With better seats that are easier to use and have fewer sources of fault, car travel has become considerably safer for children in recent years. A supplement to a technical regulation will now provide further improvements for infants who have outgrown their infant carriers but are still too small to travel in forward-facing car seats. Experts from 22 countries discussed this issue at the “Protection of Children in Cars” conference with the subtitle “Past success and new tasks for the future”, held at TÜV SÜD. In this context, the experts also focused particularly closely on booster seats, which play an important role in the safe transport of older children.
High-calibre child-safety experts from all over the world convened at the conference organised by TÜV SÜD Academy, now in its 15th year. For many years, experts have agreed that infants and toddlers should sit in rear-facing car seats for as long as possible. Unfortunately, parents frequently abandon this safe practice too early. In his keynote speech to welcome the conference participants, Prof. Dr. Klaus Langwieder, the long-standing chair of the conference, announced that a significant improvement has now been reached. The new ECE R 129, which regulates the requirements for modern Isofix systems, stipulates that children must be transported in rear-facing seats up to the age of at least 15 months. This regulation further guarantees easy installation in correspondingly prepared cars (“i size”) and improved side protection. “For the first time, we thus now have a comprehensive regulation for modern ISOfix systems”, said Langwieder. However, families who already have child seats approved under regulation ECE R44/03 or 04 need not replace them.
The 160-plus experts at the conference also intensively discussed the topic of “booster seats” for older children, which prevent injuries caused by seat belts and are required by law in Germany for children up to the age of twelve or 150 centimetres in height. These relatively simple restraint systems are available in widely differing designs. One important aspect is whether they come with a backrest or not. Although a backrest is not required by law, Prof. Langwieder and other safety specialists are in favour of changing the approval regulations for these booster seats to make backrests mandatory and require better user information to be supplied with the product.
The expected changes in mobility in the future, including car sharing, automated driving and new forms of taxi services, give rise to new challenges for design and development concepts and for marketing in the field of child safety. People who forego buying their own car may also not buy their own child car seats. Besides, it may frequently be impractical for parents to take along their own car seat that fits their child's needs. A study from the USA showed that in cars not owned by the family, suitable child restraint systems are by no means available on every trip, especially not in the case of families with several children. According to experts, the same applies to Europe and other countries.
As always, the international leading conference on child safety also addressed test methods which have undergone continuous fine-tuning, including increasingly humanoid child dummies and improved simulation methods (human models). An additional workshop provided a platform for an intensive international exchange of experience on children in road traffic in general, road-safety education and socio-cultural influences on accident risks. Its aim was to identify further approaches for effective safety improvements and implement them in practice.
Caption: Making travelling in cars safer for children: The annual International Conference on the Protection of Children in Cars convened for the 15th time at TÜV SÜD Academy.