Buying a child car seat is a responsible task. Its use is mandatory because it protects children from the consequences of a possible car accident. But what is the best car seat model to choose based on your child’s age? Safety, comfort, ease of handling and chemical safety. These are the four basic requirements without which you should not buy a car seat.
Czech legislation stipulates that any child who is lighter than 36 kilograms and less than 150 centimetres tall must be seated in a car seat when driving. Age does not play a role in this respect. “The child must be placed in a car seat that corresponds to his or her weight and body size. If a rear-facing type of car seat is used, the airbag must be deactivated in that seat. Positioning and fitting the car seat and placing the child in it must be carried out according to the car seat manufacturer’s instructions,” explains Eduarda Hekšová, director of the consumer organisation dTest.
The law also addresses the situation where more children are transported in a vehicle than can be accommodated by car seats. In such a case, the other children must wear seat belts if they are over three years old. Younger children must always be carried in a car seat.
Children under the age of three cannot be transported in vehicles that do not have restraint systems (not even seat belts). In addition, it is not permitted to carry a child shorter than 150 centimetres in the seat next to the driver in these vehicles.
There are exceptions to the obligation to use a child car seat. This applies to persons whose medical condition does not permit the use of a restraint, and the medical reasons must be supported by a medical certificate. The carriage of children in taxi vehicles is also exempt. However, a child lighter than 36 kilograms and less than 150 centimetres tall may not be transported in the seat next to the driver and must be restrained by a seat belt.
So how do I choose a child car seat? “The weight of the child and the fit of the seat to the child’s size are crucial factors in the selection process. Definitely don’t buy a seat that’s too big to last longer and save money. Such a decision can backfire,” warns Eduarda Hekšová.
A child is likely to spend long hours in a car seat without being able to move significantly. Among other things, pay attention to the quality of the padding, but also to the view out of the window the child will have when the seat is in the car. The best way to check this is to go shopping with your child and have the dealer let you try it out in your car.
When buying, check that the seat has been approved (this is mandatory for all car seats put on the market), and it is particularly important that the R44-04 (preferably) or R44-03 (buying from a specialist shop is less risky) is present. Higher safety is guaranteed by car seats that have passed the rigorous safety tests published by dTest magazine. From a maintenance point of view, it is practical if the car seat cover can be removed and washed in a washing machine.
Avoid buying second-hand seats – you don’t know what condition the seat is actually in and whether it has been damaged in a car accident. This damage may not be visible at first glance.
“If you are buying a seat with an isofix system, make sure it is universal. If it is not, make sure it is compatible with your car. A list of these cars should be available from the manufacturer and dealer and can also be found on the manufacturer’s website,” explains Eduarda Heksova.
Universal models must be equipped with a third grip designed to limit seat rotation in the event of a frontal impact. Some vehicle types have a non-standard design for this attachment and therefore require the use of a seat designed for the specific car type. A list of vehicles in which non-universal isofix car seats may be used shall be provided by the dealer. It should also be available on the manufacturer’s website.
Some models can be used with a base (supplied or optional) which simplifies use: the base stays in the car and the car seat itself can be easily clipped onto it if necessary.