When you take your classic car or new classic car on a ride in springtime, it’s only natural that your children will want to take part in the fun. But what about their safety? TÜV SÜD's experts have answers and tips for families to make rides in classic cars a safe and pleasurable experience.
Many motorists – and not only classic car fans – sometimes feel restricted by regulations governing the safety of children in cars, such as regulations on children travelling in the car boot. For Dr Lothar Wech, vehicle safety expert at TÜV SÜD, safety always comes first: “Not every car is suitable for transporting a child or even several children”, he explains Just as sports cars are unsuitable for driving on dirt roads and compact cars are hardly the best choice when shopping for furniture, some classic cars simply may not be suitable for transporting children. Also, points out Dr Wech, motorists should not forget that “classic cars do not offer the safety standards of today, including ABS, ESP and numerous advanced driver assistance systems.”
Many classic cars have no seat belts in the rear, and many historic cars are not even fitted with seat belts for the driver and co-driver. "However, from the point of safety, seat belts are a particular must for children", warns Dr Wech. As all approved child car seats and booster seats on the market depend on the car's seat belt, children should not travel in seats that are not fitted with seat belts.
Retrofitting:Depending on their age, historic cars and classic cars may not have to be fitted with seat belts. Up to the 1960s many cars did not even have seat belt anchorage points, and car purchasers had to wait even longer for seat belts or seat-belt anchorage points in the back of the car. However, restraint systems can be retrofitted in many instances. Other types of classic car may be equipped with static seat belts without retractor. They too can often be retrofitted with retractable seat belts. These changes to the car's original condition do not impact on the car's approval as a historic car and its eligibility for the "H" registration plates.
Front seat: If the car has no adjustable diagonal shoulder belts in the rear, the child car seat must be affixed on the front passenger seat, provided this seat has a suitable seat belt. In this case, passengers should not sit in the rear behind this seat. "In case of an accident, the person seated in the rear might be thrown forward, injuring the child in the passenger seat", explains Wech.
3-point seat belt: Lap belts (2-point seat belts) were long the standard for the rear seats of cars. But 2-point seat belts are risky even for adults, and completely unsuitable for fastening a child-car seat or booster seat. "I do not know of any modern child restraint system that is approved for fastening by a 2-point seat belt", emphasises Dr Wech. The expert urges classic car lovers to resist the temptation of fitting a child car seat with a 2-point system, as excessive forces would act on the child's abdomen in case of an accident. A 3-point seat belt is imperative. In addition, the restraint system must be approved according to the applicable regulations ECE-R 44/03 or 04. While child car seats from decades ago may fit the design of the old car, they are not in compliance with present law.
Headrest: Headrests in the front only became mandatory back in the 1970s. In the rear, they did not become law until the 1990s and then for the seats on the right and the left side; they have only been obligatory for rear centre seats since the year 2000. Lack of a headrest does not pose any problems for child car seats, which have a separate headrest for the child as part of their design. However, this does not apply to booster seats. "Booster seats for classic cars without headrests should definitely have a backrest that extends over the head", advises the TÜV SÜD expert. In fact, these models are also recommended for other cars, as they offer better positioning of the shoulder belt.
Fines: Classic cars do not protect against being fined. Classic car owners who do not use a child restraint system as required by law will be fined: 30 euros if a child restraint system is used but incorrectly, and 60 euros plus a penalty point in the Flensburg register if no child restraint system is used at all. If more than one child is involved, the traffic offender will have to add another tenner.
Caption: Taking children along in a classic car? No problem if the correct child restraint systems are used!