How to tighten properly and secure children in the car

guide car
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This is how children are properly strapped in and secured in the car

If offspring are announced, the parents show up. A suitable child seat should also not be missing in the car. Experts from ADAC and Stiftung Warentest explain how to avoid mistakes and how to fasten children properly in the car.

For parents, the health of their children comes first. This also applies to car driving. For parents of young children, the question arises which seat they need. When buying and using, errors can easily occur. According to the Stiftung Warentest, about half of all children wear the wrong seat belt and would not be well protected in the event of an accident.

Inform, inform, inform How can you see the quality of a highchair? Reiner Metzger from Stiftung Warentest says: There is no distinction between good and bad child seats in terms of appearance and price. Parents should therefore invest some time and inform themselves in advance.

The regular tests from ADAC and Stiftung Warentest can provide information. They examine behavior in the event of a side and frontal collision, operation, adaptation to body size, ergonomics, and pollution.

In principle, all approved seats must meet a so-called UN-ECE standard, an international standard for car seats. If the seat meets all the requirements, it gets a stamp. Three standards are currently approved by ADAC: i-Size / UN ECE Reg. 129, UN ECE Reg. 44/04 and UN ECE Reg. 44/03. Older seats with standard ECE-R 44/01 and 44/02 are not permitted. All approved models therefore meet minimum requirements – but there is still room for improvement.


    Even older children still belong in a highchair to be adequately protected in the event of an accident.

Even older children still belong in a highchair to be adequately protected in the event of an accident.
Photo: dpa-tmn / Silvia Marks

Buy a highchair? It often turns into three Since children up to 12 years or a height of 1.50 meters must be secured, parents usually create two to three child seats for their offspring, according to the product tests’ experience. It starts with the baby seat for the first 15 months, followed by the highchair for young children up to four years and ends with the model for older children. There are also folding and growing seats that can be changed as desired.

Especially in the beginning, parents could benefit from a large selection of good models, says Reiner Metzger. “The standard is very high for infants, there is rarely anyone who is insecure.”

The situation is different with the seats for older children. Again and again they perform poorly in tests. In particular, combination models such as growing and folding seats had to make certain compromises, which often had a negative impact on safety and handling.

Purchase checklist Andreas Ratzek from ADAC has one piece of advice for parents: Get good advice and definitely bring your own car and above all your child with you when you buy one. As a project manager in the field of vehicle safety, he regularly tests child seats and knows the pitfalls of some models.


    There is a large selection of good baby carriers for parents.  With just a few clicks, the little ones are well secured.

There is a large selection of good baby carriers for parents. With just a few clicks, the little ones are well secured.
Photo: dpa-tmn / Christin Klose

Since they can be very different, not every seat in every car fits. It also helps to get the benefit shown during the consultation, Ratzek says. In the worst case, carelessness when attaching child seats can cost a child’s life.

That’s why ADAC has made a checklist. Here are some points to keep in mind:

  • The child seat must be able to be mounted firmly and securely in the vehicle. In older cars, longer harness buckles can prevent this.
  • Belts should run as straight and wrinkle-free as possible.
  • Is the length of the belt long enough to attach baby seats? If not, use a separate base to avoid clamping errors. This is firmly anchored to the car with an Isofix connection, and the seat can then be clicked into place. As long as children are sitting backwards, experts recommend doing so.
  • Even with booster cushions with backrest, the harness should automatically roll up again when the child leans forward.
  • Note: Not all seats fit in all cars. Those with semi-universal approval, which includes all child seats with outriggers, usually come with a list of suitable car types.

Note application error: Tighten up! Both experts say that there are often mistakes in the use of highchairs in particular. According to Andreas Ratzek, manufacturers are constantly simplifying handling, but studies have shown that children sit in the wrong place almost every other turn in the car because their parents are too careless in everyday life.

The straps must be tight. No hand must fit between the belt and the child according to the standard of the Stiftung Warentest. The belt must also not go past the child’s neck.

Reiner Metzger experiences again and again that children are too small for the seats or strapped forward too quickly. “A lot of accidents happen head-on,” he says. Therefore, parents must secure their offspring backwards up to the age of 15 months or – if possible – up to two years.

And even with older children, parents should stay alert. They could not withstand an impact because their muscles were still weak. For butchers, back support and side impact protection are part of a good seat until the end of the mandatory period. Clean seat cushions for older children fall through for him.

How much should a highchair cost? The question of price still needs to be clarified: Depending on the age of the child, parents sometimes have to dig deep into their pockets. Warenter Metzger provides a guide value for baby carriers without a base between 100 and 250 euros, with a base to click on it is 100 to 200 euros. Those for small children cost between 200 and 400 euros, but can also cost more.

The good news: the seats will again be cheaper for children who are more than one meter tall, and good models are available for as little as 100 to 200 euros.

New or used highchairs? Given the cost, can used seats also be an appropriate solution? The product testing specialist has a hard time making a recommendation. Because after an accident, a highchair belongs in the trash. And that’s where the problem lies for him: “You can not look at a seat if it has already been damaged.” You have to know the previous owner well if you want to use used seats, he says.

And on holiday or in a taxi? It is not only in their own car that children must be adequately secured. This also applies to carpooling and taxis as well as rental cars. As the ADAC notes, taxi drivers are generally required to have a child seat in the car, but they do not have to have baby seats in their repertoire.

If there is no suitable child lock in the car, parents are entitled to another vehicle with a child seat. However, it is “a gamble” what quality parents expect, says Reiner Metzger.

After all, both taxi and rental car companies should only comply with the minimum standards. Basically, driving without a child seat is the wrong decision. The driver is not only responsible for the safety of the children. If accidents occur, children are not adequately insured – with fatal consequences in the worst case.

Highchairs are mandatory until this age According to the ADAC, parents in Germany are required to secure their children in a child seat when driving up to the age of 12 or a height of 1.50 meters. There are also licensing rules to prevent damage. This means that newborns must not be secured in the direction of travel as long as they weigh less than nine kilos or are younger than 15 months.

Infants must not be strapped directly into the car’s seat belt until they weigh 15 kilograms or are one meter tall. Up to this limit, they must be fastened in so-called integrated child seats with a harness or with a shock shield. It is also important for older children that the vehicle’s three-point seat belt runs over the child’s body as an adult.

(csr / dpa)

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