Northern Ireland

New seatbelt legislation to protect children passed

Seatbelt
Image caption The department said old child car seats are expected to be phased out by 2018

The Northern Ireland Assembly has approved a new law that aims to make child car seats safer.

The system, called i-Size, allows a car seat to be secured to anchor points in the car to ensure it remains in place throughout a journey.

It means parents will not have to use an adult belt to secure the seat.

The last regulations were introduced in Northern Ireland in May 2008. The new law is expected to come into force from 20 April.

All child car seats are required to meet EU standards.

In Northern Ireland, the Department of the Environment (DoE) is responsible for road safety and seatbelt legislation.

It said that although the 2008 legislation helped to improve child safety, many parents and carers still make mistakes when installing child seats and often switch to a larger seat too early.

The DoE said the new system means the car seat "plugs or clicks" into anchor points in a car, meaning parents will not need to use an adult seatbelt.

However, the new law does not mean that old car seats are illegal.

Parents will still be able to use the ones that they currently have, but the department hopes that the old system will be phased out in the next few years.

'Suitable'

It said the new system is targeted at children aged between 0-15 months and said old car seats are expected to be phased out by 2018, as all cars will eventually be developed to support the new car seat system.

The Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said he hoped the legislation would provide parents with assurance about the safety of their children when they travel in a car.

"Ultimately however, all of us using the road must take personal responsibility for our attitudes and behaviours on the roads," he said.

"We must wear a seatbelt on every journey and ensure that our children use a suitable car seat."

Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Boylan said the new legislation would help save lives.

"The new system of plugging child car seats directly into anchor points in the car is an advance on the current method of securing child seats with an adult seat belt," he said.

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