How to properly secure children in the car

Only a suitable child seat provides optimum protection

Jun 13, 2023 Automotive / Safety on the road

Even though cars are becoming safer and safer - children are most often injured in cars on the road. “Optimum securing in the appropriate child seat is essential, even on the shortest journeys”, explains DEKRA accident researcher Markus Egelhaaf.

  • Children should be secured even on the shortest journeys
  • Reboard seats accommodate the anatomy of small children
  • Generally, only accident-free seats should be used
“Simply wearing the normal seat belt is not an option for children”, Egelhaaf emphasizes. “It is designed for taller and larger people. It can seriously injure children – even during strong braking maneuvers and even more so in the event of an accident – for example by cutting into the neck and distributing the pressure unfavorably.”
Like a fall from the fourth floor
The most serious injuries are to be feared when children ride in a car completely unsecured. “In a collision at 50 km/h, forces occur like in a fall from the fourth floor”, explains the accident researcher. If, on the other hand, the child rides in a suitable restraint system, the risk of a fatal accident is reduced by up to 80 percent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
“In many countries, children are only allowed to ride in the car in a suitable child seat. In Germany, for example, this applies until the child's 12th birthday, unless the child is 1.50 meters tall before then,” says the DEKRA expert. According to the current European standard UNECE-R 129, child seats are divided into groups according to height.
Familiarize yourself with the operation
The Isofix fastening system has established itself as the standard in many modern passenger cars, allowing the child seat to be fastened easily and securely and largely ruling out incorrect operation. Other solutions use the seat belt. “In any
case, make yourself well acquainted with the operation of the child seat and check before every journey whether the seat is fixed and the child is correctly strapped in. Because his or her safety depends on it”, Egelhaaf recommends.
Also popular are the so-called reboard seats, in which infants ride with their backs to the direction of travel and are thus protected in the best possible way. “Here, the forces that occur in the event of an accident or heavy braking are introduced into the child's body over a large area across the entire back, and the head is also supported. This is very much in line with the anatomy of small children”, explains the accident researcher. In baby car seats, children are transported facing the back of the car as a standard. Reboard seats are also available for older children up to the age of about four. However, not all children like riding in reverse.
Reboarder on the front passenger seat: Switch off the airbag
If you take a child in a baby car seat or in a reboarder on the front passenger seat, you must not forget to switch off the front passenger airbag. Otherwise, the airbag can seriously injure the child when it deploys. It is important to know that, according to studies, children are usually best protected in the back seats.
If you are considering buying a child seat, you should look at the test seal on the orange label on the seat. The UNECE-R 129 standard mentioned earlier differs from older standards in, among other things, additional requirements for the side impact protection of child seats, which are tested in a special side impact test. The use of seats that comply with the older standards UNECE-R 44/04 or 44/03 is still permitted, but do not offer the same level of protection. From the end of this year, they will also no longer be manufactured – new seats will then have to comply with the UNECE-R 129 standard.
Accident impairs protective function
“Anyone who is considering used child seat for cost reasons should make sure that it has been treated gently by the previous owner and has not yet been involved in an accident”, accident researcher Egelhaaf advises. “Due to the heavy load in an accident or falling down when the seat is removed, cracks can form in the rigid foam, for example, which impair the protective function.”
Before buying a seat, it is important in any case to check whether it is suitable for the vehicle. The manufacturer’s homepage or the lists that come with the seat can help here. It is also advisable to try out the installation of the seat and to let the child try it out – after all, they should not only drive safely, but also feel comfortable.