As of March 2018, all new child booster seats introduced to the market have to have a high-back design, with safety experts recommending that the larger seats offer better levels of occupant protection in the event of an accident.
Confusion reigns, however, among parents, many of whom are aware that a law change has taken pace, but not how it may affect them. Here’s what you need to know…
What is the change?
Form March 1, 2018, all new child seats introduced to the market have to comply with the new European Safety Standard R44-04, which says that a car seat must come up as high as the occupant’s shoulders at the very minimum.
The ruling bans any new designs of backless booster seat from entering the market.
How can I tell if my seat complies?
All child seats sold in the UK and Europe have to display a type approval label to show that they comply. You’ll normally find this built into the stitching on the back of the seat where owners are less likely to remove it. If the type approval label says R44-04 on it, then your seat complies with the very latest legislation.
Are backless booster seats illegal now?
No – this is where most of the confusion lies. It is still fine for car seat manufacturers to sell backless seats providing they were designed and introduced to the market before the new rules came in. Most are phasing them out or already have done, however, there remains a demand for smaller booster cushions, as some of the bigger seats don’t fit well in smaller or older cars, and safety experts believe that it’s still much safer for a child to have a basic booster cushion than none at all.
Can I still use my booster cushion?
Yes – if you already own and use booster cushions, you’re perfectly okay to carry on using them. The law hasn’t changed in this respect. However, official advice still suggests that high back seats are safer.
At what age can children use which seat?
Previously, children were expected to be in a full car seat until the age of four or reaching a weight of 14kg, after which a backless booster was considered acceptable. However, the latest advice is to not use a backless booster for children under 22kg or seven years old.
Children should remain in a car seat of some description until they reach 135cm in height – or on average at around 12 years old – before reverting to the car’s standard seat belts.
Will I be fined if I get it wrong?
While a flagrant disregard for child safety can and should be punished, you’re only really likely to get fined if you allow your children to travel in the car with no restraints at all. And so you should be…
Most routine inspections of car seats carried out by police are in shopping centre car parks, where their job is more to advise drivers of where they’ve got it wrong, in an environment where they’re able to rectify the situation immediately by purchasing the necessary correct type of seat.