Car Seats

When I was younger there was very few bigger thrills than getting to sit in the front passenger seat. I remember the thrill of getting to be up front, and be right at the drivers area, and loved seeing all the buttons. One of my pet loves was the hazard lights for some reason, and regularly I'd pop them on even when the car was parked in a car park, much to annoyance of my Mum and Dad.

One of the perks of being four years older than my sister was that when we drove to Blackpool or Alton Towers for a few family holidays I remember gettting upgraded to front-seat passenger status, with my Mum accompanying Lynn in the back. These memories are as strong as these early childhood memories get.

They cannot happen today with my children however. The rules on car seats and safety in-car has totally changed, and a child in the front passenger seat is just simply not the normal state of affairs in the UK, and is entirely frowned upon in Canada. This shift in in-car sfatey has saved so many lives across the world, from adult drivers and seat belts, to the car seats we now spend hundreds of pounds on everytime you have a child.

It is impossible to begrudge the cost of these car seats as they are nessecary - driving is the least safe mode of transport for any journey and putting the most precisou cargo in the world in your eyes into a metal box drving 50mph towards other metal boxes. My Dad said, just before Joni was born, that there would be no more focused drive than the one where you bring your new born child home from the hospital, and he was absolutely right - I've never drove that intently and only once since, with Etta's home journey, which was on a back road in the middle of November at 9pm at night in the rain. A nervy drive.

The car seats that Connie and I use are both Maxi-Cost models; the CabrioFix for Etta and for Joni the 2wayPearl, both with their respective bases. In total, the cost of both has been near to £700 all-in, and they are absolutely great bar a few foibles with Joni's newer one. The interesting thing is that going to Canada brings into sharp contrast just how good these car seats are.

If you've never driven your children in North America (and if you don't have kids) then you won't have came across the difficult to navigate issue out of EU car seats and travelling. In Canada we are lucky that our family have access to older used car seats, but the thing that Connie and I forget is the disparity in the perceived quality of the car seats.

In North America the seats still have the bolted anchor points - known as IsoFix points - in the cars but the car seats attach them differently. Instead of solid bars that ratchet onto them, it uses straps and seat belt fixings to attach securly to the car. In the case of Joni's, an additional top-tether is used. Unlike the EU seats, there are no front bars that attach to the floor. This means that we are having to deal with seats that we are unsure of.

There are a few other changes - the belt buckles are different too, with the EU ones aeasier to click together and also to remove if there is an emergency. In North America a chest buckle clicks together the two shoulder straps, which is pretty damn uncomfortable for Joni and Etta, and required some relearning from myself when putting them into the seats. The chest buckle is the oddest part of the difference in the car seats in reality.

The thing is that it only serves to give Connie and I pause - we prefer the EU car seats, as they feel easier to fit securely and more sturdy - a great example is that the official advice for the car seat in Canada is to put a towe underneath it to provide a better "titl" for Etta, which is hard to believe is safe - but we can't complain, as the car seats are still officially safe.