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Child car seats

Safety and ergonomics from the outset

Safe and back-friendly car travel starting at birth is a wish of many parents and child care workers. Thus it is important to choose a child car seat from the outset that provides optimal support for the child, but offers sufficient freedom of movement as well. Health aspects for the parents also have to be considered in choosing the right child car seat. A lightweight seat that is easy to handle prevents strain on the back and protects the health of the whole family. Parents should also ensure that installing and removing the seat is straightforward, quick and back-friendly.

Key points

Child safety is the primary concern for child car seats. The physics of an accident are merciless and the forces involved are often underestimated. But child car seats are not only vital for the safe transportation of children, they also play an important role in a child’s healthy development because they “accompany” the child over an extended period of time. Since this phase of a child’s life in particular is defined by steady physical growth, the ergonomics of the child car seat are of special importance. Child car seats must be easy to use and offer good ergonomics, both for the child and for the parents and child care workers.

Tested safety

In the past, baby and children’s car seats used to be divided into age groups. These days, car seat sizing is governed by Safety Standard UN R129 (i-Size), and as of September 2024, all new car seats have to comply with it. Instead of weight, this standard focusses on a child’s size, a better fit in terms of type of car seat and car, and has stricter safety criteria than the previous standard, ECE R44-04, which end consumers are still allowed to use.

Three groups are differentiated as a rule:

  • Infant seat
    (corresponds to a body height of approx. 40 – 75 cm according to UN R129)
  • Child seat
    (corresponds to a body height of approx. 61 – 105 cm according to UN R129)
  • Booster seat with fixed backrest
    (corresponds to a body height of approx. 100 – 150 cm according to UN R129)

While infant seats always have to be used rear-facing with no exceptions, the child car seats that follow them should also be installed to face opposite to the direction of travel. Studies have shown that rear-facing travel is safer for toddlers. Why? A toddler’s head accounts for 25 per cent of their body weight, meaning it is rather heavy. Since the neck musculature of very young children is not as highly developed yet, the head of a child in a forward-facing car seat would be thrown forward with great momentum while the shoulders are held back by the straps. Rear-facing child car seats evenly distribute the impact energy over the child’s entire back. The infant seat or seating shell of the child seat acts as a protective shield and supports the head and neck.

According to the new regulations, rear-facing transport is required for at least the first 15 months of life. In fact, experts recommend transport facing opposite to the direction of travel up to 4 years of age. Only then should the switch be made to forward-facing systems where the child looks in the direction of travel.

See the minimum requirements in the checklist below for more safety tips.

What counts

Child car seats have to be adaptable to the growth of the child by removing or inserting cushions and inserts as well as adjusting the height of the head support. Ideally the shoulder straps automatically follow the adjustment of the head support height so they are always at the age-appropriate, correct height for the child. Parents should be able to make this adjustment using one hand with a handle that is easy to reach. This avoids physical strain and ensures well-being. An ideal fit also means enhanced safety! Very good lateral support and energy-dissipating head and shoulder supports are indispensable as well, especially in side impact situations.

What is known as a newborn insert is also sensible. It is used during the first four months of life and should provide additional lateral support and a flatter sitting angle. Since the neck muscles of a newborn are not fully developed yet, it is important to have a comparatively flat sitting angle in the vehicle. That prevents the baby’s head from falling forward onto the chest.

Steep seat bottoms in the vehicle, for example in cars with a small interior, sporty vehicle models or luxury cars, are advantageous for adult passengers but constitute a problem for children facing opposite to the direction of travel. A rear-facing child car seat can be positioned too steeply on steep vehicle seats so the child sits in a rather upright posture. While this is usually not a safety issue, it can be uncomfortable, especially for younger children. Some child car seats have mechanisms to compensate for this.

A consistent, pleasant sitting climate and optimal sitting pressure distribution are also important, especially for longer trips. Particularly good climate control is achieved through continuous air circulation between the body, child car seat and vehicle seat.

A few final tips

Even the best child car seats do not permit the full freedom of movement for the child that would be perfect from an ergonomic perspective. That is a fundamental disadvantage of riding in a car. You should therefore take breaks for your child and yourself to get some exercise on longer trips.

Infant seats can generally be secured in the vehicle using the three-point seat belt. Separate ISOfix base stations that can be securely installed in the vehicle are an alternative. The advantage: the baby can be comfortably positioned in the infant seat. Then the infant seat can simply be secured on the base station, quickly and easily, which prevents strain on the parent’s back. However, these base stations can sometimes achieve much more than just that. There are versions that can rotate towards the door, making it easier and more comfortable for parents to place their toddler in their seat. An even better solution is when a sliding function is added to the rotating function. This enables you to pull the seat towards you, making it even more comfortable for you to place your child in it. Parents will find this to be much more comfortable and less strenuous on their backs – especially if the rear passenger doors of their vehicle are small.

Child seats should ideally be installed in the vehicle using the ISOfix system as well. Rear-facing positioning is preferable here too. Some manufacturers also offer swivelling child car seats. To sit the child in the seat, it can be swivelled towards the door of the vehicle. This allows parents to quickly buckle up the child in comfort without straining their back.


Minimum requirements

  • Compliance with all of the safety-related requirements set out in the standard.
  • Compliance with UN R129  
  • Adjustable back, head and shoulder support (not on infant seats)
  • Seat bottom extension (only on seats for children with a body height of about 100-150 cm)
  • Lateral guide in the area of the pelvis
  • Freedom of movement (appropriate for the situation) as well as leg and arm freedom
  • Changing between upright sitting and rest position (starting at a body height of about 61 cm)
  • Freedom of vision
  • Body-contoured basic structure
  • Optimal sitting climate
  • Safety through compliance with all safety aspects and legal directives
  • User and back-friendly handling
  • Adjustability without tools
  • Unmistakeable control elements
  • Easy to change, washable covers
  • Putting in and taking out the child in comfort
  • Solution for preventing submarining
  • Age and body-size-appropriate adjustable side supports
  • Systems for minimising the risk of head and neck injuries in forward-facing seats
  • Self-locking adjusters

Also appropriate


  • Proposed solutions for visual contact with the child during rear-facing transport in the back seat
  • Intuitive rotation function
  • Padded carrying strap
  • Solution for convenient insertion of the baby capsule



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Ł.Karwala Sp. komandytowa
Szarlejka ul. Łukaszewicza 172
42-130 Wręczyca Wielka
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3535 Krøderen 
Phone +47 32150800 
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Dorel Juvenile Europe
Korendijk 5
5704 RD, Helmond

Riedingerstraße 18
95448 Bayreuth
Phone + 44 1212708301

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