Isofix or Seat Belt – What’s Safest?

izikidfix33Isofix (and LATCH) are becoming more popular but are still a small percentage of the car seat market. Can anyone for sure say what’s safest?

Lets start with Isofix while forward facing. If your child is forward facing I hope he/she is at least 4+ years old….:-)) Isofix is  safer to use forward facing and can also be used much longer than rear facing. Reason for the  increased safety is because car seat is attached to body of the car.  In a frontal collision, the seat is not moving forward and the weight of the car seat is not adding onto your child’s weight. A popular Isofix forward facing seat in Europe would be the Britax Kid Fix, 15 -36 kg. (33-80 lbs).  More in depth talk about Isofix and forward facing in coming posts.

Now over to rear facing,  is Isofix safer? Looking at pure crash test data, it’s said that Isofix and a correctly installed car seat with seat belt offer the same safety.  The answer is not quite that simple.

The problem with the last sentence is correctly installed. Research and real life situations have taught us that almost all parents believe their car seats are correctly installed.  Reality is that a large percentage of parents, 40-80% depending on country, drive around with car seats incorrectly installed.

The idea of Isofix began in the 1980’s by the Swedes.  Researchers were receiving reports from various countries about incorrectly installed car seats in accidents and looked for a simpler solution.  Isofix was born and implemented in 2004 in Europe and 2002 in US.  Some car manufacturers voluntarily started even earlier.

Much research has been done to determine if Isofix or seat belts are safer. In theory, a car seat which move less in a collision also offer better safety.  A child is then stopped earlier in the collision which is an advantage.  But it’s very difficult to say if a rear facing Isofix seat really is safer than a correctly installed rear facing car seat with seat belt.

Car seat safety is not only about great seats.  It’s also very much about culture, traditions, and habits.  It’s  a proven fact that parents do make many mistakes when installing car seats.  Some minor and some very dangerous.  The problem is we usually don’t find this out until after a collision.  If parents knew just how much force is put upon a child in a crash at only 35 mph, usage would likely be a lot better.

If we look at all data, crash test, real life usage, and habits, Isofix is far safer than installing a car seat with seat belt. With Isofix, virtually no mistakes are made, something which can not be said about seat belt installs.

As you can see, Isofix rear facing seats are far safer overall but do have two disadvantages. Price is currently 40-50% above a regular seat and the maximum rear facing weight is only 18 kg (40 lbs).  Swedish recommendations are for a child to sit rear facing until at least 4 years of age, an 18 kg. limit may or may not be enough depending on child. The 18 kg. limit is not a limit of the seats, it’s a weight which was once set by manufacturers.

Selection of Isofix Swedish rear facing seats is not great but we do have one new seat which has gotten great feedback from serious car seat geeks, the Besafe Izikid X1 Isofix. It’s actually a Norwegian seat but don’t tell anyone…..:-)  It’s built on the non-Isofix X1 which means a nice and roomy seat with excellent safety.  Only disadvantage, which is not safety related, is the construction of the support leg in the back.  It’s not built into the seat like Britax seats, instead it comes in two parts and require quick assembly.  This type of support leg does make install a little less easy.

If you do use your rear facing car seat with seat belt, please keep doing so.  But double-check installation yourself or ask a friend to have a look at it.  If you do want ultimate safety, an Isofix seat is a great choice and the new BeSafe Izikid X1 Isofix looks very promising.  It even comes in pretty colors:-)

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