Stefan Keppler, Business Development Manager for Southern Europe, Britax - Römer
Britax - Römer, a company born
in 1979 from the merger of the British manufacturer Britax with the German company Römer, is specialized in child safety products and manufactures child car seats, baby carriers, child bike seats and strollers. Stefan Keppler, manager of Britax - Römer for Southern Europe, emphasizes the need to go beyond established safety standards in terms of ensuring the safety of children in the car. It also states that the proper installation of the seat and baby's comfort in it are indispensable for proper protection in case of impact.
Römer distributes its products worldwide. Are babycare markets growing more homogeneous every day or are there still differences between countries and regions?
Globally, there are differences because the legislation and regulations surrounding car seats are not the same worldwide. For example, our product range, for the USA and Australia is different to our European range.Even within Europe itself there is some variation which is often driven by culture. For example, Nordic countries generally use rear facing seats for an extended period (group 1 and sometimes group 2) and we produce a range of products to meet those particular needs. Also, a variation in consumer demand tends to influence trends, so combination seats are more popular than single group seats in some regions and vice-versa. At Britax Romer, we include all such options within our product portfolio enabling parents to select the most suitable solution for their own particular needs.
Which are the main trends in car seats?
One of the main trends - and one that should be encouraged - is ISOFIX. Parents should be encouraged to consider this first as it makes the installation process much easier and accurate. One study of the German Insurance Institute GDV for the group 1 points that only around 30% of child seats are installed correctly when using an adult seat belt, however we know this figure rises to 96% when using the ISOFIX system. A Britax survey showed that one in five parents unknowingly break the law regularly due to poor seat installation which has a major impact when it comes to car safety for children. Because ISOFIX connects child seats rigidly to the vehicle chassis rather than using the adult seat belts, it reduces installation errors and increases child safety enormously. ISOFIX with Top Tether is our latest safety feature and is seen as the future as it further improves performance and allows a universal approval. Although many parents do not realise it but most modern cars already have ISOFIX and a Top Tether anchorage point. A quick look in your vehicle’s handbook will confirm if you have this important safety feature. In fact the benefits are further endorsed by incoming legislative changes. As of November this year, ISOFIX and Top Tether points will be compulsory for all new manufactured vehicles. And from 2014 all new vehicles will be equipped with both ISOFIX and a Top Tether anchorage point.
Are parents aware of the need of using a quality car seat?
Educating parents is a key factor in achieving optimum safety for children travelling in cars. Although the European Standard, currently ECE R44.04, ensures that a child seat must meet certain standards in terms of construction and performance, there is a vast difference in the true capabilities of the products on sale. One example is evident in the fact that 1 out of 4 accidents is a side collision but the European Standard does not yet include any form of side impact test; however here at Britax Romer we do. Our extensive research into all aspect of vehicle collision dynamics has allowed us to introduce patented “state of the art” solutions in terms of side impact protection. These include D-SIP on our Infant Carriers, Side Impact Cushion Technology (SICT) on our group 23 range, and Side Impact-PADs on the new group 1 Trifix. These advanced features all help to significantly reduce the amount of energy reaching a child during a side impact.
It is also vital to remember that no matter how safe a child seat is, correct installation and use are essential to get the best level of protection. We work hard in terms of understanding ergonomics and usability and our aim throughout the design process is to make this as easy as possible. In addition to the products themselves we produce installation movies on our website so that parents can see the installation process. If they have a smart phone then by downloading a free app parents scan the QR code on the routing label of the product taking them straight to the installation movie so that they can watch it in the car as they are fitting the seat. However, there is nothing like receiving help, advice and a demonstration from a trained retail assistant and we would always recommend that parents go to a retailer that offers this service when buying their child seat.
Which are the most important factors when manufacturing safety products for children?
The most important factors when manufacturing safety products for children is safety first - crash protection is of the utmost importance. We develop our products to exceed existing standards and legislation requirements and consider 360 degree protection. That is because we know that in reality car accidents are not just solely head-on frontal accidents or 90 degree side impacts and this is something we take into consideration. We use 5 point harnesses in all our models from infant carriers and up through our group 1 range to ensure that 360 degree protection is achieved.
All our research and experience has shown that harnesses are the only safe child restraint technology on the market since only they provide acceptable protection in all types of accidents, namely frontal, oblique, lateral, rearward and rollover, and do so putting the lowest possible stresses on the child's body.
Second is ease of use – as I mentioned earlier, it is vital that child seats are installed and used correctly and we strive to produce products that make this process as easy as possible such as the new group 1 seat Trifix which has the ISOFIX+ installation system with the addition of the V-Tether.
And third is comfort. We must also remember that children spend a lot of time in their child seats and if the comfort of the child is not considered then why should we be surprised if children don’t want to sit in them or that in some cases they try to escape. Although making a child seat that is “child proof “ can be a challenge as we have to comply with EU standards, making them as deeply padded and comfortable as possible, we believe, does certainly help in this respect.
Especially in Southern Europe with its warmer climate the harness system has another positive effect as it provides a much better comfort than a shield system.