European standard R129 (i-Size) has recently tightened the requirements for child safety in the car. This standard now requires the widespread use of the ISOFIX attachment and the installation of children rear-facing up to the age of 15 months, instead of 9 kg previously. Although these regulations have been in force since July 2013, the new legislation will apply in parallel with the ECE R44/04 standard for car seats installed with a seatbelt or ISOFIX anchorage points.
Better protection for your child in the car
The news European i-Size regulation has been set up to improving child safety in the car eliminating dangerous installation errors caused by the use of seat belts, and making the safer ISOFIX system more widespread. The introduction of these new regulations involves a number of changes:
- Back-to-the-road use is compulsory up to 15 months
- A generalisation of the ISOFIX attachment
- A classification of car seats by size
- Better protection in the event of frontal and side impact
Obligation to travel with your back to the road for up to 15 months
The new i-Size regulation requires the positioning of the rear-facing car seats up to 15 months for optimum protection of children's heads and necks in the event of an accident. The rear-facing installation prevents serious injuries in the event of a head-on or side-on collision.
With a car seat facing the road too soon, the risk of being thrown forward in the event of an accident can cause serious injury. Babies need to be kept in a rear-facing position for as long as possible, as their heads make up almost a third of their bodies and their necks are not yet developed enough to withstand significant force in the event of an accident. This obligation has now been reinforced by the new i-Size regulation, which requires car seats to be positioned with the child's back to the road until the age of 15 months. Previously, the R44/04 regulation only required babies to be rear-facing until they reached a weight of 9 kg.
- Better Protection in Frontal and Side Impacts
As part of the drive to improve safety standards, the i-Size regulation introduces new technical requirements to be met in the event of a side or frontal impact. The aim is to provide better protection for the sensitive areas of babies' bodies in the event of a collision. The new i-Size standard also toughens performance criteria in the event of frontal and/or side impact.
- Widespread use of the ISOFIX fastening system
Compulsory in all new vehicles since 2011, ISOFIX® fixing system considerably reduce installation errors induced by the use of the safety belt. This ensures that the car seat is held in place more securely in the event of an impact. Installing i-Size approved car seats is considerably simplified, as they simply clip into place using ISOFIX® anchorage points of the car (no need for a seatbelt).
- Classification of car seats according to child size
Like the classification of baby car seats will no longer be based on child's weightThis means that your child will be able to stay in their car seat for longer. This more precise measurement will avoid the risk of moving too quickly from a baby car seat to a larger model that may not be suitable for your child's size.
Implementation of i-Size regulations
Phase 1: The i-Size regulation (R129/01) came into force on 9 July 2013 for ISOFIX harnessed baby car seats with a length of less than 105 cm.
Phase 2: Since autumn 2017, new i-Size approved booster seats (R129/02) must be fitted with a backrest for children over 100 cm tall. Backless booster seats can no longer be approved for children under 125 cm, but they are still permitted for children over 125 cm.
Phase 3: The third phase of i-Size approval (R129/03) began in December 2018. It concerns car seats with seat belts, which must now be fitted with green belt guides to make installation easier. The regulations also allow the use of seats for children weighing between 9 and 36 kg, provided they are fixed with ISOFIX and fitted with a stabilising leg. Until the child reaches 105 cm in height, a five-point harness must be used.
How will the transition from R44/04 to i-Size take place?
Since July 2013 two standards coexist for a minimum period of five years. During this period, parents will be able to choose between a car seat that complies with ECE R44 or R129 / i-Size regulations. ECE R44-compliant car seats will gradually be withdrawn from the market before being definitively banned from sale in 2021. According to initial forecasts, the number of cars equipped with the i-Size system will reach 40% by 2020.
What is the difference between ECE R44 and R129 regulations?
Apart from the important addition of a side impact test, the way in which i-Size approved car seats (R129) are tested is virtually identical to that of the old ECE R44 standard. The biggest difference comes from dummies used in crash tests since the ECE R44 standard uses an older generation of models (P-Dummies) while the new i-Size standard uses more advanced models (Q-Dummies). The Q differ considerably from previous models, since they have been specially designed to represent the human body and its movements with much greater precision. They can also be used in head-on and side-on collisionsThis makes them the first multi-directional children's dummies. As you can see, the two standards coexist, i-Size approved baby car seats offer a much higher level of safety.
|ECE R44/04||R129 (i-Size)|
|Classification||By weight of the child||By size of the child|
|Back to the road||Up to 9kg||Up to 15 months|
|Collision front (50 km/h)|
Impact rear (30 km/h)
No side impact
Use of older generation mannequins (P-Dummies)
|Collision front (50 km/h)
Impact rear (30 km/h)
Shock lateral (24 km/h)
Use of new-generation mannequins (Q-Dummies)
|Fixing system||Belt or ISOFIX||ISOFIX|
|Date of implementation||Gradual disappearance from 2021||In force since July 2013|
How do I identify an i-Size car seat?
To recognise an i-Size approved seat, simply look at the labels located directly on the car seat. i-Size approved car seats have an orange certification label bearing the words "i-Size". The rest of the information is similar to the approval label ECE R44/04.
i-Size car seats generally have the following 3 labels:
|The "i-Size" label to recognise an approved car seat||This label indicates that the rear-facing position is compulsory up to the age of 15 months.||The label showing the classification of the car seat and its "i-Size" approval can also be found|
To find out more about these new regulations, the official document introducing the UN R129 (i-Size) standard is available online on the European Economic Commission (UNECE). A detailed explanatory brochure on the standard is also available online.