the weight limit of a 5-point harness (18/25kg depending on manufacturer).

b. If your child is tall enough that their head is higher than their headrest, they must move to a larger car seat. Remember, a tall child under 15kg still needs to use a 5-point harness.


3. Do not add anything to a car seat – this includes chest clips, cushions, and toilet-training aids. They can interfere with the correct working of the car seat.


4. Think carefully about the clothes your child is wearing, especially in the winter - the pictures underneath show how dangerously loose a harness can become if a winter coat is worn.

a. Always remove coats and other bulky/puffy clothing before fastening a child into their seat.

b. Use blankets, or pre-heat the car, to keep them warm instead



What else do I need to know?


Babies in car seats


Although they are safe for travelling, young babies should spend as little time as possible in a car seat – as they can’t yet support their own head, they can find it hard to sustain their breathing when in a car seat for a long time. The advice is:

  • Take regular breaks. Most manufacturers and healthcare professionals say babies shouldn’t be in a car seat for longer than 2 hours at a time.

  • Babies shouldn’t be left to sleep in car seats. Once you have arrived at your destination take the baby out and lay them flat on their back to sleep.

  • Keep an eye on them for their head slumping forward or ‘scrunching’ in their seat. Consider whether a driver mirror or a ‘lay-flat’ baby car seat is a worthwhile investment.

Second-hand car seats


It is not recommended that you buy a second-hand car seat if you do not know its full history. They may not meet current safety standards or might have been in an accident you don’t know about.


Remember, car seats that have been in an accident are no longer safe to use.


Did you know? Your car insurance may cover the cost of replacing your car seats if you are involved an accident, but this isn’t automatic – ring them to check if you’re covered under your policy, and if there’s a limit to their payout.


Car seats don't last forever. Not only do safety standards change over time but the plastic and other component parts degrade over time and get worn out through use. Some car seats will have a small sticker on them that has an 'expiration date' on them and some will have a date of manufacture and then you have to consult the website of that company to see how long they recommend their carseat will last.


If your car seat has neither of these things then a rough rule is that they last about 6 years. This is worth considering if you got that carseat from a friend or if it has been stored from an older sibling - consider how old that child is now and whether it is still safe.



What does the law in the UK say?


Despite all the options available to you, the law in the UK is quite clear:

  • All children must normally* use a car seat until they are 12 years old or over 135cm tall, whichever is first.

  • Children must be in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 15 months old.

  • Up to age 14, it is the driver's responsibility to ensure a child is in the correct seat and buckled in properly.

*There are some legal exceptions to this requirement. For example:

  • In an emergency, e.g. taking a child to hospital.

  • When travelling in the back seat of a taxi or coach

  • If the vehicle does not have seatbelts, e.g. classic cars.

However, just because it is legal does not mean it is safe.

Think:

Is this journey necessary?

Does it need to happen now?

Is it over as short a distance as possible?



What do I need to remember?


It can be a little overwhelming looking at all the information. However, if you can answer these questions, you should be feeling confident that your child is travelling safely:


Is your child’s seat correct for their height and weight?

Is it fitted in your vehicle correctly?

Do you feel confident you are fastening them into their car seat correctly?


By using the correct car seat for your child’s age, weight, and height, and ensuring correct installation and use, you are providing them with the best possible protection during journeys to and from nursery. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to ask – we would be happy to help our parents.

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