Current Safety Regulations
To simplify the selection process of choosing the right car seat, regulations and norms have been implemented to guarantee general safety standards worldwide. In Europe and most parts of the world, the UN R44/04 and UN R129/02 (i-Size) testing standards are in effect.
What is i-Size?
i-Size is one part of the UN Regulation No. 129. R129 is a new regulation in Europe for enhanced child restraint systems and was developed by the Economic Commission for Europe of the United Nations (UNECE). This committee of experts included regulators, research and test institutes, car manufacturers and child restraint manufacturers. CYBEX was a very active member of this group.
R129 came into force in July 2013 and is primarily a European regulation, although some other countries will accept child restraints approved to this regulation.
For the time being, there are different main categories of child restraint in the R129 regulation: i-Size (integral ISOFIX), Specific vehicle ISOFIX, i-Size booster seat and Specific vehicle booster seat:
- i-Size” (integral universal ISOFIX) child restraints can be used universally on any car seat marked with the i-Size symbol. They are installed with the ISOFIX points. A top tether or support leg must also be used.
- Specific vehicle ISOFIX child restraints can be used only in specific car seats (please check car compatibility list on our website).
- “i-Size booster seats” can be used on any car seat marked with the iSize symbol. They are installed with 3-point seat belt + optional ISOFIX (please check with the manufacturer of your car seat when the car seat is installed with ISOFIX points).
- Specific vehicle booster seats can be used only in specific car seats (please check with the manufacturer of your car seat).
R129 was developed to make child restraints easier to install, to provide better protection in side impact crashes and to keep children rear-facing up to at least 15 months of age. In addition, the i-Size category aims to make child restraints more compatible with car seats.
The first phase of R129 came into force in 2013 and is most common on the market. It applies to ‘integral’ child restraints (i-Size regulation), in which the child is held by a harness or shield that is attached to the seat. As noted above, an R129 child restraint (i-Size or Specific vehicle) must be attached to the car using the ISOFIX points (universal approval with support leg or top tether).
An amendment to R129 has been agreed to allow the approval of booster seats. This has passed the main legislative processes and has been in force since June 2017. It applies to booster seats with a backrest, that are attached to the car using the 3-point seat belt + optional ISOFIX points (compatibility list). Nevertheless, today, it is still possible to approve a booster seat to R44. Therefore, booster seats conforming to either regulation (R44 or R129) are still valid and can be used. An end date for the approval of R44 booster seats is being discussed by regulators, but is yet to be finalised.
In this context, booster seats without a backrest (i.e. booster cushions) have not been introduced within R129 yet. These CRS can be approved only in R44 for the time being.
In addition, discussions are underway to prepare a further amendment of R129 to include other types of child restraints, such as belt-attached integral child restraints. These discussions are at the first stages and it is too early to say when the amendment might be ready and come into force. CYBEX will keep you updated.
Difference between R44 and R129
UN Regulation No. 44.04 (R44/04) and UN Regulation No. 129 (currently R129/02) are running side by side, for the time being. This means that parents can choose whether to buy a child restraint approved by either regulation.
The main changes introduced by R129 are:
- R129 uses the child’s height to determine if the seat is appropriate for them. This makes it easier for a parent to find the correct size car seat for their child. There is also a weight limit. However, this differs from R44/04, which uses weight only.
- Side impact testing: R129 includes a side impact test of the seat to ensure it provides protection in side impact collisions.
- Rear-facing mandatory until at least 15 months: R129 child restraints require children to be rear-facing up to at least 15 months of age. This is done, in part, by setting a minimum height for forward-facing child restraints of 76 cm. In contrast, R44 allows forward-facing child restraints from 9 kg (approximately 9 months)
- Improved compatibility and easy handling.
Why CYBEX supports i-Size
At CYBEX, child safety is our top priority. The implementation of the newest and highest child safety standards is at the core of our product creation. Our team of international child safety experts continuously advances our safety standards and implements them into the development of our child car seats.
At CYBEX, we encourage the use of rear-facing car seats as the safest way to travel as it is mandatory in R129. Rear-facing seats offer the most safety when transporting a child with the car. The strong front impacts are distributed widely across the area of the seat’s back, significantly reducing the strain on the neck. In addition, side-impact collisions occur half as often as frontal collisions, however, are equally dangerous. The lack of space on either side of the car cannot compete with the protective function of a crumple zone, making side-impact collisions considerably more dangerous than head-on road accidents. A high-quality car seat should, therefore, be equipped with suitable protection that helps prevent injuries to the child in case of a side-impact collision.
- Can I use an i-Size child seat in my car that is equipped with ISOFIX?
- i-Size child restraints can be used in any car seat marked with the i-Size symbol; however, older cars may not be ‘i-Size ready’, even if they have ISOFIX points. If this is the case, please check whether your car is included on the fitting list for the child restraint.
- Can I still use my UN R44/04 CYBEX child car seat/infant car seat as the regulation UN R129/02 (i-Size) is valid?
- Car seats that comply with the R44 standard are fully valid and can still be used in road traffic without restrictions. The i-Size norm R129 will run in parallel for a transitional period of several years with the current R44. A planned ban on the use of car seats that comply with R44 is not known at the moment. Therefore, there is no need to change your current car seat for a newer model. The CYBEX car seats all comply with the highest safety standards and legal requirements and can still be used with complete confidence.
- Will the norm also be valid in the US?
- No. There is a very different system of vehicle legislation in the US. This means that the US does not accept R129 child restraints from Europe (and vice versa).
- Why only rearward-facing until 15 months and not for 4 years in total?
- The head of a young child is large and heavy in proportion to the rest of its body and its neck is relatively weak. A rear-facing child restraint supports the head and neck and is thought, therefore, to reduce the risk of neck injury. Although this remains a topic for research, European regulators are satisfied that by 15 months, the neck has developed enough strength to withstand the forces in a typical crash. For this reason, 15 months was set as the minimum age for rear-facing car seats. However, many R129 child restraints are approved for longer rear-facing use, for example, by children up to 105 cm (around 4 years).
- Why does the norm now focus on the size of the child? Why is the age of the child not relevant?
- R44 classifies child restraints per weight (of the child). However, children grow in different ways. For example, a child can be within the weight range of an R44 seat but find that their heads are above the top of the seat. R129 child restraints have a size range (as well as a weight limit). This new approach gives more confidence that the child restraint will fit a child over its full range.
Age is not used in R44 or R129 for the same reason. Although it can be useful as a guide, children can vary a lot in size and weight for a given age. One exception is the requirement in R129 for rear-facing up to at least 15 months of age. However, this is done, in part, by setting a minimum height for forward-facing child restraints.
The ECE (Economic Commission for Europe) norm describes a set of internationally agreed technical regulations for motored vehicles and related equipment like child safety seats. This regulation is also approved by some non-European countries i.e. Japan.
The test method per UN R44
To gain approval by law, all child seats approved according to this regulation must undergo the following accident simulation. There is a frontal collision that takes place at a speed of 50 km/h, a rear-collision at a speed of 30 km/h, and a rollover. Depending on the weight category, dummies of varying sizes are used in various crash situations.
An overview of the different UN R44 groups
Depending on the national legislation, a child must be secured with a car seat up to the age of 12 years, the height of 150 cm or the height of 135 cm. UN-Standard 44 defines five groups, each of which is designed for a certain weight category. As soon as the child is too heavy or tall for one group, it should move up to the next car seat. However, we strongly advise parents not to move their child up too quickly, as a seat that is too big, can be just as ineffective in a car crash as one that is too small.
The different groups and the average age of the child using car seats are displayed in the graph below. It should be noted that the age is not a criterion but should be a guideline, as it refers to the age and weight of an average child. Thus, the weight categories overlap, allowing for added flexibility for those children who do not reflect average trends. This is designed to prevent children from moving up a group too early or too late.