Britax BabySafe child seat: understand the safety features
- Tristan Honeywill
- On March 5, 2013
Shopping for our first child seat, we got a lot of average advice. We just wanted to know which was safest, but found ourselves guided by sales staff time and again to “their most popular model”. “They all meet the same legal safety standards” was the line we heard most. So do cars, but clearly there are differences.
Realising that we weren’t talking to the right people, we did our own homework. We ended up buying a Britax (sometimes called a Römer) BabySafe with an ISOFIX (sometimes called LATCH) base, bought because it is used so often and so successfully by car manufacturers in the Euro NCAP crash tests.
The BabySafe is a “Zero Plus” rear-facing seat that can be used from birth up until the child weighs about 13kg – around 12 months. Ours is a BabySafe One, which we bought just before BabySafe Two was introduced, and I sometimes wonder how much difference there really is between the two. Who better to ask than the person who oversaw its development, Britax safety chief Farid Bendjellal?
This is the model that has been used extensively by Euro NCAP and car manufacturers, so in terms of safety it has definitely been tested in a variety of crash conditions. What you have is a very good product.
Phew! So what are the basic features on the BabySafe I should know about?
First of all, we use a five-point harness, although it’s not a legal requirement. We’ve found that a five-point harness is not only good for the child in frontal impacts but also in side impacts. We were the first to do this.
And it’s hard to see, but if you remove the cover, there are basically two types of materials: a plastic shell and a white, energy absorbing material. The plastic is a high-strength material that is among the best available in terms of crash behaviour.
These two elements go beyond what we need to meet legal safety requirements, which just focus on frontal impacts. We have designed a seat for real world safety, where side impact protection is also important. Our aim is to help protect children, not to put dummies through tests.
When we were looking at seats, we thought the BabySafe could be slightly narrower than others. It’s a snugger fit for our little boy and we thought that it might be more secure as result too. Is that why?
If it looks narrower than some, it’s partly because it has to fit between the ISOFIX mounts. The other reason is that the seat also has wings, which are the first point of contact in the event of a side impact.
In a side impact, the aim is to absorb as much energy as possible before it reaches the child’s space. BabySafe absorbs energy through the wings, the handle and the shell. It’s not possible to absorb it all, but the energy that the child absorbs should then be at a level it is not injury-related.
BabySafe Two has small plastic catches that fold out. Do these provide additional space for energy absorption?
That’s the philosophy, yes. On BabySafe Two there is this “D-SIP” side impact protection system. The D refers to the shape of the component. In the event of a side-impact, you want to do two things: accelerate the child seat away from any intrusion from the door and start absorbing energy as early as possible. The longer you wait to start absorbing the energy, the greater the consequences are for the child.
What’s worth knowing about the ISOFIX base?
You need an ISOFIX base that fits the majority of cars with a support leg that contacts the floor. BabySafe has an anti-rebound bar on the rear of the seat. When it’s connected to the ISOFIX mounts, it stabilises the child’s car seat even more. It improves the seat’s stability in frontal impacts – and without such an anti-rebound bar, the seat will not be stabilised in a rear impact.
Is there any difference between the products you sell in Europe and in other parts of the world?
There’s absolutely no difference. The BabySafe is a BabySafe everywhere. The choice of colours may change, but the components are otherwise absolutely identical. That’s partly because of the safety regulations, but it’s really about customer confidence. When they buy Britax, they should feel safe. They should feel satisfied that their infant is secure. I’m not making a marketing speech here; it’s just really important.
We’re very happy with our BabySafe One. We have friends with belt-in seats with three-point harnesses and you can see that seat and baby are not as secure in the car. The five-point harness is a bit fiddly to get his arms into now that he’s bigger, but once in, he feels secure and settles down well (so far).
ISOFIX bases are often undersold in stores. It does add cost at a time when money is tight, but it isn’t just safer – it makes lifting your baby in and out of the car easier when they’re asleep. Before our little boy arrived, I had no idea how important this would become! Well worth the money to be able to get him into the house and get the kettle on without waking him.
I wish I’d known about the BabySafe Two at the time as I like the sound of the side impact protectors. And since talking to the Britax team, I’ve learned that the TriFix is really the ultimate in safety. It’s hard to believe that nobody in the stores where we asked the question was able to point this out. It does cost more, but we would definitely have been interested. We’ll return to the TriFix once we’ve spoken to other manufacturers about the safety of their most popular seats.
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