Many parents, when looking for a baby seat for a child, pay attention to whether the selected models have the ADAC test. Meanwhile, the Plus Test is a more reliable, though much less known, test of baby seat safety. What is it and why is it worth trusting its results?
The Plus Test is a safety test of baby seats for children organised by the Swedish automotive institutes: VTI and NFT. It covers models from two weight categories: up to 18 and up to 25 kg. The Plus Test is sometimes called the “golden standard” because it is so stringent that only the best RWF seats pass it, that is, rear-facing seats. Models which meet the standards are marked with a characteristic golden sticker.
The participation in the Test Plus is voluntary – each manufacturer can submit such a wish and test their baby seat according to the test procedures (unlike the ADAC test, where the organisers select the models to be tested on their own). Relatively few brands, however, decide to do so – the reason is precisely because of the strictest standards that the baby seat must meet in order to obtain the Plus Test certificate.
During the Plus Test, only 1 parameter is tested: the stretching force that acts on the child’s head and neck in a frontal collision at 56.5 km / h. However, speed is not the most important factor here – in the ADAC test, the test car accelerates to 72 km / h, and the Plus Test is distinguished by more stringent standards. Another parameter is of greater importance: the braking distance. In the Swedish test, it is shorter and more complex (it consists of several so-called picks), which makes it incomparably more difficult to pass. The shorter the stopping distance, the greater the tensile forces acting on the baby’s head and neck.
Why is it dangerous? If, during an accident or other traffic incident, too much force is exerted on a toddler’s head, the cervical vertebrae of the spine may stretch or even rupture, which may result in permanent disability. The younger the child is, the more the risk of serious injuries increases.
The reason is anatomy – the weight of the infant’s head is as much as 25% of its body weight. For comparison, for a 6-year-old it is approx. 15%, and for adults – only 6%. In addition, the spine of small children is not fully developed yet, and its delicate cartilage is simply not able to withstand such large overloads. If your toddler is seated in a forward facing (FWF) baby seat during heavy braking or a collision, the child’s head may be shot forward unavoidably. There is no support whatsoever, and the neck is too weak to support it.
It is for this reason that only the best REAR-facing baby seats pass the Plus Test. Only they can effectively minimise the forces which act on a child during a traffic emergency. No FWF model can do this – because the laws of physics do not allow it.
The organisers of the Swedish test have also developed a special injury scale. If the baby seat successfully minimises the pressure forces below the indicated values (122 kg for a 3-year-old and 164 kg for a 6-year-old), it is very likely that after an accident, the toddler will not have to be hospitalised longer than necessary to complete the basic tests. Above this limit, the risk of permanent injuries and longer hospital stays increases dramatically.
The fact that Test Plus was created in Sweden is no coincidence. Swedes have always attached great importance to safety and driving culture. They developed the first safety test of baby seats as early as 1973, so 8 years before the European ECE type approval was established. It was called the T-Standard Test, and, like the Plus Test, it tested how the baby seats minimise the tensile forces described above. In 2008, the procedures were changed to adapt them to the EU requirements, at which time it was renamed the Plus Test. The current test methodology is the result of the cooperation between specialists from the automotive institutes VTI and NFT, the insurance company Folksam, the Swedish Standards Institute (SIS), and Volvo safety experts.
Rearward-facing transport of children is also strongly promoted in Sweden for as long as possible – at least until the age of 4. The use of RWF models was recommended already 50 years ago, when the T-Standard Test was launched, and this way of travelling with the smallest children became the only possible option for Swedes. It is not unusual to see a 3-year-old riding in a rearward facing seat.
Meanwhile, most Polish parents turn their children forward when they grow out of the first baby seat (the so-called “baby carrier”) – so at least a dozen or so months too early! The rearward transport of a 2- or 3-year-old unfortunately still meets with surprise and even mockery.
As the Avionaut brand, we want to change this, which is why we promote knowledge about the safe transport of children and recommend rearward facing driving for as long as possible – at least until the toddler is 4 years old. It is then that the child’s body undergoes the greatest transformation: the cervical vertebrae become more stable, and the head ceases to constitute such a large percentage of its total mass. Only then comes the moment when it is possible to start safely transporting a small passenger facing forward.
We are also proud that 2 of our baby seats – Avionaut Sky and Avionaut AeroFIX RWF – have successfully passed the Plus Test, achieving the “gold standard” of security. When you buy a baby seat with this sign, you can be sure that you choose the safest option.