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Travelling in France

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posted August 31st 2018

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The grandchildren are off to Disneyland Paris – but have hit upon a snag!

Grandson #3 is a smidgen over 135cm tall – and therefore according to the Law in this country, he doesn’t need to use any child restraint – he can use the normal seat belts. I did suggest that it was foolish to get rid of the car seat he had been using but why would the family need a car seat again?

Well, they have found out! In France, the regulations are different! There a child has to be in a suitable car seat until they reach 140cm – and #3 isn’t that tall yet! So while in France he will need to use a car seat again (cue another tantrum claiming he’s not a baby!)

So what are their options?

They could go out and buy a Booster Cushion. You can find them on the internet for as little as £8. A booster cushion is designed to lift the child up somewhat so that the seat belt fits better. However, there are a couple of snags with this. Firstly, and most importantly, they offer no protection against a car hitting from the side – a surprisingly common occurrence especially in towns and cities. Secondly, many are made of quite hard plastic. If little one says they are uncomfortable, they’re probably right! Several booster cushions do not come with a strap to hold the seat belt in the right position on the shoulder. Surprisingly, it’s not always clear from the description on many internet sites as to whether there is one or not!

In 2017, the government decided that these seats were not safe enough and have banned suppliers from creating new models. A number of suppliers have also phased them out as unsuitable in this day and age; there are better alternatives. This means that there aren’t many booster cushions on the market.

Far safer is to buy a Booster Seat. Yes, there’s a difference! Seats come with backs and wings to give much better protection, especially from side impacts. They are usually more comfortable, both in the seat not being so hard and the seat belt fitting onto their shoulder. Most suppliers have at least one in their range so there is a great choice. And the cheapest I’ve found is only £25. The snag for the family is that it will only be used for a short time and storing a seat like this isn’t always convenient. However, next year they may go on holiday to another European country where the regulations insist on the child being 150cm before they can use the adult seat belts.

An alternative is mifold, the grab-and-go car seat restraint for children that packs up very small – it is designed so that a child can take it with them in a backpack so they can always travel safely (and within the Law). They can easily store it away until next year in case they still need it.

To recap, the Law in Britain says that a child can use adult seat belts once they reach 135cm – and many kids are desperate to stop using a car seat. Many European countries have the same rule but some such as Germany require children to use a car seat up to 150cm.

However, if you can, persuade your grandchildren to stay in a car seat with side protection for as long as possible – beyond the legal requirement. You’ll be thanked if the car they are travelling in meets something coming the other way…

mifold costs £39.95 and is available from a number of stores including John Lewis.

Cathy

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