Is your child safe in your car

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Euro NCAP has carried out a child occupant safety assessment since its very first test to ensure that manufacturers take responsibility for the children travelling in their vehicles. In November 2003, Euro NCAP introduced a child occupant protection rating to provide clearer information for consumers about the results of these tests. As part of this assessment, Euro NCAP uses 18 month old and 3 year old sized dummies in the frontal and side impact tests. As well as studying the results from the impact tests, Euro NCAP verifies the clarity of instructions and seat installation in the vehicle to ensure that the child seat can be fitted safely and securely.

Euro NCAP has encouraged manufacturers to take responsibility for protecting children and to provide suitable facilities for the fitment of child restraints. Many child restraint users fail to attach the child restraint securely to the car and this compromises the protection afforded to the children. Euro NCAP has encouraged improved designs and the fitment of ISOFIX mounts and child restraints. ISOFIX provides a much more secure method of attaching the child restraint to the car, provided that additional provision is made to prevent rotation of the child restraint, due to seat cushion compression and rebound. As a consequence, Euro NCAP has seen improved designs, where the child is less likely to strike the car’s interior, whilst at the same time experiencing reduced forces from the restraint system.

In the frontal and side impact barrier tests, dummies representing 1½ and 3 year old children are placed in the rear of the car in the type of child restraint, recommended by the car manufacturer. The score depends on the child seat dynamic performance in front and side impact tests but also on the fitting instructions for the child restraints, airbag warning labels, and the car’s ability to accommodate the child restraints safely.

Euro NCAP released a separate star rating for child protection valid from November 2003 to January 2009. The child protection rating is for a combination of a car with specific child seats that have been recommended by the car manufacturer. The combination could earn up to five stars for child protection. As of 2009, the child score has become integral part of the overall rating scheme, however the technical assessment has remained the same.

Frequently asked questions

Has the safety assessment for children changed?

Euro NCAP introduced a separate star rating for child protection valid from November 2003 to January 2009. During this time a car model was shown with a star rating for adult occupant protection, a star rating for child protection and a star rating for pedestrian protection. The child protection rating is for a combination of a car with specific child seats that have been recommended by the car manufacturer. The combination could earn up to five stars for child protection. The rating depends on the fitting instructions for the child seats, the car’s ability to accommodate them safely and their performance in front and side impact tests. In 2009, Euro NCAP’s new scheme has introduced a new 5-star single overall vehicle safety rating replacing the current separate star ratings in use since 1997. The overall rating will be composed from scores achieved in four areas of assessment Adult Occupant, Child Occupant, Pedestrian Protection and Safety Assist. The technical assessment of child protection under the overall rating system has not changed.

It is important to recognise the following limitations to Euro NCAP child protection assessment:

* As Euro NCAP tests one combination of car model and child restraint, the child protection score cannot be used for the car alone, nor can it be used for the car with a different combination of child seats
* The tested child seat alone does not have a child protection score
* The same child seat tested in combination with other cars may give a different child protection rating. This new system of scoring for child protection encourages car manufacturers to take responsibility for the carriage of children. However, whatever the child protection rating, it is essential that children are always carried in suitable child restraints

What should I do if my car has airbags?

Never place a rear-facing child restraint on the front passenger seat with an active frontal protection airbag! Some vehicles allow for the passenger airbag to be deactivated, either by a switch located somewhere in the vehicle, or by dealer disconnection. If you are in any doubt about when it is safe to use a rear-facing child seat, consult the vehicle handbook for more information.

Where is the safest place to put a child seat?

The rear seat is the safest position for child restraints. Before installing you child restraint on any seat, it is essential to check that the intended seat position is suitable for use with a child seat. Information on this should be available in the vehicle manufacturer’s handbook.

This valuable information was gathered from the website of Euro NCAP which provides motoring consumers – both drivers and the automotive industry – with a realistic and independent assessment of the safety performance of some of the most popular cars sold in Europe.