Car Seats and Safety: Buying and Installing a Car Seat

Shopping For A Car SeatShopping For A Car Seat

There are various criteria to consider when shopping for a car seat for your infant or toddler. These are some of the most important:

The car seat

Having a car seat that performs well in a test lab does not necessarily mean it will function the same in a natural environment (i.e the car). No matter how safe a car seat proves in a test lab, its safety value is ultimately dependent on the end user.

Car seats that are simple to install and use do tend to rate better in the real environment than in a test lab. So it is important to be cognisant of both consumer-test ratings, and safety-test regulations and results in your purchasing decision making.

The child’s weight and size are crucial factors

Traditional weight classifications are no longer the ideal categorisation method. In general, children outgrow their car seats in height before they do in weight. Weight classifications show much inconsistency between children, and new standards - such as i-Size - is now widely accepted as more accurate:

  • Up to 80cm rear facing
  • 80 to 105cm forward facing with five-point harness.
  • 105cm to 135cm booster seat with seatbelt of the car.

Maxi-Cosi | How to install your child in Tobi

  • The Tobi car seat is a comfy toddler seat that is easy to use and install with the car's three-point seat belt. When you have put your child in the seat, the color indicator confirms the right fit. Learn more on the Tobi by also watching this Maxi-Cosi

The roles that different car brands and unique vehicle designs play

Most car seats used to be installed with three-point safety belts provided by the car. Newer technology uses Isofix anchorage points to install car seats. Isofix car seats and bases have three Isofix points, consisting of two Isofix connectors that fit on the anchor points (metal clips) at the base of the vehicle seat, and a top tether.

Currently Isofix is still being incorporated into the broader vehicle industry and it is therefore a prerequisite that you establish the options available in your car before purchasing your car seat.

All car seats should be test fitted into a vehicle prior to purchase to ensure correct fitment. Vehicle interior designs can also affect the usage of a car seat and its safety. For easily-navigable help on this go to the Maxi-Cosi Car Seat Advisory Tool

The number of car seats needed also plays a role. In this regard, the actual arrangement of car seats in the back seat needs to be established. The car seat installation is dependent on the type of car, as well as their positioning in the car. Some vehicles may only be able to accommodate two car seats and no other passengers.

The Maxi Cosi Tobi car seat
The Maxi Cosi Tobi

The car seat standards and approvals to look for

ECE R44/04 regulations are homologated in terms of S.A law and offer the bare minimum in terms of car seat safety.

i-Size regulations is a higher level of safety standards which performs more stringent tests and takes into consideration additional factors not taken into account by the ECE regulations.

Read about the i-Size EU standards for increased child safety.

Both standards are European regulations, which conform to S.A Legislation.

There are no other safety standards legislations accepted in S.A.

The Mechanics Of The Car Seat

The Internet is awash with information and advice on shopping for car seats. Much of it contradictory and confusing. To simplify it all: look for a model that features an energy absorbing shell (that has been side-impact tested); and a durable, padded cover that removes easily for washing, without interfering with the safety of the seat.

Be aware that a well-dressed and padded car seat may be lacking safety in its shell, though. The appearance, as well as the materials used in the manufacture of baby seats plays a vital role in the mechanics of the car seat, so a healthy balance should be determined. Shop then on function and looks.

Car seats are also extremely technical in nature, and a comfortable seat may not be durable or easy to clean.

A cover not installed correctly after being washed could easily affect the seat’s performance.

Toxicity and flammability are also two important aspects to consider in the safety of a seat.

Maxi-Cosi | How to wash and clean your Maxi-Cosi Citi car seat cover

  • The Citi cover is easy to clean and wash. This video shows you how to remove the cover for washing and cleaning. Citi is a baby car seats for children up to approx. 1 year old and/or 13 kg


A child’s clothing should simply be dictated by the temperature, inside and out the vehicle. The car seat then needs to be capable of easily adjusting itself to suit the needs of the child. For example, an easily adjustable harness to accommodate a child with extra clothing on a cold day. Extra padding on the harness also helps with children wearing less or on a hot Summer’s day.

The Maxi-Cosi Citi Car Seat
The Maxi-Cosi Citi Car Seat

Correct Car Seat Installation

It’s extremely dangerous to have a seat incorrectly installed.

The forces exerted in a collision are excessive, and the slightest inconsistency in the installation of a car seat in relation to the manufacturer instructions could render the car seat dangerous in the case of an accident.

A car seat safety test is conducted in accordance with its manufacturers instruction, and approved for safe use accordingly. Not abiding to these could prove to be fatal for a passenger in a collision.

Maxi-Cosi | How to install Milofix car seat

How to correctly install a seat

The manufacturer’s instructions supplied with the seat and printed in the actual seat must be strictly adhered to, as these differ from seat to seat. The only consistency between different child seats is the mechanism by which they install, that is either the three-point Static Safety Belt or Isofix. Some newer seats are using indicators such as LED lights and sounds to confirm correct installation.

The Maxi-Cosi Milofix car seat
The Maxi-Cosi Milofix

The importance of rear-facing seats

Having a child in the correct direction of travel could reduce serious head and neck injuries, and even possibly a death. Children’s heads are heavier than the rest of their bodies up to at least 15 months. With this weight concentration in the head area, the whiplash effect in a forward-facing collision will cause head and neck injuries or a fatality.

In a rear-facing collision the impact on a baby’s vulnerable head and neck is reduced and spread over the whole back. The age classification (15 months) is based on studies indicating that only from 80cm in height is the weight in a child’s head reasonably proportionate to the rest of the body, and then could possibly handle the forces of whiplash in a collision facing forward.

However it’s actually safest for children to travel in a rear facing car seat until they are four years old.

Also, remember that rear-facing babies need to be shaded from the sun.

Vehicles without back seats.

In South Africa we have a high percentage of small bakkies on the road. For these types of vehicles, front seat installation is allowed. However, if the child seat is used in a rear-facing position, under no circumstances should the airbag be allowed to activate in a collision. If the airbag cannot be deactivated then a rear-facing seat cannot be used in the front seat.

An airbag releases great forces when deployed. In the case of a rear-facing seat installation, this will cause serious whiplash to the child, injury to the head and neck and possibly could result in a fatality. For forward-facing seats, the results are not as catastrophic, and recommendations are that the distance between the child in a forward facing seat and airbag be at a maximum.

In a front seat installation it is absolutely imperative to ensure that all manufacturers warnings and instructions are adhered to.

Rear facing vs forward facing position in the car

  • Correct position of the childs safetyseat in the car is very important. See the difference between forward facing and rear facing position in a frontal collision.

Secure all loose objects in the vehicle

All objects in a moving vehicle are effectively traveling at the same speed as the vehicle. Hence if the vehicle comes to a sudden and abrupt stop, any loose object will have the impact force at the same speed as the vehicle was travelling. The combination of weight and speed of the object will determine the overall force exerted by that object in an impact. This force could prove deadly to a child in a car seat. It is therefore essential that there are no loose objects in a moving vehicle.

Despite these warnings and advice, don’t forget to make travelling fun. Take regular breaks if you’re on a long journey - it’s important for you and your child to stretch your legs, get some fresh air and stay mobile! Take warm covers too so your child can take a nap - most car seats have a resting position.

Read more on Child Mobility with MAXI- COSI

Also view:

Child Restraints and Road Safety

Car Seat Legislation in South Africa

The Real Easy Guide To ISOFIX