Frequently asked questions
Answers to the most frequently asked questions about child safety in vehicles.
Below are FAQs on general child safety in cars, choosing the right child car seat for your child, and on ensuring that your car child seat is correctly fitted.
Child car seat and safety videos
Before reading the FAQs, why not watch our child car seat and safety videos below which offer lots of tips, advice and answers to popular queries.
You can also download and read our Child Safety in Cars booklet.Download our Child Safety in Cars Booklet pdf | 3607 KB
Frequently asked questions
Child safety in cars
Drivers have a legal responsibility to ensure that all passengers under 17 are appropriately restrained in the vehicle.
By law, all children under 150 cms in height or 36 kgs (79 lbs) in weight must use a child restraint system (CRS) suitable for their height and weight while travelling in a car or goods vehicle (other than a taxi). An example of a CRS would be a child car seat or booster cushion.
Remember, it is illegal to place a rearward-facing child car seat in the front of the car where there is an active airbag. An airbag which deploys (opens up) in front of a rearward-facing child car seat can cause serious injury or even death if there is a collision.
There is no law against children sitting in the front seat, as long as they are using the right child restraint for their height and weight.
Yes. All child car seats sold in Ireland must meet:
When buying a child car seat you should always look for the ‘E’ mark.
There is no law against children sitting in the front seat if they are using the right child restraint for their height and weight.
If you must place the child car seat in the front, make sure that the seat is appropriate to the child’s weight and height. Remember to choose the biggest and strongest child to go in the front. You must make sure that the passenger seat is rolled back as far away from the dashboard as possible. This could help to reduce the severity of injuries that may be caused to your child if the airbag is released.
Remember – airbags are designed for adults. A child, even in a child car seat, does not replicate (copy) the typical position of an adult in the passenger seat.
You may wish to check with your insurance company to ensure that you are covered to carry children in the front seat of a commercial vehicle under your insurance policy.
It is illegal to use a rearward-facing child car seat in a passenger seat protected by an active frontal airbag. The deployment of an airbag where a rearward–facing baby seat is in place can cause serious injury to the child or even death. There is now a penalty for drivers who place a rearward-facing child car seat in the front where there is an active airbag. You may receive at least three penalty points on your driving licence as a penalty.
Other child car seats can be placed in the front with an active airbag but we strongly advise against this.
The law states that all children under 150cm in height or 36kg in weight must use a child restraint system suitable for their height and weight while travelling in a car or goods vehicle (other than a taxi).
Technically, a child may no longer be obliged to use the booster once they exceed the weight or the height. However, we would consider height as being a very important consideration at this stage as this affects the position of the adult seat belt if you decide to take away the booster.
To test it, you should get them to sit in the seat with their seat belt on and visually and physically check whether the seat belt rests on their shoulder and their pelvis. The seat belt should not touch their neck or their stomach. Below is an example of a correctly positioned seat belt.
No. Taxi or bus companies are not obliged to provide child car seats for children. However, with the agreement of the company or driver, a parent may fit a child car seat for their child for the journey. This is particularly useful for young babies who are not able to sit up on their own yet, or children who are too small for the seat belt to be positioned correctly on their body.
Some taxis and buses have shoulder belt adjusters on the seat belts that help position the seat belt correctly on a child's body. Parents and children should be shown how to use these correctly.
Some public service vehicle companies also provide a facility where you can book or rent an appropriate car seat when booking your taxi trip. This should be done well in advance of a planned trip.
It is very dangerous for a child to travel on an adult's lap in a vehicle, as they either have no restraint at all or they might get crushed between you and the seat belt in the event of a crash or hard braking. It is highly recommended that young babies who cannot sit by themselves use an infant carrier and young children use at least a booster seat / cushion to help position the seat belt correctly on their body.
There is no straightforward solution to fitting three car seats across the back seats because of all the different makes and models of both cars and car seats.
Fitting three seats across the back seat of a car depends on the car and the combination of car seats you are trying to fit in. Ensure you have your car seats physically fitted into the car before you buy to make sure they are compatible and can fit safely.
If you already own two car seats, and are buying a third, you may have to explore other options that exist in relation to narrower seats.
If you have an infant seat with an ISOFIX base, another option would be to fit the infant carrier with the seat belt and not an ISOFIX base which sometimes allows for a little more room.
We also provide a child car seat checking service Check it Fits to help you assess a safe fit for your child car seats.
Some children go through a phase of constantly slipping out of the child seat harness or safety belt, or incorrectly adjusting straps or seat belts, or releasing the buckle during journeys. This can be very worrying and frustrating for parents or guardians. It could be serious or even fatal for a child if the manufacturer guidelines are not carefully followed.
You should check that:
- the harness or seat belt is adjusted correctly to your child, in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines
- your child is comfortable
Incorrectly adjusted harness straps may cause your child to be uncomfortable leading them to push straps off or open buckles.
In some buses, particularly urban buses, there are facilities such as designated spaces for wheelchair users and buggies. If these areas are provided, it is recommended you use them and ensure the brakes are on the wheels while the bus is in motion.
Other facilities such as 'kneeling' buses are also available, particularly in urban areas, where the bus will 'kneel' or lower to the edge of the path to allow people with buggies to get on and off the bus easily. Other buses may have ramps to facilitate these users.
Choosing the right child car seat
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 child car seat.
When choosing a new child car seat, make sure that it fits in your car (or cars, if you use it in more than one) and is suitable for the height and weight of your child. Use the checklist at the back of our Child Safety in Cars booklet to help you select the child seat that is most suitable for your child and your vehicle(s).
See our Child safety in cars booklet to view our handy checklist for choosing a child car seat
Not all child seats fit all cars. For instance, the seat belt in a particular car may be too short to go around a particular child seat.
Make sure you check that the child car seat you buy will fit in your car and that it will fit in all the seat positions you intend to use it. You should also be aware of where the airbags are in the car and how they are controlled.
If you are thinking about buying a new car for the family, you should examine closely all the safety information relating to the model of car you’re thinking of buying.
One source of this kind of information is Euro NCAP (New Car Assessment Programme). It will give you a realistic and independent assessment of the safety performance of some of the most popular cars sold in Europe.
You should also consult your car manual to find out if there are areas of the car that are unsuitable for fitting child car seats. For example, you may not be able to fit ISOFIX seats in places where there are underfloor storage boxes. Also, some back seats do not allow a child car seat to be fitted in the middle.
Make sure you get advice from a child car seat expert retailer or our child car seat experts. 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.
You should also choose a retailer who can expertly fit the child car seat into your car to make sure it’s a suitable match. They should show you how the child car seat should be fitted into your car.
See a list of retailers that offer expert advice
Participating Retailers 2021
This is a list of participating retailers for the year 2021. Retailers can sign up at different times of the year so the list will be updated as retailers sign up. This initiative was only launched in December 2020 so keep checking this page for the most up to date information.
Last updated - 15 April 2021
|Store Name (A-Z)||Address||County|
|All 4 Baby||Tuam Road||Galway City|
|Best for Baby||Castle Street||Roscommon|
|Kool Kidz||Wine Street||Sligo|
|Mum n Me||Tramore Road||Waterford|
|Nursery Rhymes||Kennedy Avenue||Carlow|
|Tony Kealy's||Cork City||Cork|
|Totally Toys||Moneen, Castlebar||Mayo|
Participating Manufacturers 2021
This is a list of participating manufacturers for the year 2021. Manufacturers can sign up at any time of the year so the list will be updated as manufacturers sign up. This initiative was only launched in December 2020 so keep checking this page for the most up to date information.
Last updated - 19 January 2021
Check that the seat you are buying meets the EU standard R4403 /04 or i-SIZE (Regulation 129). If it does, you should see a yellow or orange sticker with an E mark and weight guidelines on the seat.
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, check that the car seat comes with an easy-to-follow instruction manual and that you fully understand it. You can have it checked by our experts. There is more information on our child car seats page and our YouTube channel.
We don’t recommend it. It’s better to buy a new car seat. However, if you decide to buy a second-hand car seat, you need to be aware of certain risks and ask some important questions. For example:
How old is the seat? Generally, manufacturers recommend use of car seats for no more than five years due to wear and tear and possible weakened parts.
Has the seat ever been in a crash and if so, has it been inspected thoroughly? You should be satisfied about the history of the child car seat. Damage or weakened points may not be visible and the child car seat may not perform as well as it should in a collision. A car seat which has been involved in a crash should be carefully inspected and if there was more than bumper damage caused to the car, you should consider buying a new seat.
Are there parts missing? You should be certain that all the parts required to fit the seat safely are there and intact. For example, lock-off clips, tensioning wheels, and so on.
Does it meet the EU standards? You should investigate whether the seat conforms to EU standards. Remember to look for the E-mark.
Will it fit my car? You should also be certain that the child car seat it suitable for your child and is compatible with your car.
Does it still have the manual and fitting instructions? You should make sure that the seat comes with a manufacturer’s manual and fitting instructions.
Unfortunately, we cannot recommend the use of any child car seat that is not manufactured to EU regulations and approved for sale in Ireland. All child car seats being sold in Ireland must have an ‘E’ mark and must conform to regulation R44.03 or R44.04 or new regulation 129. If you plan to use a child car seat bought outside of Ireland, we would advise you to contact either the car or child car seat manufacturer and ask whether it is compatible for use in the make and model of the car you intend using in Ireland.
If you are disposing of a child car seat, we would advise the following:
Use scissors to cut off the fabric, foam padding, and harness straps from the seat.
Use a Phillips-head screwdriver to remove as much metal as possible.
Remove the car seat cover and any padding underneath it.
Discard the fabric, foam padding, straps, and mixed metal/plastic pieces and small plastic pieces.
Mark the plastic as expired or unsafe.
Recycle the bulky plastic body and all metal pieces.
The main thing with following any of these steps is to stop someone else from using the seat if it is potentially dangerous for use.
Fitting a child car seat
Ideally, fit your child’s car seat in the back seat. This means that they are away from airbags and the dashboard. If you must place the child car seat in the front, make sure that it is suitable for the child’s weight and height.
Do not use a rearward-facing child car seat in the front seat where there is an active airbag. Choose the biggest and strongest child to go in the front.
Once you have followed the instructions on how to fit the child car seat, it is easy to test if it is fitted correctly. The child car seat should sit firmly on the back seat with no forward or sideways movement when tested. You can simply push the seat to test this, or you can fasten the harness straps and pull it from the centre as if to exert a similar force a child would in the event of heavy braking.
ISOFIX is the international standard of built-in attachment points in a car’s structure to fit a child car seat. A child car seat can easily be plugged into the ISOFIX system, greatly reducing the risk of fitting the seat incorrectly.
Many new vehicles have ISOFIX points built in when they are manufactured, and child seat manufacturers are more commonly producing child car seats that suit the ISOFIX system.
i-Size is a European standard – Regulation 129. The key benefits of i-Size-standard seats are that they can be fitted to most ISOFIX systems and they provide increased support for the child’s head and neck. They also provide better side-impact protection in the event of collisions.
An i-Size seat also allows your child to stay rear-facing for much longer (up to 15 months in a rearward-facing baby seat). The categorisation of these seats is based on height and size rather than height and weight.
Both i-Size (Regulation 129) and Regulation R4403/04 child car seats are legal for use and will run alongside each other until the Regulation R4403/04 child car seat regulation is phased out. However, this is expected to take several years to complete.
Children should stay in rear-facing car seats for as long as possible. There are seats available now that can accommodate children up to 25kg (approx five to seven years’ old) and these are highly recommended as they are up to five times safer than forward facing car seats.
Only move a child from a rearward facing child seat once they have gone over the maximum weight for the seat, their eye level is in line with the top of the seat, or the top of their head ‘crowns’ (is higher than) the top of the seat. You will need to check the manual to see which one of these measurements applies to the particular car seat.
Older children should use a high-back booster seat for as long as possible – up to 36kgs (up to 79lbs) – rather than the booster cushion by itself. The booster cushion on its own provides no back or head protection. Booster cushions are available for children from 15kgs (33lbs). However we do not recommend using booster cushions for children under 22kgs (48lbs) because they do not provide as much protection to the child as a high back booster seat that has head, neck and back protection. The adult seat belt goes around the child and through the appropriate guides of the seat, so it is important that the safety belt is correctly adjusted and that there is no slack in the seat belt when fastened.
Boosters are intended to raise the child up so that the seat belt is positioned correctly on their bodies (on the shoulder, not the neck; and on the pelvis, not the stomach).
Car seats that use the adult seat belt to secure the seat should not have the seat belt buckle sitting on the child car seat. Buckle crunch is where the buckle of the seat belt is resting on the frame of the car seat. The movement of the car while travelling could cause the buckle to open. Also, on impact, the buckle could be broken causing the child car seat to become loose or detached in the car, giving little or no protection to the child in the seat. The webbing of the seat belt is much stronger and it should hold the seat in place. The photo below shows how to recognise buckle crunch.
1. Before you fit a child car seat
Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. If you have lost your manual, you should get a replacement from the retailer or manufacturer.
The seat belt must pass through all the required seat belt-routing guides (red or blue) according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Remember, some guides are only intended to be used on one side or the other, depending on what side of the car the seat is being fitted on.
2. Helpful tips for fitting child car seats
- You should kneel into the seat exerting your full weight. Then, tighten the seat belt as much as you can to remove all the slack. This ensures that the seat is fitted as tightly as possible.
- Hand pressure is not enough when you are securing the child car seat with the seat belt.
- It is safer to fit a child car seat in the back. If fitting a child car seat into the front seat, roll the seat itself back as far as it can go away from dashboard.
- If you take the child car seat out of the car, make sure you fit it properly every time you put it back in.
- If your child car seat stays in the car permanently, you should still check it regularly to make sure it is securely held and there is no slack in the seat belt.
- Never adjust or modify the seat or seat belt. A child car seat should be suitable for the child and be compatible with the car. Therefore, modifications (changes) to either should not be necessary.
- Get a child car seat expert to fit the child car seat or check it for you if you are in any doubt.
- The safety belt buckle should not rest on the frame of the child seat causing buckle crunch.
To be effective, child restraint systems (seats, cushions and so on) must be fitted and used correctly. Surveys have consistently shown that a high proportion of child restraints are incorrectly fitted, usually for one or more of these reasons which are easy to watch out for:
- Safety belt has too much slack in it causing the fitting to be very loose.
- Safety belt not routed through child seat correctly.
- Buckle resting against the frame of the child car seat, causing buckle crunch which may cause the buckle to open.
- Handle on baby seat not positioned properly.
- The child car seat is too big or too small for the child.
- Child car seat not compatible with the car.
- Child car seat has exceeded the manufacturer’s recommended guideline for duration of use and is in bad condition.
It's very hard to offer advice wholesale on these type of 'add-on' items as there are so many different types. However, it's important to make sure they have been crash- tested and they are approved for use by the manufacturer of the child car seat it's intended to be used with. It's also important to know how to fit them correctly if approved for use. As far as we're aware, there are only two attachments that have been crash-tested for use in car seats: Be Safe Belt Collector and the 5 Point Plus.
Often the reason children might take their arms out of the straps is because the straps are not adjusted correctly and may make the child uncomfortable, prompting them to take their arms out. Another reason may be that you are using a bulky jacket, which allows the child more space to get their arms out. We recommend using light fleeces or blankets during winter as this means the straps can have as much contact with the body as possible.
Therefore, before you consider any new attachments, we would recommend you arrange a session with our Check It Fits team and they will be able to help you assess whether the straps are adjusted correctly or any other features that might be leading to your child getting their arms out.
There is no specific road traffic regulation that states a safety belt extension cannot be used in a vehicle. Therefore, to ensure a vehicle owner is not affecting the performance of their vehicle’s safety belts they must only use devices that are type approved (visually this will be verified by the presence of an ‘E’-mark or ‘e’-mark) for that safety belt installation. This is an important point, as the device may have an ‘E’ or ‘e’-mark but be approved for another vehicle or safety belt installation entirely. To determine which safety belt extensions are approved for their vehicle (if any), a vehicle owner should consult the vehicle manufacturer for advice in this regard.
Using seat belt extenders to solve one problem can actually create new ones like buckle crunch or buckles resting on soft parts of the body.