Poorly Fitted Child Car Seats Put 8 out of 10 Kids in Danger

  • ‘What Car?’ study reveals that as many as 85% of child seats are improperly fitted or inappropriate for the children who use them
  • Incorrect seats for the size or weight of the child are another major fault
  • ‘What Car?’ keen to see to see all retailers offering free post-sale advice

More than eight in 10 drivers are putting children’s safety at risk by failing to correctly fit child car seats, according to a new study by What Car?

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A roadside investigation carried out by the UK’s biggest car-buying brand, in conjunction with Leicestershire Police and Child Seat Safety Ltd, found that only 15% of the child car seats assessed were fitted correctly and were appropriate to the children being carried in them.

 Of 85 seats analysed at random, in 51 cars, only 31 (36%) were fitted correctly and, when the suitability and fitting of the child were taken into account, that figure dropped to just 13.

Three quarters (74%) of the incorrectly fitted seats inspected were able to be rectified on site but four seats – 5% of the sample – were condemned, with two being removed immediately and replaced before onward travel was permitted.

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Whereas car seats with ISOFIX attachments were all correctly installed, those that used the seatbelt as a restraint caused the most problems. The most common problem, accounting for a quarter (24%) of issues, was with the harness or seatbelt restraining the seat being too loose, twisted or incorrectly positioned.

More than one in six (16%) required the seat belt to be re-routed and a further 11% needed adjustments to be made to the headrest to ensure optimum protection.

Up to the age of 12 years old, when it is assumed that children will be able to use the seatbelts fitted in a car, the driver is responsible for ensuring that an appropriate child restraint is fitted and that it is being used correctly.

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Steve Huntingford, What Car? editor, stated: “At best, drivers could land themselves with a £100 Fixed Penalty Notice, but at worst they are significantly increasing the risk of death or serious injury to their children. It’s a form of Russian roulette that drivers are playing.”

“We would urge anyone who transports children in car seats to seek professional advice about fitting them and buy their seats from specialists who offer free support not only at the time of purchase, but for the lifespan of the product.”

Many parents have turned to peer groups such as online forums as their primary means of discussing car seat safety. Few of those surveyed had sought professional guidance in selecting their child seats, and fewer still had retained contact with the retailers or manufacturers of their child seats.

Child Seat Safety co-director, Julie Dagnall said, “If you buy from a retailer with expert fitting knowledge, you’re paying for a service rather than just a seat. They will be happy for you to go back to them and get free advice as your child grows. Retailers we’d recommend include Halfords, John Lewis, Mamas and Papas, Mothercare, Toys R Us and many independent retailers.”

This is particularly pertinent as we approach Child Safety Week at the beginning of June. You can find out more about keeping your children safe on the road at http://www.childsafetyweek.org.uk

The full report will be available in the July issue of What Car? which goes on sale on June  1.

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