Belting Up Baby

Baby on board -- no wait, in Russia now, it's: Baby on board, harnessed across chest and legs to a padded polypropylene carcass mold, secured to a metal-locked anchor system, and maybe strapped down again by seat belts. That is because, starting Jan. 1, all children, including your overgrown, long-limbed 11-year-old, must be secured in a child restraint system while riding in a motor vehicle.

All seats should be suited to the child's weight and size, Federal Transportation Inspection Service press secretary Igor Koloskov said by telephone. The fine for noncompliance, considered an administrative violation, is 100 rubles, he said.

Seats are split into five groups for different ages and weights, from Group zero for a child weighing up to 10 kilograms, to Group III, from 22 to 36 kilograms. Many straddle consecutive groups to anticipate a child's growth. The best carry the ECE R44/03 or ECE R44/04 tag -- signifying compliance with standards of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe -- and fit a set of attachment points, which are standardized according to Isofix specifications.

If the child has outgrown safety seats, then a pillow or other supporting devices may be used to ensure safety, Koloskov said.

The seats are sold widely in markets and stores in Moscow, and even online. The Kolomensky market for children's goods had a smaller selection -- on a trip there in January, many of the stalls were shut down -- but the Sovyonok market for children's goods has a wide variety, as does Detsky Mir, with 16 locations. The chain also sells seats online at Detmir.ru, as does a similarly named Detsky-mir.ru, which carries a large, conveniently categorized stock in a wide price range, and All4Kids.ru and Zahodi.ru. Buying online is unreliable, however, as the seat may not be compatible with the buyer's car and the child's size.

Some retailers have a model car seat in-store to demonstrate how to secure child-safety seats to it, and are well versed in the five-group system and quality of different brands.

The median price for a seat hovers between 4,000 rubles and 6,000 rubles, but can be as low as 1,400 rubles or as high as 71,000 rubles. The cheapest brands in most stores are Nania and Ramatti -- one Nania Group I seat cost 2,900 rubles and a Ramatti Group I-III 2,800 rubles at Kolomensky -- and the most widely sold brands include Chicco, Romer, Ramatti, Indy and Maxi Cosi. Store personnel said Indy and Maxi Cosi were their most popular sellers.

Fifteen children were killed and 1,274 injured in traffic accidents in Moscow from January to November 2006, according to the Moscow Interior Ministry's web site.