right car seat for your child
Health and safety

Choosing the right car seat

When selecting a car seat, there are some important guidelines to keep in mind. The following advice will help you with choosing the right car seat for your child.

A secure, properly used car seat could save your child’s life during a car accident. According to AA Motoring Trust, “Ensuring a child is properly restrained in a child car seat can reduce injuries by a factor of 90-95% for rear facing seats and 60% for forward facing seats.”

EU law has made it compulsory for all children to travel in the correct child seat, booster seat or booster cushion. It’s the driver’s responsibility to make sure their passengers are using seat belts and appropriate child restraints. The correct car seat is dependent on your child’s height and weight, not their age.

What to consider before buying a car seat

The Road Safety Authority advise that parents consider the following questions when purchasing a car seat:

1. Is the child car seat suitable for my child?

It is very important to make sure that the child car seat is suitable for your child’s weight and height. Refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines on each car seat.

2. Is the child car seat suitable for the type of car I drive?

The shape of car seats, the length of seatbelts and the position of seatbelt anchor points are different in different cars. So, not all child seats fit all cars. For instance, the seatbelt in a particular car may be too short to go around a particular child seat. Make sure you check that the child seat you buy will fit in your car and that it will fit in all the seat positions you intend to use it (for example, the back passenger side, the third row in people carrier, and so on). The manufacturer’s instructions should help you fit the child car seat. However, when you buy it, it is always best to have it fitted by an expert, and to be shown how to fit it correctly yourself.

3. Are the instructions easy to understand and follow?

Make sure the child car seat comes with an instruction manual. Try to have the car seat fitted into the car before you buy it. Ask the expert to show you how to fit the car seat. If this is not possible, you should make sure that there is an easy-to follow instruction manual with the seat and that you fully understand it.

4. Did I get expert advice when I was choosing the car seat?

Make sure you get advice from a child car seat expert retailer or the Road Safety Authority child car seat expert. Some retailers know more than others about suitable options of child car seats. An expert will be able to advise you on which type of car seat is suitable for your child’s height and weight. The RSA has also published a helpful new DVD which gives examples of how to fit some child car seats. You can order your free copy online at www.rsa.ie

Car seat safety

Babies should not be left in car seats for long periods of time. If baby is asleep, don’t be tempted to lift the seat out with baby in it to bring into the house. Keep in mind that car seats can be heavy and can be bad for your back, shoulders and neck.

Rules for cars and goods vehicles (including MPV and SUVs):

  • Children under three can only travel in cars or goods vehicles if they are fitted with the appropriate child restraint. Taxis are exempt from this rule.
  • Children between ages three and 12 must use an appropriate child restraint in cars or goods vehicles if they are fitted with safety belts. 
  • If the car or goods vehicle doesn’t have safety belts, they must sit in the back seat. 
  • In passenger seats with an active airbag, rear-facing child restraints must not be used.

For buses: 

  • Children aged between three and 12 must use safety belts if they are fitted.
  • If seatbelts are available, bus drivers are required to tell passengers that it is the law to wear them.

The exemptions

  • Taxis, hackneys and limousines do not need to have every kind of child restraints available.
  • A child over three years can wear a seatbelt in the back seat of a car or a goods vehicle if there is no more room for a child safety seat 
  • If it is not possible to place your child in the back seat of your vehicle, they can travel in the passenger seat, as long as they are using the appropriate restraints. 
  • Child restraints come in several weight classes so you can find the appropriate one for your child.

Backseat is safest

Any child under 150cms or weighing less than 36kg must be restrained in a child restraint, which is appropriate for their height and weight. The safest place for a child to sit is in the back seat of the car, in the appropriate child restraint, however this is not always possible. It is safe and legal for a child of any age to sit in the front passenger seat of a car provided they are using the correct child restraint for their height and weight.

However, if you are transporting a baby in a rearward facing child restraint in the front passenger seat you should disable the front passenger air bag. Please leave the air bag active for all other child restraints. Child restraints are categorised according to the weight of the children they are suitable for.

right car seat for your child

These weight categories correspond broadly to different age groups, but it is the weight of the child that is most important when deciding what type of child restraint to use. These categories are often called ‘groups’ by manufacturers and retailers. There are four main child car seat groups – Groups 0, 1, 2 and 3. However, some child restraints systems are convertible and can be adapted as the child grows. This means that the restraint system could fit into more than one group.

For example, the high back of a Group 2 booster seat might be designed to be removed so that the seat works just as a booster cushion when the child reaches 22kgs (48lbs). This seat, therefore, falls into both Group 2 and Group 3.


  • Group 0: Rearward facing baby seat: Weight range: for babies up to 10 kgs (22 lbs)
  • Group 0+: Rearward facing baby seat: Weight range: for babies up to 13 kgs (29 lbs)
  • Group 1: Rearward or forward facing child seat: Weight range: for kids 9-18kgs (20- 40 lbs)
  • Group 1, 2, 3 High Back Booster Seat with removable harness: Weight range: for kids 9-36 kgs (20-79 lbs)
  • Group 2 High Back Booster Seat without harness: Weight range: 15-25 kgs (33-55 lbs)
  • Group 2, 3 High Back Booster Seat without harness: Weight range: 15-36 kgs (33-79 lbs)
  • Group 3: Booster cushion: Weight range: 22-36 kgs (48-79 lbs)

i-Size legislation

The i-Size Child Restraint Regulation is the new Europe-wide standard for child car seats. i-Size seats will fit every i-Size approved vehicle and cars will need to be i-Size compliant to achieve the maximum Euro NCAP rating. The i-Size regulations are designed to provide children with additional protection and safety in the car. i-Size seats have an additional sideimpact test to assess protection if your vehicle is involved in such a collision. It also ensures that children under 15 months travel in the rearward facing position, which is proven to be five times safer than the forward-facing position.

The i-Size legislation does not replace the current ECE R44/04 (see explanation below) regulation, so parents do not need to replace their existing child car seat. Parents can continue to use an ECE R44/04 car seat that is fixed to the car using ISOFIX or the three-point seat belt. The introduction of i-Size simply means that you now have an extra option when buying a car seat for your baby/toddler.

What are ISOFIX child restraints?

ISOFIX is a system for attaching child restraints into cars. ISOFIX points are fixed connectors in a car’s structure into which an ISOFIX child seat can simply be plugged. Many new vehicles have ISOFIX points built in when they are manufactured, and child seat manufacturers are beginning to produce ISOFIX child seats, which have been approved for use in specific car models. Check that the ISOFIX child seat will fit the vehicle(s) in which it is being used. Ask whether an additional top tether on the seat is needed. Some seats have a ‘foot’ that extends to the vehicle floor, in which case, check it does not rest on the cover of an under floor compartment.

What is ECE R44/04?

All car seats must display an ECE R44/04 certification label to indicate that they comply with standard safety requirements. Upgraded requirements of the standard clearly show the change that has taken place in child safety. Since April 2008, all child car seats that were manufactured before 1995 and approved to the ECE R Standard Regulations 44/01 and 44/02 are no longer legal and must not be used.

More like this:

How to keep your children safe
How to help your children feel safe
Keeping kids safe from abuse

ASK LUCY

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….

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ASK LOUISE

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….