One of the most confusing (and nerve-racking) areas of parenting for me has always been car seats. There’s a huge choice, there’s lots of information, but unlike picking a playmat or a highchair, the top consideration is of course safety, and there’s no room for error. As a parent, I desperately want to get it right, but it’s not always as easy as it should be.
When to move to a booster seat
I remember wondering at what point my eldest should move from car seat to booster seat, and then wandering around my local retailer, looking at the different options and trying to make sense of the labels and weights and information available. I remember asking online, trying to understand if a booster seat is a must, and from what age, and whether or not it matters if it’s a cushion or a high-back.
I couldn’t get consistent information, and in the end, bought a high-back booster seat when she was about four-years old. I had heard anecdotally that there was no difference – that cushions were just as good as high-back – but instinctively the latter seemed safer.
Some time later, I was in the Garda station getting a passport signed, and saw a Road Safety Authority booklet. I took it home and had a look, and belatedly realised where I could find correct car seat information. The most up to date information is of course always available online at RSA.ie.
Here is a guide for car seat stages:
So it had been correct to buy a high-back booster seat – they are safer, offering better protection all round, but particularly for the child’s head, neck and back.
High back booster seats
It’s absolutely legal to use some booster cushions if your child is over 15kgs, as specified by the manufacturer, and of course they are very practical and portable if you need to give a lift to someone else or if you’re going on holidays. But if you can, it’s safer to use a high-back booster.
The RSA explain it as follows:
“Children are legally allowed to travel on some Booster Cushions (with no back) once they exceed 15kgs however the RSA recommends that you should keep children in a High Back Booster Seat for as long as possible as they provide better protection to the child, especially in side impact collisions.”
So for everyday general use, if your child is between 15kgs (33lbs) and 25kgs (55lbs) – around 4 to 6 years of age, though weight is the deciding factor – they should if at all possible be in a high-back booster seat. In fact, high-back booster seats are also available from 15kgs – 36kgs, which provide longer protection to your child – up to about 11 years.
Children travelling in the front seat
If your child is in the front passenger seat, they should be in the correct restraint for weight and height. The safest place is in the back, but it is legal and safe to put a child in the front passenger seat.
If using a rear-facing car seat in the front, never do so with an active airbag – it is dangerous and illegal. On the other hand, if you are using a forward–facing car seat in the front seat (make sure it’s the correct weight-appropriate child seat) the airbag can be active, however you should roll the adult seat itself back as far away from the dashboard as possible.
So to distill it all down to just one sentence – the safest place for your older child is the back seat, in a high-back booster.
You can see full details on RSA.ie
To have your car seat checked for free, take a look at the latest dates and locations for Check It Fits here
I’m delighted to be working with the RSA to help spread the message about their Check it Fits service and safe car seat usage.