Child Car Seat Safety in Ireland: Complete Guide

Posted on June 27, 2024

Children are some of the most vulnerable passengers on the road. Which is why child safety when driving is the highest priority for each and every parent.

In Ireland, there are strict laws for children travelling in cars and around the use of car seats to ensure child safety. Understanding these laws and regulations can significantly increase your child’s safety during travel and can save lives if followed correctly – and also guarantee compliance.

In our guide below, we’ll take a look at the most recent regulations and share some essential tips on car seat safety for parents and guardians.

Understanding Car Seat Safety Laws in Ireland

Car seat safety laws in Ireland are specifically designed to protect children from birth through to their early teens. Here’s what you need to know about the regulations:

Age and Size Requirements
In Ireland, under regulations set by the RSA, all children under 150cm (approx. 4ft 11”) in height or 36kg (approx. 79 lbs) in weight must use a child car seat or child restraint system (CRS)  that is appropriate for their weight while travelling in a car or goods vehicle other than a taxi.

Under these guidelines, car restraints for children are broadly categorised into groups designed to suit children of different ages as follows:

  • Group 0+: Birth up to 13kg (about 12-15 months) 
  • Group 1: 9kg to 18kg (about 9 months to 4 years) 
  • Group 2 and 3: 15kg to 36kg (about 4 years to 12 years)
child car safety ireland

However, you’ll notice that all are grouped according to the weight, as it is the weight of the child that is the most important factor when choosing a car seat.

Correct Installation Is Key

Research by the RSA suggests that 4 out of 5 car seats are not installed properly, which can reduce their effectiveness and lead to serious injury or fatalities in the event of a collision. 

Always choose a retailer that can either install your child’s car seat for you, or show you how to correctly fit it yourself. You should always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions if installing yourself or, if you are unsure, seek professional help to make sure that your car seat is fitted correctly.

The RSA provides a free, full-time service where parents and guardians can check that their car seat is fitted correctly and safely. This service is available nationwide and no booking is necessary; locations and dates can be found on the RSA website.

Direction of the Car Seat
A rear-facing car seat is recommended for infants and should be used until your child is at least 15 months old. After this, you can switch to a forward-facing car seat but keeping a rear-facing position up to at least four years of age is advisable since it offers better protection for little heads and necks.

Transitioning Between Seats
Transitioning from one stage of the car seat to another should be based on your child’s height and weight rather than age. It’s safer to keep a child in a lower group seat for as long as possible to get the most protection.

The RSA recommends that you only move your child out of a rearward-facing car seat when their eye level is in line with the top of the seat, or they have gone above the maximum weight limit set out by the manufacturer. 

child car seat safety ireland

Booster Seats
Booster seats are necessary until a child is tall enough (150cm/4ft 11”) to safely use an adult car seat belt. As a rough guide, this means until your child is around 12 years old but always be based around weight, rather than age.

Booster seats help to position the child correctly so a seat belt can be positioned correctly on their shoulder and pelvis. The RSA recommends choosing a booster seat that gives the most protection possible to a child’s head, neck and spine.

Car Seat Safety Tips

Choose the Right Car Seat
Always choose a car seat based on your child’s current height and weight, not something that they will grow into. Check that the car seat fits in your car properly and that it meets all EU safety standards (look for the E mark label).

Look For Reputable Brands
When choosing a car seat, look out for brands who are trusted and who have a proven track record for producing safe and reliable products.

Positioning the Car Seat
The safest place to install a car seat is typically in the back seat of the car, away from active airbags. If you do need to use the front seat, make sure that the passenger side airbag is deactivated as it can cause serious injuries in the event of a collision – and it is also illegal to use a rear-facing child seat on the front passenger seat that has an active airbag.

Securing Your Child
The harness of a child seat should fit snugly around your child; you shouldn’t be able to pinch any excess webbing after buckling the harness. The harness chest clip should be at armpit level to reduce choking hazards. Always check that the straps are at the correct heights and be wary of clothing or blankets which can affect the tightness.

Regular Checks
Regularly check if your child’s car seat is installed correctly and look out for any signs of wear and tear, damage or loose components before travelling.

Avoid Second-Hand Seats
If you can, try to always opt for a new car seat that meets all of the current safety standards.  Second-hand car seats might have been involved in an accident and could be less effective, or could possibly be an older model which may not meet current safety standards.

Check that the car seat is compatible with your vehicle. Not all seats will fit all car models so make sure you do your research for your specific car model.

Understanding and complying with car seat laws in Ireland is crucial for the safety of your children. Always ensure that the car seat is suitable for your child’s size, correctly installed, and appropriately used every time you travel.

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Child Car Seat Safety FAQs

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