Will I be able to fit three car seats across the back seat of my car?
Three across will nearly always work in cars that have three individual seats in the back, but in cars that have one rear bench the middle seat is usually narrower than the outer two. In most of those cars there won't be enough room to put a third seat in the middle. It can sometimes be done if you have a combination of rear and forward facing car seats, and you puzzle them together so that their backrests don't touch. So you can either have one booster in the middle with a rear facing seat on either side, or like in the picture at the top of this page, a rear facing seat in the middle with a high back booster on each side. But this will only work in cars that are wider than average.
What do we do about car seats when we go on holiday?
Relying on a car hire company to provide you with a car seat carries several risks. You won't know the age of the seat and its history, so you can't be sure that it hasn't been involved in an accident and is no longer safe. You can't guarantee that they will have the right seat for your child's age and weight available, and any seats they do have will more than likely be forward facing. Most car hire companies won't install the seat in the car for you, they don't want to be held accountable if anything happens. So you are given a seat you are not familiar with which may not have any instructions, and no one available to help you install it in the car. Hiring a car seat can cost as much as £10 a day on top of the cost of hiring the car. So if at all possible, you are far better off either bringing your own or buying a lighter one that's easier to carry, just for the holiday so that you can be sure that you know how to use it and that it is safe.
I have had a car accident, do I need to buy new car seats?
Car seats are carefully designed and tested to protect your child in an accident. Once a seat has been involved in a crash, it may have suffered invisible damage. This means the seat may look fine on the outside, but if you were to keep using it and are involved in another accident, it may not protect your child as well as it should. Some car seat manufacturers say that as long as the car wasn't going faster than parking speed which is about 10mph and didn't suffer more than bumper damage, you don't need to replace the seat. But most manufacturers recommend replacing the seat no matter how minor the crash. Your car seats will be covered by your car insurance, but not all insurance companies pay out the full amount, so it's worth shopping around and making sure that you would be reimbursed for your car seats if you have to make a claim.
Are secondhand car seats safe to use?
The fact that a car seat is several years old or has previously been used by another family doesn't automatically mean that it's unsafe and won't protect your child in a crash. But the trouble with most secondhand car seats that you buy from a stranger, is that you don't know their history and you can't guarantee that they haven't been involved in an accident. The instructions may also be missing and if you need spare parts, they may no longer be available. As well as the current regulations R129 and R44/04, car seats that meet regulation R44/03 are also still legal to use. However, R44/03 car seats were produced between 1995 and 2005, so you could potentially be using a car seat that is more than 20 years old. Improvements are made all the time and a car seat that was made in 1995 won't benefit from the most up to date technology and won't have the latest safety features. While it's ok to use a car seat that a friend or relative's child used for a few years and that you know hasn't been involved in a car crash, we strongly advise you not to buy secondhand car seats from strangers, because you have no way of knowing if they are safe.
Do car seats expire?
In the US all car seats have an expiry date after which they must no longer be used, and some seats 'expire' just five years from the date of manufacture. Here in Europe car seats don't have expiry dates. They are made of very strong materials that don't degrade to a point where they're dangerous to use in just five years. As explained in the previous question about secondhand car seats, all seats that meet regulations R129, R44/04 and R44/03 are legal to use. But for all the reasons given above, most manufacturers recommend that seats are replaced after ten years. This varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and they are just recommendations, it is not illegal to use car seats that are more than ten years old.
My children get bored in the car, what can I give them to play with?
Any loose object in the car will keep moving in a crash at the speed that the car was doing the moment the crash happened. This speed is multiplied by the object's weight and that is the amount of force with which it will hit whatever is in front of it. So if you give your child a cup of juice to drink in the car, or a plastic toy to play with, if they are rear facing it can hit them in the face, and if they're forward facing it will fly though the car and potentially injure someone else. So the rule is that all loose objects must be placed in the boot or in the footwell, and any toys you give your child must be so soft that you would be happy to throw it at their face. If you think a toy or cup would hurt if you threw it at them, then they shouldn't have it in the car either.
Can my child's car seat go in the front passenger seat?
Contrary to what many people believe, it is not dangerous or illegal to have a baby or young child in the front seat. The only thing that makes the front seat dangerous for a child is the airbag. An airbag can kill a rear facing child in a fraction of a second, so you should never under any circumstances use a rear facing car seat in the front seat with an active airbag. However, in cars where the airbag can be switched off the front seat is a very safe place for a child. Some parents find it distracting to have their baby next to them, whereas others prefer to have the baby where they can see them. In Sweden where rear facing has been the norm since the 1960s, many people use extended rear facing seats as well as infant ones in the front seat. If you car's airbag cannot be switched off you can't use a rear facing car seat in the front, but for forward facing seats the rules vary from car to car. The child safety section of your car's manual will tell you which car seats, if any, are allowed to be used in the front passenger seat.