In essence, there are two sets of laws in the UK.
Firstly; the law regarding selling a new car seat to a consumer. The law demands that a child car seat (technically called a Crash Restraint System or C.R.S.) must be tested to a standard known as ECE R44/04 or R129. Both standards come from the United Nations in Geneva. In relation to R44 authorised testing laboratories currently perform a crash test regarding frontal and rear impacts at very low speeds. The new R129 standard also requires side-impact testing.
Because R44/04 is a very weak test, some European consumer organisations merged together to form a stricter test now based on EuroNCAP test procedures. This test is often referred to as "Eurotest" and is conducted by the German equivalent to the UK's motoring organisation the AA.
This organisation is called ADAC, and they have test facilities in Landsberg in Germany. They test car seats both for frontal and side-impact but in regard to Eurotest they do not test for rear impact.
However, given R44/04 is so weak we do quote the crash tests published by ADAC on their website. For an overview test score ADAC grade car seats on a sliding scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (very good). They also show individual scores for crash tests, toxicity etc.
Many consumer organisations across Europe use these results but sometimes they "pick and choose" which results they publish or they "weight" some results. Some experts consider this practice highly controversial, especially if the opinions they publish are not sourced from ADAC direct. This is often true of Users Tests, which often are sourced from foreign car clubs. So next time you read a magazine, and they say "we tested this car seat"..........beware........in reality they often purchased dubious data and made a story around the data they bought!
The car seats we mention on this website are flat and shallow angled ones. We inform you of the ADAC results for crash tests, pollutants (toxicity tests) and maintenance (cleaning), and in our opinion, these results are the most useful. At "Which Car Seat" we do not publish User Tests as we believe consumer reviews (on websites such as Mumsnet or Amazon) give a better insight to real users opinions.
A link to ADAC is here: http://www.adac.de/sp/technikzentrum/en/default.aspx
Just a few more points about crash tests. Many of us involved in children's car seat safety talk about crash tests like they are the holy grail, but I do not think that we should look at them that way. They are certainly a vital tool, but they currently do not give the whole picture. Car seat crash tests are one dimensional. In a real accident, the forces involved can be three dimensional, and no two accidents are the same!
People often ask me what the safest car seat is for their little one, and I always reply the same .........."what type of accident are you planning?"
Crash testing of a car seat regarding multi-vehicle high speed "rear shunt" accidents (as has occurred in recent times on the M5, M40 and A249) is only 50% effective as in general crash tests for a vehicle striking from behind are not made. Many people were killed or injured in these accidents, and a huge number of vehicles were involved.
At Kidex we believe children's car seats should be crash tested for, side and rear impact accidents at high speed and currently, no one (to our knowledge) makes these tests. A few car seat manufacturers do however take this issue quite seriously, and design "anti-rotation" features into the car seats they design. This means in rear impact accidents; these car seats should protect a baby better.
It is the law that a child must be restrained by a children's car seat until they reach 1.35 metres tall or ascertain the age of 12.
It is the DRIVERS responsibility to ensure the safety of children, and you are laying yourself open to prosecution if you fail to adhere to the law. There are a few exceptions - (such as a ride in a taxi), but in some areas, the Police are now actively enforcing this law with roadside spot-checks.