Accident research and statistics show that children require specially designed restraint systems on account of their physical make up. Standard inertia-reel seat belts do therefore not constitute the best means of ensuring the safety of children in a vehicle. Statistics back up this assertion, indicating that the risk of injury in an accident for a child in a child seat stands at eleven per cent, but rises to 25 per cent when only a seat belt designed for adults is fitted.
The new Mercedes TOPSAFE child seat has been developed in accordance with the stringent safety demands stipulated by the Mercedes-Benz brand and put through its paces in numerous crash tests conducted using child-type dummies. The results of these tests show that the critical load values were never exceeded, even at impact speeds of 64 km/h. The TOPSAFE seat should be fitted facing rearwards for passengers up to the age of 18 months in order to provide optimum safety, as the whole upper body and head are supported over a wide area against the backrest of the seat in the event of a collision.
If the child seat is mounted on the front-passenger seat, aerials in the seat padding exchange data with transponders in the base of the child seat. This allows the airbag electronics to identify if a child seat has been fitted, in which case the front passenger airbag is automatically deactivated. This is particularly important if the child seat has been mounted in a rearwards-facing direction. As soon as the child seat is removed, the airbag is primed for activation once again.
The new Mercedes child seat can be rotated on its base around 180 degrees to allow a child to face in the direction of travel. The seat is fixed in place – facing either rearwards or in the direction of travel – with the seat belt or, in the rear, using the ISOFIX system. The new child seat is suitable for installation in all current Mercedes passenger cars. In addition to the TOPSAFE model, there are another three child seats in the Mercedes-Benz range. These include special integrated systems which can be ordered ex-factory as an option.
For small children from roughly eight months up to four years of age, the DUO provides the most effective protective restraint. This child seat is mounted in the direction of travel and can be fixed in place either with the ISOFIX system or the standard seat belt. The child is held securely in the seat itself by a full harness (five-point) belt system. The DUO comes as standard with ISOFIX and the automatic child seat recognition system. The KID child seat is ideal for three-and-a-half to twelve-year-old youngsters and has a height adjustment facility which allows the path of the three-point seat belt to be adjusted to the needs of each particular child. The sash belt guide is also adapted accordingly.
The side-mounted belt guides also reduce the risk of the lap belt slipping up onto the child's stomach area. The KID seat can also be ordered as an option with the automatic child seat recognition system.
Mercedes-Benz has also developed fixed integral child seats for the rear compartment. These child seats fold out of the rear seats at the touch of a button, providing two secure seats for children of around two to twelve years of age. If the integral child seats are no longer required, they can be folded just as easily, leaving the rear seats free for adults once again. Integral child seats are available as an option for the A-Class, C-Class and E-Class Saloons and Estates, and the S-Class.