- What Car? study reveals that as many as 85% of child seats are improperly fitted or inappropriate for the children who use them
- Majority of issues raised with non-ISOFIX seats being improperly secured with a seatbelt
- 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
- Full story available in July issue of What Car? on sale June 1
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?.
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.
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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.
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.
Steve Huntingford, What Car? editor, stated: “It’s clear that the overwhelming majority of drivers are aware of their responsibilities when carrying a child in the car. But, unless the child car seats have ISOFIX attachments, there is confusion over how to correctly fit them and ensure your child’s safety.
“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.”
Child Seat Safety co-director, Julie Dagnall, said: “The evidence from this study was that the overwhelming majority of drivers were exposing the children in their cars to significantly increased risk. It is important to raise awareness of this issue and to offer parents and other drivers carrying children the correct information and guidance.”
Many parents have turned to peer groups such as online forums for parents 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.
“If you buy from a retailer with expert fitting knowledge, you’re paying for a service rather than just a seat,” added Julie Dagnall. “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.”
Steve Huntingford concluded: “Parents and carers often go to great lengths to ensure the safety of children in many aspects of daily life, and it is shocking that the proportion of unsafe child restraints in their cars was so high.
“Many of the issues that the survey revealed were in the operation of the seats and could be swiftly rectified without any additional cost – but when the risks of having an unsuitable seat, whether by design or operation, come with such high stakes attached we have a duty to highlight the problems and offer solutions. This is particularly pertinent as we approach Child Safety Week at the beginning of June.”
The full report will be available in the July issue of What Car? which goes on sale on June 1.