One of the things that frustrates me the most with South African car seats, is that so many of our children outgrow their harnessed child car seats before they are able to safely use a booster seat with the car seatbelt alone. I had to face this with our secondary car seat that lives in my mom’s car recently. What am I talking about? Contrary to occasionally misleading salespeople and brand reps… Other than a handful of car seats in South Africa, all toddler seats – rear or forward facing – only allow use of the harness up to 18kgs and 105cm. This is where my obsession with the BeSafe iZi Plus began…
I can’t tell you how angry it makes me when well-meaning parents are told by untrained sales people that “this car seat goes all the way to 36kgs”! That is so misleading and can cause serious danger to children!! Worse yet, in my opinion, are car seat suppliers that list their car seats as “converting to a forward facing seat from 9-36kg”, and specifying that the seat has a 5-point harness. Besides my very public berating of any seat supporting forward facing from as little as 9kgs… Although some seats can be used up to 36kgs, not one of them can be used with a harness up to 36kgs. NONE. Not even my beloved BeSafe iZi Plus.
And the seats that are positioned as from birth to 12 years… Do not get me started on those seats! They need a whole article to themselves. I do NOT recommend them any more than I suggest buying your infant a pair of adult size 7 shoes and stuffing them with newspaper until they grow into them at 12 years old. The anatomy and development of a newborn baby versus a toddler versus a tween are so vastly different and definitely need specific design features to protect them at each of these stages. You can tell this just by looking at them –
Other than the BeSafe iZi Plus, the Axkid range, and 2 budget seats, South African car seats can ONLY be used up to 18kgs with the 5-point harness. Thereafter, it has to be used as a belt-positioning booster seat (which too many convertible seats do very poorly). And in many of them, once your child reaches 22kgs, you have to remove the backrest and just use the bottom cushion. Small fact, there is a movement across the world called “bin the booster”. This is NOT the high back booster seat… It refers specifically to booster cushions that provide no side impact protection or guides to position the seat belt properly.
Ok, I’ve disappeared on a tangent here… Back to my story with the BeSafe iZi Plus.
I hated Charly being in a forward-facing car seat in my mom’s car… But we just weren’t in the financial position to get a second ERF car seat. So I panicked and stressed… But I installed that seat so tightly it wasn’t going anywhere. I trained my mom to untwist the belts and tighten them as much as possible. It helps,that my mom is not a person who speeds, never drives on highways. Speed really is the biggest factor in the severity of an accident. So I could be relatively secure knowing Charly was as safe as she could be within our means. When they needed to travel further than our immediate area, I installed the Volvo into their car.
What difference can a few kgs or cms make?
Charly hit 18kgs and 104cm from 16kgs and 98cm in a rush over a few short months. I may have cried myself to sleep as I waited for my BeSafe iZi Plus to arrive from overseas… Panicking that she was in a seat that she needed to be out of ASAP to be safe. Many people shrug their shoulders and say, “Eh, what difference can a few kgs or cms make?”
The difference between life and death. That is the difference. The harness has been crash tested. And found safe only until the weight marked on the orange sticker on the seat. It isn’t a random number. Once your child is over that weight limit – the harness might not hold in a crash. Once they exceed the height limit of the seat… Their head and neck aren’t safely surrounded by the shell of the seat. And this is why I fell in love with the BeSafe iZi Plus. The weight limit with the harness is 25kgs and the height limit is 115cm… And that is BEFORE you take into account the additional safety of having your child rear facing for as long as possible.
Before I go on to review the BeSafe iZi Plus and share the reasons I have for loving it (settle in, the list is relatively long)… The BeSafe iZi Plus car seat costs R8,999 and more often than not, there is limited stock in South Africa. It is expensive. It’s not the most expensive in SA by far, even though I consider it one of the safest seat available. A long term investment in keeping my child alive and as safe as she can be… Yes, it is worth it. But I go into a lot more detail around the cost of car seats here.
What’s the big deal about the BeSafe iZi Plus?
As mentioned, this seat is designed to be used with a 5-point harness, rear facing up to 25kgs and 115cm. Depending on your child’s build, they could be comfortably using it until they are around the age of 5. That was the first thing I learned about it from Lauren at Kids Emporium. She spoke very highly of the BeSafe brand and was one of the first people to mention the importance of rear facing to me. And this is a lady who knows her stuff. She tried to put me in touch with the BeSafe team before the first #CarseatFullstop campaign. They were overseas in training at the time and by the time they came back to me, we were already deep into the campaign.
Extended rear facing car seats do not fit in every car
Experiencing an extended rear facing car seat made me even more passionate about them. It also taught me a very valuable lesson on car seats – extended rear facing car seats do not fit in every car. There are plenty of unfounded concerns on rear facing car seats (which you can find addressed here). But the fact that some cars just don’t have the space is not unfounded. This is very important because if a seat does not fit securely in your car, it doesn’t matter how safe the design is… It’s not going to protect your child. The BeSafe iZi Plus fits into many cars, you can find out if your car is one of them here.
While we are on the topic of installation, let’s chat about installing the BeSafe iZi Plus…
The basics of the BeSafe iZi Plus installation are similar to all extended rear facing seats (lower tethers, foot prop, seat belt), with a few additional safety measures. I felt confident about installing it, until I saw it in real life. It’s SUCH an impressive looking seat it is a little intimidating. It is heavy and solid and the side impact protection (SIP) is particularly evident in the way the head rest surrounds the head. Charly loves playing peekaboo when in the seat because her head is barely visible from the side. I had explained that the reason it was so “deep” was so that if we were ever in an accident, her head would be safe in there. When I put her in it for the first time and turned a corner, she gleefully shouted, “My head is so safe it is boinking around INSIDE here”.
Ok, so… I suppressed my confidence and the urge to just wing it (because how hard could it be?) And I did what you should ALWAYS do with any car seat you install – no matter how easy you think it will be. I went online and downloaded the manual and read it cover to cover. I watched the various functions videos on the iZi Plus page and re-read the web page information with the seat in front of me. And then I watched the installation video.
There’s a difference between a car seat that is difficult to install and one that has multiple, but simple, steps. The iZi Plus isn’t meant to move between cars. They are meant to fit your car as tightly as if it were part of the car – and they definitely do that. I got our BeSafe iZi Plus securely in on the first try… While filming it one handed or asking my husband to do bits of filming when I needed 2 hands. And it is literally more stable than the actual seats in the car! (Ok maybe not more stable, but likely AS stable).
There are 13 very simple steps to install the BeSafe iZi Plus (this is my memory of them FYI, I high-fived myself when I rewatched the video to be sure and was right. I would estimate it takes about 2-3 minutes to install securely once you’ve done it once):
- Move the front passenger seat completely forward.
- Attach the rear tether straps in 1 of the 3 positions to the back of the front passenger seat (clearly shown in the above instructional video).
- Put the iZi Plus into the car sideways. Lower the foot prop into a downwards position, turn the seat to face the rear of the car and lower the foot prop to about 5cm off the ground.
- Reach under the front of the iZi Plus to pull the lever that reclines the seat. Choose which of the 3 angles your child will be most comfortable in – there is a 10-degree difference between the highest and lowest angles.
- Thread the lap belt of the car seatbelt under the belt positioner, over the belt hook, and under the belt positioner on the other side, and clip it in. Remove all slack from the seatbelt.
- Follow the same path back to the other side with the shoulder belt… Under the belt positioner, over the belt hook, under the other positioner and pull tight.
- Use the small ratchet handle to move the mechanical front brace towards the back of the car’s seat. Because of the threading of the seatbelts around the belt hook, this will tighten the car seatbelt further.
- When you can’t move the car’s seatbelt at all, take the belt clip. Place it across both belts a little away from the belt hook on the buckle-side. Centre the belts in the clip and push firmly until the clip clicks.
- Attach the anchor belts to the matching belts on the rear side of the iZi Plus, leaving the belts slack.
- Move the front passenger car seat back and adjust the backrest until it touches the back of the iZi Plus.
- Once the front passenger seat is in position, pull the anchor belts until there is no slack remaining.
- Push the button on the foot prop to lower it and push it down until it clicks into position. You know it is locked in place when the small areas are completely green on the top of the prop.
- With all of these in position, the base of the seat (and pretty much the entire seat) barely moves a mm.
Just so you are clear on this… The car seatbelt attaches the front of the child seat, with the front brace providing additional tension to the seatbelt – preventing it from lifting in a crash. The rear tethers attach it to the actual body of the car from behind and prevent the back of the seat from lifting in a crash. A foot prop prevents the seat from rebounding backwards, supporting the seatbelt. And then the 5-point harness secures your child safely within the shell of the BeSafe iZi Plus seat.
Positioning the headrest and harness (which move as one) is simple. Loosen the harness by pushing the button under the small covered central adjuster (so no little fingers can get to it). Let your little one settle into the iZi Plus seat. There is a release button at the back of the headrest. Pull it up, keeping the headrest upright, and simply slide the headrest up until the harness straps are in line with or just below your child’s shoulders. This should move the headrest to surround your child’s head.
The shoulder pads have magnets in them! This means, you can loosen the straps, touch them to the sides of the seat and they STAY OPEN!! They don’t slip under your squirming toddler making them scream that you are “stabbing them to death by a pointy bit”. No? Just mine then… I get it, it isn’t a traditional safety feature… But when considering making life that little bit less painful when dealing with a threenager, and taking mommy state-of-mind into consideration, it may just qualify as a safety feature in kind!
So besides all the installation stuff and the fact that it harnesses and rear faces to 25kgs and 115cm, who says this seat is so safe?!
Oh! Did I forget to mention? The BeSafe iZi Plus is a test winner four times over (Folksam 2015 & 2017, Bäst-i-Test.se 2015 and auto motor und sport 2014). For context on the Folksam test – they tested 22 different car seats and the iZi Plus is the only seat that achieved the high score of 4. It also passed the Swedish Plus Test; which is the strictest test in the car seat world.
“The Plus test is a voluntary approval that car seat manufacturers may choose to test their car seats for. A child safety seat approved according to the Plus test has passed the toughest crash test and get an additional marking as evidence. The Plus test measures the strain on the crash test dummy’s neck and the requirements for maximum strain are very tough. This Plus Test has such strict requirements that forward facing child car seats would not be able to comply with them. The thinking behind the test is that no children sitting in a child car seat which is Plus Test approved would sustain any serious/life-threatening injuries in a collision.” There is a section on the BeSafe website that explains the different tests really well.
Soooooo, yeah. I am pretty confident in its safety…
Other than her usual morning tantrums of the harness being tooooo tight (with all the screaming that entails)… Which is “much better” after I pretend to loosen it (I don’t)… she is loving her seat. It turns out that the rubber grip strip under the harness belts made her feel stuck, because it was a new sensation. That rubber keeps the harness from slipping from her shoulders. It is a safety feature and already after a week of using the seat, she is noticing it less.
With statistics saying that up to 93% of people aren’t strapping in their kids… We ALL know somebody who is adding to that number.
You have the power to save a little life.
One share, seen by one person, who straps in one child, saves a life.
#CarseatFullstop. Every child. Every time. No matter what.
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If you have an old unused car seat gathering dust in your garage, please consider donating it to our very favourite NPO, Wheel Well. You can drop your seat at your closest Renault dealership and they will get the seat to Wheel Well. They will clean and safety check it… Before giving it a new home with somebody in need for a small donation.
Because of our shared passion for car seat safety, BeSafe allows our supporters to purchase their seats through us. This means that you can buy one of the safest car seats in the world from us! And the profits will go to maintaining #CarseatFullstop! So saving your littles and helping us to save all the other littles out there!
If you are interested in purchasing a #CarseatFullstop recommended car seat, you can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.