All you need to know about car seat safety.
Working out which type of car seat will keep your brood safest on the road can be confusing, especially with so many products available and the sometimes conflicting advice surrounding the topic. But what we all know for sure is that the kids need to be strapped in safely, whether in your own car or a taxi.
While car seat laws in Hong Kong seem to be more relaxed than in other countries, they still state that a child should be secured in an “an approved restraint for children” up to the age of two years old. To maintain safety, however, it’s good practice to follow the rules of your home country. The UK Government car seat laws, for instance, state that children should be secured in a car seat “until they’re 12 years old or 135 centimetres tall,” (whichever comes first) and that they “must be rear-facing until your child is over 15 months old” (so that when the driver suddenly pushes the brake, little heads and necks aren’t injured).
To help make your decision a little easier, we’ve rounded up a selection of popular car seat brands, plus listed where to buy them, and answered some of your top questions to make sure your little ones are car-safety-ready!
Where to get a car seat in Hong Kong
Not sure where to get your car seat from? Take a look at these online options or pop along to a store to get a feel for which works best for you:
Taxi Baby Co.
It’s safe to say that Hong Kong parents rarely sit still. So when it comes to getting out and about (whether in a taxi, Uber, your own car or taking an aeroplane further afield) you’ll want your bundle of joy to be as safe as possible; you never know if or when an accident might strike. Enter Taxi Baby Co., experts in Asia for all things safety when travelling with your kids.
With internationally-certified child passenger safety technicians, Taxi Baby Co. stocks some of the best portable car seats and booster seats (Urban Kanga, mifold, RideSafer, Cosco and Britax to name just a few). Set up by Aussie expat Elise Mawson – engineer, child passenger safety instructor and mum to three boys – Taxi Baby Co.’s golden rules when choosing a car or booster seat are that it must suit your child’s size, your lifestyle and your car. Browse the wide range of options and take advantage of asking your questions to the expert car seat technicians, plus with free shipping options to Hong Kong (and an express option), you’ll have your order before you know it. This isn’t just another car seat shop, Taxi Baby Co. really cares about helping you get the right option for your family.
Get $50 off the product range, or free 15-minute phone consultation with a principal child passenger safety technician, when using the code SAFESASSY at the checkout. Plus, use this bonus printable car seat buying guide to make sure you get the perfect one!
Taxi Baby, Singapore HQ: 10 Jalan Kilang Timor, 03-04A LTH Building, Singapore 159306, 8170 3939, WhatsApp: (+65) 9070 3351, www.taxibaby.com
Baby Basics is a one-stop shop for everything you might need including car seats. Conveniently located in Central, you can also shop online and enjoy free delivery when ordering over $300 (except outlying islands); online orders to Discovery Bay over $800 get free delivery (additional charges apply for outlying islands).
Baby Central (online only)
With the convenience of same day or next day delivery along with free local shipping over $300, Baby Central carries tried and tested quality products with a variety of international brands. You’ll find car seats as well as toys, clothes, diapers, snacks, formula, accessories, and more.
Baby Online (online only)
Another online company, this one was started by a stay-at-home mum who wanted to create a shop that carried all the best and recommended products. From supplements to diaper bin liners (cloth and plastic), to car seats… the list goes on. It even carries wine! Yup, you read that correctly.
Babies R Us
While there are quite a few Toys R Us baby and toddler stores in Hong Kong that carry some baby and child items, there is only one exclusive retail store for Babies R Us. Located in Tsim Sha Tsui, this staple chain shop carries almost all nursery items including car seats.
Babies R Us, Shop 109A, iSQUARE, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, 2287 1888, www.toysrus.com.hk
Another chain with plenty of retail baby and toddler stores all over Hong Kong. Eugene Baby carries a variety of international brands, from daily necessities to items for mum during and after pregnancy, as well as strollers and car seats.
Mothercare is our go-to for larger items. Its selection of car seats, cots, and prams allows you to really check the quality and – most importantly in Hong Kong – the size and portability. With plenty of stores to choose from and an online shop as well, it offers one of the best selections for baby and toddler stores with relatively convenient locations.
This store offers a range of car seats, cots, prams and other baby necessities. Its main brands include Stokke, BabyZen, and a selection of lovely French products as well. For toddlers, it carries a nice range of SkipHop and other items.
MotherCourt, Shop G03, ground floor, Man Yee Arcade, Man Ye building, 68 Des Voeux Road, Central, Hong Kong, 2522 8934, www.mothercourt.com
Car seat Q&A
With the help of Miranda Hilton, CEO and Chief Mum of Family Souk Ventures and Middle East representative for phil&teds, we’ve also answered 11 of your top car seat questions to help cut through the confusion.
1. I sometimes buckle up in the back with my child in my lap, letting the seat belt cover us both. Is that safe?
No, this is not the safest way for your child to travel. Instead they should be in their own car seat and where they have outgrown all suitable car seats, they should occupy their own seats and seat belts.
2. What about infant carriers (BabyBjorn, Ergo and the likes) and traffic safety? Can I sit with my baby in the carrier and put the seat belt around us both?
Whilst this may seem secure for you and baby, this is not a safe way to travel. In the case of a crash, your head may be thrown forward, which means your chin will collide with your baby’s head, quite aside from the fact that a baby carrier has not been crash-tested before.
If you’re travelling with your baby in a taxi, take your infant capsule car seat (and secure it using the seatbelt in the taxi) and take your stroller which is compatible with it. Then when you arrive at your destination, you can attach your capsule to the stroller.
3. What is the safest way to travel in taxis (when car seats aren’t an option)?
When travelling you should use your own appropriate car seat for your baby in every type of vehicle, and attach it securely with a seat belt – infant capsule car seats are always an option – take your own! It takes a few minutes to secure the safety seat correctly, but using one is very important. When buying your stroller ensure it’s “travel system friendly”, then you can take your buggy in the taxi and when you’re at your destination, simply attach your capsule to it.
If travelling with a toddler or older child, your child should occupy its own seat and seatbelt where possible. You can also access portable booster seats and inflatable booster seats which are suitable from 3 to 4 years upwards. The point of a booster seat is to ensure the seatbelt is positioned at the correct level (across the chest and well below neck level) so the height of the child determines if a booster is suitable.
4. In some countries, infants travel in the front seat with their car seat in reversed position. But in other countries, that isn’t required. What is the safest?
There are conflicting laws depending on which country you are in. But as far as safety is concerned, there is a consistent message that where there are two rows of seats, infants should always travel in the back seat of a car, rear facing. Being as far away from glass and airbags in the front seats is advised as they can cause additional risk of injury to an infant if released due to the impact of a crash. Many research studies suggest that the safest place for an infant is in the middle rear seat where a full seatbelt is installed to secure the car seat – this being the farthest seat from any glass.
5. Are forward-facing car seats as safe as rear facing?
Forward facing and rear facing can be confusing for many parents and the guidelines differ for many countries throughout the world. Here’s a really simple guide:
Why rear face? In the case of a crash, infants are especially at risk of head and spinal cord injuries because their bones and ligaments are still developing. Their spinal structural support is also still developing. In the rear-facing position, a child’s head, neck and spine are aligned. A rear-facing car seat supports the child’s head, absorbs the force of the crash and cradles them.
Rear-facing seats give the best support to your child’s head, neck, and spine, and will prevent your child’s head from being thrown away from his or her body. Infants and toddlers should travel in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible (up to the weight and height allowance of the car seat). Many countries now recommend that your child travels rear facing for up to two years.
6. What is more important when choosing a car seat? Weight or height?
A car seat should fit the weight and height of your child. The seat will have been safety tested up to certain weight and height limits and it’s imperative to take both of these into account when selecting an appropriate car seat for your child.
7. Do car seats/boosters expire?
This is a really interesting question. They do have an expiration date and the standard is around six years. This is not marketing or car seat companies trying to make more money. Why do they expire? Technologies improve and more research is done. Materials exposed to extreme unpredictable circumstances over time (for example, extreme heat in tropical places) can wear down. Manufacturing testing is not done consistently on a product – only at the beginning.
To find the expiration date, it is normally located on a label on the car seat OR if the date of manufacture is stamped on the car seat the expiry date is six years from then.
8. Are toddlers allowed in the front seat (in their booster/car seat) in cars without a back seat?
It is safer for your child to travel in the rear seats in their car seat or booster – less opportunity to hit the glass in the event of any impact means a safer travelling environment. Legally in most countries, where there is no back seat option (only one row of seats), it is allowed but not advised.
9. What are the most common safety mistakes we as parents make?
In Hong Kong, unfortunately, one of the most common mistakes we see is not using a car seat at all! Regardless of the law, caring for the safety of our children (and with the roads being unpredictable places to be at the best of times) surely means that we should never compromise on providing the safest travelling environment for them.
When we do use car seats, many parents often subconsciously put their own preferences, or presumption of their baby’s preferences, first (as opposed to their safety) – when of course we all have nothing but the utmost fear of our children being hurt. For example, some parents believe that their babies are crying because they don’t like facing the seat (in a rear-facing position) and then move them to forward face much sooner than the safety guidelines advise. Many parents will take their baby in a carrier in a taxi because it seems more convenient – when there are now many travel system-friendly strollers on the market (which mean that whether or not to take the infant capsule shouldn’t even be a question in our minds).
One simple piece of advice we can all adhere to is doing the absolute best to protect our children and put them in the safest environment possible in every situation, including on the road.
10. Is using a seatbelt to fasten/stabilise your car seat as safe as using the readily available base systems in cars (LATCH, Isofix etc.)?
Using a seatbelt to fasten and stabilise your car seat has been safety tested to be as safe as Isofix. Isofix can feel a little more stable because it tends to not have any movement at all in the seat when secured but, from a safety standpoint, both methods are equally safe.
Isofix is often used by parents for newborns to 12 months as a convenient base for an infant capsule, so you can click and unclick and go (but make sure your vehicle is equipped with the correct Isofix anchors already as they cannot be retrofitted). But when you’re not removing the car seat to fix to a stroller (i.e. post the infant capsule stage), the convenience factor disappears and car seats attached with seatbelts still dominate the market share of car seats sold. A number of cars still do not have Isofix in the back (and no taxis do in Hong Kong), so then there is no alternative. In which case, make sure when purchasing your seat that it has seatbelt compatibility.
11. On one hand, research shows that the Houdini strap is dangerous but then getting out of the harness is dangerous too.
A few points to make on this as it’s a common concern. If a standard strap on a car seat is tightened to the proper level of restraint, it should be very difficult for a child to get out of the harness. However, in the US, the Houdini concept – a strap which quite simply brings the two shoulder straps together to make it difficult to get out – has been very popular and is standard on most car seats there. Many research tests performed around the world have found it to be safe and confirmed that it does not interfere with the performance of any part of the car seat. In tests performed, it did not move up and have contact with the throat area.
However, it is another piece of equipment to think about and ensure you are using it absolutely safely. There is also some research which questions its safety. Another alternative for a child who loves to try and wriggle free is to consider the fairly recent entry into the car seat market of a roll bar car seat where no chest strap/harness is utilised. It has been proven to more evenly distribute the impact in a crash and encourage a roll approach lessening the impact on the chest. Most major car seat manufacturers have now developed this option from 12 months upwards.
Car seat options
To get you started, we’ve rounded up a short list of some popular car seat and booster seat brands, for newborns to toddlers and beyond (of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg with many other safe options to choose from):
This Hong Kong parent favourite sits high on the list due to safety ratings – but also convenience. Not only can you get a Maxi-Cosi car seat with accompanying stroller frame, but you can also purchase clip-on adapters so that the car seat sits neatly on your Yoyo or Bugaboo strollers as well.
As demonstrated by our expert above, phil&teds know a thing or two about car safety and have designed its car seats to match. With easy installation and a stroller frame to match, you’ll be in and out of Hong Kong taxis in no time.
With the tag line “parenting made simple” the Doona does exactly that when it comes to fast-paced Hong Kong living. This car seat/stroller is super convenient, as the wheels tuck neatly underneath, ready to jump in or out of a car at a moment’s notice. However, as newborns shouldn’t stay in a car seat for prolonged periods of time (the position isn’t ideal for their little growing bodies) it shouldn’t be a replacement for a regular stroller – which should lay flat for newborn development.
A well-recognised name on the baby gear front, Chicco has been kitting out parents for decades. Its car seats always rank highly on most car seat review websites (such as Best Car Seat Hub) and the safety spec is impressive. One of the most popular car seats in the USA, many features on Chicco’s car seats and boosters make them stand out from the crowd.
Winner of the Red Dot Design Awards 2019 for the group 1 Trifix car seat (for simple and intuitive handling plus its chic minimalist look), and also winner of the iF Design Awards 2019 for the Britax Römer in the Discipline Product category (superior safety, comfort, longevity and sleek look), this German brand is sure to keep your little one safe while looking cool at the same time.
Intended from “infancy to youth” this is another well-known name on the baby front. Graco car seats are designed to the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations and are crash tested to meet and exceed US Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, so you can rest assured that your little one will be safe on the Hong Kong roads.
Read more: Where To Buy Kids Clothes In Hong Kong
Editors note: This article was originally published on 12, November 2014 by Miranda Hilton and updated on 9, July 2019 by Alex Purcell Garcia.