New standard for testing child car seats

Woman in lab.

Emily Uddman is responsible for child car seats and the tests that lead to the seats being better and safer. Photo: Jan Wenäll/VTI

VTI tests child car seats and we are ready to conduct tests following the latest European safety standards. VTI has one of the few independent crash safety laboratories in Sweden. It is the only one accredited to carry out crash testing of child car seats, crash barriers and other road equipment.

UN ECE R129 – is the name of the latest European safety standard for child car seats. VTI can now carry out these tests thanks to major investments in the form of a new restraint system, new test benches, and crash test dummies.

Since last year, the older standard is being phased out. R129 replaces R44. Both of these child car seats are still type-approved and in use. The sale of R44 child car seats in the EU will, as things look today, be banned from 1 September 2024.

In the new standard, the seat is approved based on the child’s height, in the old one it was based on the child’s weight. It will be easier to buy a child car seat of the right size and they will provide better head and neck protection.

The new standard means that the child car seats have undergone more rigorous testing. Compared to before, side-impact tests have been added along with several advanced measurements of crash test dummies.
Research engineer Emily Uddman is responsible for child car seat testing. She can list no less than 25 parameters covered by the tests. These include, among other things, how the crash tests are conducted along with durability and abrasion testing.

“We are very much governed by Regulation 129 and have tried to update the equipment we have to the extent possible. What has taken time, but which is also really positive, is the new restraint system that allows us to produce almost identical tests. Our margin of error has been reduced and the restraint is easier to handle,” she says.

The in-house knowledge that exists has come in handy to produce drawings and manufacture the parts needed, thanks to a competent workshop that can help with modifications and the manufacture of new parts. The investment in crash test dummies was necessary to be able to meet the new measurement requirements.

Anyone who buys a child car seat needs to give the highest priority to safety by following the regulations. Choosing the wrong child car seat can lead to a fine and, above all, that the child risks injury. The child car seat must have a label with a capital E in a circle that shows that it is type-approved. It also states details as to which standard the child car seat has been tested.

"Size is a part of R129 and means that both the child car seats and the cars are certified. The i-Size certification aims to make it easier to choose the right child car seat and to fit it correctly. ISOFIX is a solution used to install the seat.

VTI has a good reputation and a long history when it comes to child car seats. Testing began as early as 1975 with the T-approved standard, where T stood for Trafiksäkerhetsverket (the Swedish Transport Safety Agency). R44 was created by Sweden together with the Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, and other countries. A specific detail that was added thanks to Sweden was the support leg that most child car seats are now equipped with, as it makes the seats significantly safer.

UNECE, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe is behind the European regulation R129. The decisions themselves are taken by WP.29, the UNECE World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulation. The proposals are being prepared by GRSP, the Working Party on Passive Safety.

The tests of child car seats are carried out both as basic tests, for the child car seats to be approved, and as so-called Plus tests. These have been developed by VTI and entail stricter requirements and improved protection for children. The Plus tests have also been upgraded thanks to the introduction of R129.

Translation: CBG

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