‘i-Size’ is the name of the new EU safety regulation for child car seats which made the headlines when it was introduced in July 2013. It aims to increase the level of safety which infant car seats offer the babies and toddlers who travel in them.
Currently, car seats are required to adhere to ECE R44/04 standards, which were established in the early 1980’s, but a lot has changed since then in terms of the cars we drive and our understanding of what happens in a car accident.
i-Size is a higher standard of testing car seats, therefore offering your baby increased safety in a number of ways:
- Car seats use ISOFIX rather than seat belts to make them easier to fit securely
- Car seats must provide better side-impact protection
- Car seats keep babies rear facing until they are 15 months old
- i-Size testing also makes use of the latest test dummy sensory technology, designed to more accurately simulate a child’s fragile body
At the moment in the UK you have a choice about which car seat you use for your baby – one which meets the ECE R44/04 standards set in the 1980s, or one which meets the more robust i-Size standards. You will continue to have this choice until around 2018 (so you don’t have to replace any existing car seats right away), when i-Size will become the car seat safety standard.
Babies and children are not mini versions of adults – their bodies and bones are different and need much more protection from the forces in a crash. Travelling rear facing is the safest way for a child to travel and there is a small range of ‘extended’ rear facing car seats on the UK market which facilitate this for children up to the age of 4 years. In Sweden, where rear facing for children is the norm and they travel this way until 4/5 years, there is a noticeable lower fatality ratio for children in car accidents than we have in the UK.
So how are babies different? Firstly, their skeleton has not yet been solidified into bone, but is still soft, mainly consisting of cartilage. In adults, our rigid and strong rib cage protects our vital organs, including the heart and lungs. In a child, their ribs are not yet strong enough to do this, which in the event of a forward facing impact, can mean serious internal organ damage.
In addition, a child’s head is 25% of their body weight, so in a collision where they are forward facing and thus propelled forwards, this therefore puts significant strain on the developing neck and spine, causing potentially serious injuries.
In response to the new i-Size legislation, some manufacturers have started producing car seats which meet these new i-size regulations, including Joie, Maxi Cosi and Britax. The first manufacturer to produce an i-Size compliant car seat system was Joie, and so for this blog we have reviewed their Joie i-Anchor fix base with i-Gemm car seat to see how these new regulations translate into car seat reality…
Firstly, under i-Size regulations, car seats will be required to be fitted into a car with ISOFIX. The Joie meets this i-Size requirement with their i-Anchor fix base which stays fixed in the car. This base actually covers both regulations as it also attaches via seatbelt, so if you don’t have ISOFIX easily accessible, you can still use it until the new legislation comes wholly in force in 2018.
The i-Anchor fix base also has a leg brace to secure it in position, which sits in the footwell. This means the base (and the car seat which sits in it), should not be installed onto a seat which has underfloor storage compartments in the footwell in front of it. This is because in the event of an accident, the support leg could penetrate the lid of the underfloor storage compartment and the safety of the car seat and its passenger compromised. Depending on what kind of car you have, this will affect your choice of where you can install your seat.
The i-Anchor fix base allows for the car seat to literally click in and out at the push of one button. Very easy to use, and if you have other children who you also may be travelling with, this is very handy as it means you can quickly and easily secure your youngest and then get on with the (often more time consuming) job of getting the others into the car!
Joie also use a ‘green for go’ system – so when installing the base and car seat, there are colour coded proper install indicators which must all have turned completely green to show you that everything is correctly installed (if they are red it is not secured). This can be really reassuring if you are like me and suffer OCD when triple checking a car seat!
The i-Anchor fix base also allows you to change the angle of the car seat into one of 7 possible recline positions, without having to take it off the base. This is easily done using a lever located on the base, meaning that you can do it without causing any disturbance to your child (brilliant if they are nodding off!)
i-Gemm is the first infant car seat from Joie which meets the new i-Size certification (when used with the i-Size base).
The Joie i-Gemm enables baby to travel in a rear facing position from birth up to 15 months. The car seat has several adaptations from previous car seats of this type which enable it to grow with your baby for longer, including:
- A ‘Grow Together’ Headrest and Harness. This means there are no fiddly adjustments requiring you to take the back of the car seat off and re-thread the harness as your baby grows in size. Instead as your baby grows bigger, you simply adjust the headrest upwards easily with one hand, and the harness moves with it!
- The seat also features two inserts that you simply use until your baby outgrows them, one for the body and one for the head, ensuring that they are kept snug and positioned properly.
The i-Gemm has a carry handle, meaning you can easily lift the car seat in and out of the car. While it is not recommended to allow your baby to spend any long length of time in their car seat out of the car (due to suffocation risks and the potential to damage baby’s soft growing spine) many parents do find it helpful to get their child properly fitted and comfortable in the car seat first, before lifting them into the car, which this car seat easily allows.
The cost of purchasing car seats which wholly meet the new i-Size regulation can be more expensive due to needing to purchase both a base and a car seat. However, this has to be balanced with the evidence that rearward-facing seats have been proven to be 5 times safer than forward-facing seats, and the new i-Size standards are acknowledged to provide much safer car seats.
The i-anchor fix base retails at around £80 and the i-Gemm car seat at £130.
Have you bought an i-Size car seat? What are your thoughts on the new standards?