Safety Standards : ECE R44.03 and ECE R44.04
Child restraints (baby seats, child seats, booster seats and booster cushions) sold in the UK must conform to the United Nations ECE Regulation R44.03 or later standard (R44.04).
(Child restraints that conform to a British Standard or to an earlier version of R44, may continue to be used, although as these will now be several years old, parents should consider replacing them with a seat that conforms to R44.03 or R44.04).
The standard, ECE R44.04, was introduced at the end of June 2005, and all new child car seats had to meet this standard from the end of June 2006.
"Uniform Provisions Concerning the Approval of Restraining Devices for Child Occupants of Power-Driven Vehicles ('Child Restraint Systems')"
To conform to the Regulation, a child restraint must meet a series of design and construction requirements and pass a series of performance tests, the main ones of which are summarised below.
The child restraint must provide protection in any position in which it is designed to be used. It must be designed to be secured to the vehicle structure or to the seat structure, either by the adult seat belt or specific anchorages.
If a restraint is to be used with an adult seat belt, the correct routing of the seat belt webbing must be clearly indicated by a drawing permanently attached to the restraint.
If the restraint is held in place by the seat belt, the route(s) of the webbing must clearly marked and colour coded red for forward-facing seats and blue for rearward facing ones.
Restraints in Groups I, 2 and 3, must positively guide the "lap strap" to ensure that the loads transmitted by the "lap strap" are transmitted through the pelvis.
To prevent submarining (slipping under the harness), either by impact or through restlessness, a crotch strap is required on all forward-facing Group I restraints which incorporate an integral harness.
The buckle must be easy to operate and it must be possible to open it and release the child from the restraint by a single operation on a button or similar device. Opening the buckle must enable the child to be removed independently of the "chair", "chair support" or "impact shield", if fitted, and if the restraint includes a crotch strap, the crotch strap must be released by operation of the same buckle.
It must not be possible for the buckle to be left in a partially closed position and it must only lock when all parts are engaged. The operation of the buckle must be immediately obvious to a rescuer in an emergency. The buckle release area must be red, but no other part of the buckle should be this colour.
For Group 2 and 3 child restraints, the child occupant must be able to reach the buckle.
Restraints in Groups 0, 0+ and I restraint systems must keep the child positioned to give the required protection even when the child is asleep. The design of rear-facing restraints must ensure that support for the child's head is provided.
Child restraints must pass a series of performance tests:
The child restraint is fitted onto a vehicle or a test trolley in a vehicle body. Test dummies of various sizes (appropriate to the child restraint) are fitted into the restraint. This is then accelerated at 50 km/h towards a block of reinforced concrete weighing at least 70 tonnes.
A rigid steel impactor at least 2,500 mm wide and 800 mm high is accelerated towards the rear of the 'vehicle' so that it strikes the 'vehicle' at between 30 and 32 km/h.
During the tests, the test dummy must not be thrown forward more than a set distance and it must not receive an impact force above a specified level. No part of the child restraint that helps to keep the child in position shall break, and no buckles or locking system shall release. The seat belt must not become disengaged from any guide or locking device.
A test dummy is strapped into the restraint according to the manufacturer's instructions. The restraint is fastened to a test or vehicle seat, which is rotated through an angle of 360 degrees at a speed of 2-5 degrees/second. When the seat is upside down, the dummy's head must not move more than 300 mm from its original position in a vertical direction relative to the test seat.
The buckle is opened and closed 5,000 times, and must still operate properly after the impact tests described above.
The restraint must be clearly and indelibly marked with:
- the manufacturer's name, initials or trade mark
- the year of production
- the international approval mark - a circle surrounding the letter "E", an approval number and the symbols: E/ECE/324
- the weight range for which the child restraint has been designed
- an address to which the customer can write to obtain further information on fitting the child restraint in specific cars.
Rearward facing child restraints must have a permanently attached label, visible in the installed position, with the warning: "EXTREME HAZARD - Do not use in passenger seats equipped with airbags".
Child restraints that can be used forward and rearward facing, must have a warning including the words: "IMPORTANT - DO NOT USE FORWARD FACING BEFORE THE CHILD'S WEIGHT EXCEEDS xx (Refer to instructions)"
The child restraint must be accompanied by instructions in the language of the country where the device is sold, including the following:
- The weight groups for which the device is intended.
- The method of installation illustrated by photographs and/or very clear drawings.
- A recommendation that rigid items and plastic parts must be installed so that they are not liable, during everyday use of the vehicle, to become trapped by a movable seat or in a vehicle door.
- A recommendation to use carry-cots perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the vehicle.
- For rearward facing systems, a warning not to use them in seating positions where there is an airbag installed (this advice must also be clearly visible at the point of sale without removing the packaging).
- If the restraint is designed to be used with an adult seat belt, advice about which type of seat belt is suitable.
- For seats that can be used both forward and rear-facing, a clear warning to keep the restraint rear-facing until the child's weight is greater than a stated limit, or some other dimensional criterion is exceeded.
- A clear explanation of the operation of the buckle and adjusting devices.
- A recommendation that any straps holding the restraint to the vehicle should be tight, that any straps restraining the child should be adjusted to the child's body, and that straps should not be twisted.
- The importance of ensuring that lap straps are worn low down over the pelvis.
- A recommendation that the restraint should be changed if it has been in an accident.
- Instructions for cleaning.
- A warning not to make any alterations or additions to the restraint and to follow the manufacturer's instructions when installing and using it.
- A recommendation that children are not left in their child restraint unattended.