Child car seats, UK law, forward or rear-facing​? R44 & R129, confused? I offer some clarity for grandparents

As a grandfather I’d like to be able to get involved occasionally collecting my grand daughter from nursery, or take one of my two grandsons out when they visit or I visit them, so I set about choosing the right car seat for all of them.

First of all, I wanted to choose a car seat that would cover the entire age range, in my case one month, ten months and two years of age.

I wanted above all a seat that would be safe in the event of an accident, one that was easy to take in and out of the car and secure when the child is in the seat.

So my criteria was set and my research began.

UK law currently states two approaches and it is only by doing thorough research that I discovered two categories of seats.

Height based seats are governed by a regulation known as R129.

Weight based seats are governed by a regulation known as R44.

There is much confusion about rear and forward-facing seats and many sites state that a child must be rear-facing if under 15 months of age, but this only applies to car seats that fall under regulation R129 height based seats.

So confused by the hundreds of car seats on offer, I decided to take a trial subscription with which.co.uk to see what was recommended.

Those governed by R44, the weight based regulation, have various categories.

These are the categories from the government website that cover weight based seats i.e. regulation R44.

The Which website helped give clarity to a variety of seats that had been reviewed. Sadly it only reviews a handful of car seats and not the entire market due to lack of resources. Whilst I wanted to choose a good seat I wanted an independent review and so felt I could not be certain by trawling through reviews on Amazon or other sites.

Getting a rear facing seat I found was not suitable for all three grandchildren, and as they grow a forward facing one seemed the right choice.

Groups 1,2 & 3 are allowed to be forward-facing if the category of the seat is R44.

I specifically wanted isofix so that the seat could be clipped in and out of the car. I also wanted to avoid a child harness that needs adjustments and so opted for an adjustable impact shield.

I also wanted a seat that came out well in crash tests from rear, front and side collisions.

I chose the Cybex Pallas M-fix SL in black.

This chairs classification is R44, suitable from 9 months to 12 years. The weight range from 9Kg to 36Kg and cover groups 1, 2 and 3.

Sadly our newest addition is too small and so must remain in a rear facing car seat until over 9Kg

So the next challenge was to weigh our granddaughter, but on speaking to Cybex, they also informed me that to determine if the seat is suited for a ten-month-old child, there was one other factor. The shoulders of the child should be no more than 2 cm from the bottom of the headrest.

I also spoke to the In Car Safety Centre people. They confirmed that it was true that a child of over 9kg could indeed use a forward-facing seat regulated by R44, but she reminded me that by placing the child in the car seat, it might become evident that the child is too small and therefore a rear-facing position becomes the safest choice.

Having read a lot of information and forums I also read horror stories of children being able to escape from harnesses and so opted for the body shield that acts as an air bag and holds the child in place.

Speaking to the lady at the In Car Safety Centre she said .. “If a child wants to escape .. they will!”

Having read and researched this subject I was not surprised to learn that in some countries it is compulsory for a child to be in a rear-facing car seat until the age of four.

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