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Add an award-winning Dream i-Size Infant Carrier & Base with your Coast pushchair, designed for everyday strolls

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How do we test our child car seats?

Our car safety specialists share their expertise

Categories   Car Safety

The Edit

Silver Cross’ Head of Car Safety, Hamish McPhillips and Product Technologist, Kat Gemmell have over 30 years of car safety experience between them, with careers spanning from Formula One racecar testing to undertaking police enforcement checks and assessing over 10,000 car seats on the road.

As parents themselves, they have experience from all corners of the industry, knowing the concerns faced by many families when choosing their child’s car seat.

In this expert guide, Hamish and Kat share their knowledge and experience on all things car seat testing. From the rules and requirements, to what makes Silver Cross’ car seat collection a market leader in terms of safety, comfort and value.

What are the legal crash testing requirements when developing a child car seat?

HM: This has changed somewhat over the last 15 years as regulations have been updated and improved to offer a higher level of safety. In 2013, the first version of regulation R129 was launched, often referred to as i-Size within the industry. However, i-Size is just a type-approval category within the R129 regulation. This replaced an older regulation, R44, which was established in the 1980s.

The newer R129 has had many updates and versions since the 2013 launch, with each update being titled a new series. The latest series 03 was introduced in 2018.

KG: Seats meeting the older R44 regulation are being phased out and since September 2023 are no longer legally able to be sold throughout the EU, however it is possible for them to remain on sale in England, Scotland and Wales. At Silver Cross we were an early adopter of the latest regulation with our full range of car seats meeting the latest series of the regulation (R129/03).

What do these regulations involve and how are the seats tested?

KG: The latest R129/03 regulations cover several elements: crash testing, durability testing, individual component testing, sizing requirements, labels, and instruction requirements.

Crash testing 

Three different impact orientations are used to replicate a frontal, side, and rear crash. A child seat will be tested with both the smallest and largest size dummies in each of these configurations. For example, an infant carrier would be tested with a Q0 dummy and a Q1.5 dummy which resemble the size of newborn and 18-month-old babies respectively. If the child seat has any possible adjustments such as a recline, both the extreme upright and recline positions will be tested. Also, if the seat features a support leg or top tether (known as an anti-rotation device as they stop the seat tipping forwards), we conduct a misuse test with the largest test dummy, to replicate what would happen if these were not used correctly.

R129 Dynamic crash test conditions

  • Frontal impact at 50kph (approx. 31mph) – 21 to 28g deceleration
  • Rear impact at 30 kph (approx. 18mph) – 14-21g deceleration
  • Side impact at 24kph (approx. 15mph) – 13-15g deceleration 

The number of different configurations in which the seat is tested will depend on the feature set and intended range of use. The Silver Cross Motion All Size 360 is tested in over 30 different configurations during the process.

Within each test, the seat must manage the impact forces to ensure the crash test dummy does not exceed certain loads – which would result in potential injury to the occupant. These forces are measured through several accelerometers and sensors fitted to the dummy. The loadings on the neck and abdomen are measured alongside measurements of the crash test dummy’s movement during the test, to ensure all areas of the body, in particular the head and abdomen are well protected.

Durability testing

Prior to any crash testing, we run durability testing to replicate the typical wear and tear of the product over its lifetime. This is to ensure the crash performance of the seat does not deteriorate over time, as it should remain the same from the first use to the last. Safety elements such as the buckle, harness system and ISOFIX are operated multiple times.

R129 Durability testing requirements

  • ISOFIX cycled 2,000 times
  • Harness tensioned and released 5,000 times
  • Central adjustor slip tested 1,000 times 
  • Buckle open and closed 5,000 times, then tested loaded and unloaded
  • Temperature cycling of complete seat between 0°C to 100°C
  • Corrosion 
  • Hardness conditioning under UV, cold and hot conditions, submerged 

Component and seat shell testing

Additionally, there are a number of separate tests conducted to ensure the overall performance of the seat meets the regulatory standards.

R129 Component and seat shell testing

  • Roll over test 
  • Energy absorption test 
  • Buckle opening force measurements
  • Buckle and harness system strength testing
  • ISOFIX release force testing 
  • Webbing submerged in water for 24 hours
  • Webbing heated and cooled over a period of 4 days
  • Central adjustor anti-slip test

When buying a car seat, should you focus on weight, height or age?

HM: When shopping for a car seat, you may notice the range of use given in centimeters (cm). As an example, our Dream i-Size infant carrier has a range from 40cm to 85cm. These measurements are set from the detailed measurements of the internal space the seat offers.

The sitting height, together with the hip and shoulder width measurements, are taken in both the smallest and largest positions to determine the occupant sizing of the seat. With seats which have a harness we must also specify the maximum occupant weight limit. Age is always an approximation. Focus on the height limit together with the maximum weight limit for the harness to ensure the best fit. For height limits we consider the child’s torso length to ensure our seats will accommodate higher percentile children.

KG: As well as the internal space requirements for the seat, there are overall size requirements for the seat to ensure they fit within the vehicle. For R129 car seats which fit within the specified i-Size dimensions, they are guaranteed to fit within an i-Size seating position. Check your vehicle handbook to see which positions are offered in your car, or get in touch with our specialist team to confirm here.

Motion All Size 360 can rearward face until 18.5kg and has one of the largest seat shells of any 360° spin product. It enables parents to safely secure their children into the seat whilst facing the door.

How are the testing speeds and force decided?

HM: The speeds used for the regulatory tests are based on the point of impact and are benchmarked against real life crash data to ensure they cover the majority of scenarios. Although we talk about speed, it is the deceleration (how fast you stop) that is also massively important. The deceleration must be within a regulatory stated corridor, between 25 and 28g.

Do you do any additional testing, above and beyond the regulatory standard detailed above?

KG: Silver Cross have always tested beyond the regulation – as expected when our Head of Car Safety used to run the UK’s Child Seat Crash Test Centre!

We carry out additional testing on all our seats during development. Alongside CAE testing (Computer Aided Testing), we work with leading European test laboratories in Holland and Germany during development and homologation to ensure our seats will perform well in collisions, along with running dynamic crash tests at 70kph – approx. 40mph. We also internally measure neck loading during testing as a parameter, which isn’t currently required by the R129 regulation.  

We conduct side impact testing at 50kph (approx. 31mph). Side impacts are high risk for younger occupants, as there is very little space between the point of impact and the child. We ensure all our seats offer superior side protection without having to add anything extra to the seat.

Are there any other tests for car seats?

KG: There are two other tests that car seats can go through – ADAC and the Swedish Plus Test. Both of these tests are above and beyond the regulation. Manufacturers have no control over being selected for ADAC testing – it isn’t something you can choose. You can pay for the Plus Test, which is only available for rear facing toddler seats.

What is ADAC testing?

HM: ADAC is an independent organisation which selects a seat for testing, awarding scores across five key areas:

  1. Safety: Dynamic frontal test at 64kph (approx. 40mph, over 36g force) and side impact at 50kph (approx. 31mph)
  2. Useability: How easy is the seat to install and use?
  3. Ergonomics: Is it comfortable for the child and parent to use?
  4. Pollutants: Are there any harmful chemicals in the covers? Measurement of over 150 toxic substances.
  5. Cleaning: How easy are the covers to remove and clean?

All of the additional testing and work we put into the development of our seats is backed up by the fantastic ADAC results.  

Our Dream i-Size and Motion All Size 360 car seats have been selected for ADAC testing, with Dream achieving the SAFEST result for an infant car seat and Motion All Size 360 achieving the BEST result for a Baby-Toddler-Child car seat. On crash testing in particular, both seats performed outstandingly well for their category.  

This is especially impressive for Motion All Size 360, as historically, all-stage seats have not done so well. To achieve a good safety result (as a combined result of 14 crash tests in different configurations), is testament to the safety offered by Motion All Size 360.

What is the Swedish Plus Test?

The Swedish Plus Test is based on Sweden’s original car seat regulation, the ‘T Test’, which was swapped for EU regulations when Sweden joined the European Union. The T Test then became the Plus Test and has a primary focus on the child’s neck loads. Only rear facing toddler car seats can be tested.  

The test speed is approx. 56.5kph (34mph) with a force between 30-38g. The seat is tested with the largest dummy for the seat, with neck load force being the deciding factor in passing. Plus Test has a shorter time corridor for measuring neck load, which replicates a higher force impact.

What are the differences between ADAC testing and The Swedish Plus Test?

Impact loading and speed

ADAC use a higher initial impact speed, both tests use slightly different deceleration profiles. The Swedish Plus Test do a frontal impact, whereas ADAC tests frontal and side impact.

Vehicle use

ADAC use a real vehicle chassis (VW Polo) which represents the bestselling model (in Germany) over the last few years. The Swedish Plus Test use a generic vehicle test bench which, whilst consistent, has limitations when compared to modern vehicles (these are the flat orange test benches you see from regulatory testing). Generally, the seat cushioning in modern vehicles is much firmer, alongside many other differences.

Configurations

The configurations are very different. Swedish Plus Test focuses on testing the largest size dummy for the seat in a frontal impact only, typically with just one crash test. ADAC test multiple configurations of dummy size, from smallest to largest in both front and side impact, giving a really good overview of the all-round performance of the car seat.
For the Motion All Size 360, 14 different configuration crash tests are used. For the Regulation approval of the product there are more than double this number of configurations.

This is really important as, for example, the requirements of a newborn vs that of a 3–4-year-old are very different. A seat could perform very well when tested with a 3–4-year-old dummy but could perform poorly when tested with a newborn. We need to ensure a good performance across all occupant sizes.

Updates and improvements

The ADAC test is continually being updated and improved, which effectively makes it harder over time to achieve the same score. The Swedish Plus Test doesn’t give a scoring system for the product, meaning it is hard to differentiate the performance of Plus Tested seats from one another.

Alongside the crash test performance, ADAC take into account ease of use, ergonomics, pollutants and cleaning of the seat. None of these elements are assessed within the Swedish Plus Test.

Why aren’t Silver Cross car seats Swedish Plus Tested?

KG: Currently the Swedish Plus Test is only open to rearward facing seats for toddlers – these seats cannot have the option to forward face. Currently our range does not yet include a seat that only rear faces, therefore we don’t have a Swedish Plus Test approved seat.

What are the core values of the Silver Cross car seat collection?

HM: As a loved and trusted brand, we strive to bring the safest, most comfortable and stylish products to families – we never launch any product that we wouldn’t use ourselves. This core principle is why Silver Cross is the UK’s oldest nursery brand, celebrating over 145 years of history.

KG: When your children are travelling in Silver Cross car seats, you have a quality product and your children are absolutely, safe. Our focus during all developments is to offer the best level of safety, ease of use and comfort.  It’s having a collection of seats I’m confident using with my own children.

What else do Silver Cross do to ensure their seats are safe?

HM: During the development phase we meticulously test our seats beyond the regulatory requirements to ensure they not only meet, but far exceed the standards. After the products are approved and launched into the market, the testing doesn’t stop!

We continuously test our products during production to ensure the safety performance does not reduce over time, so that the one millionth model made will be as safe as the first.

Only the highest quality materials are used in our award-winning car seat collection, such as:

  • Premium automotive grade plastics to ensure the products have the strength to protect alongside the durability to last – this is the plastic used in your vehicle.
  • Upgraded Expanded Polypropylene (EPP) – offering improved energy absorption and elasticity, without degrading the way polystyrene does. It is also easier to recycle and better for the environment.
  • Extra thick comfort fabrics. We use thicker wadding on our fabrics, so your little one can maintain their comfort through use of the product.
  • High density memory foam which is excellent at absorbing energy. You’ll find this in our seats at the child’s most vulnerable areas, particularly around the headrest.
  • High strength Aluminium Alloy 6061 grade, which is used in the manufacture of aircraft wings.

Do you offer any extra support?

Not only can you travel with total peace of mind that your child is using a market-leading seat, we also offer the following services to support you throughout the years.

Remote fit checks

New car? Not sure if the seat is approved? Use our remote approval service to get quick confirmation that all is safe to use.

Crash replacement scheme

If you’re involved in a road traffic accident, we will replace your car seat free of charge. Simply complete the form on our website and we will do the rest.  

Warranty

When you buy a Silver Cross car seat, your purchase is protected by a standard two year warranty against manufacturing faults. When you register your product via the Silver Cross app, you will receive an additional one year warranty free of charge.

Car seat recycling scheme

Once you have finished using your Silver Cross car seat, get in touch with our team who will collect and recycle your seat free of charge, to ensure nothing ends up in landfill.

Useful links

Baby Products Association: Ending the confusion on car seats

Crash test dummy information from the manufacturers

Detail ADAC crash testing overview (use browser with translate for English) 

Motion All Size 360 ADAC test results (use browser with translate for English)

Dream i-Size ADAC test results (use browser with translate for English)

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