Parents are being advised to check their children's car seats after a new study found that two in three children aren't safe while travelling. A What Car? study, created in conjunction with organisation Child Seat Safety, found that a huge 59 per cent of children are using car seats that have either been incorrectly fitted or are inappropriate for them.
The survey was carried out on 3,000 seats around the UK in 2016 and 2017, in which cars fitted with child seats were pulled over and inspected, with and without children in them. The survey found that 36 per cent of them were incorrectly fitted, while 33 per cent of those with children in them weren't suitable for the child's age or size. The most concerning finding was that three per cent of children who legally needed to be in a child seat were found to be completely unrestrained.
2 in 3 children aren't safe in their car seats, a new study found
Many of the mistakes were said to be "simple and easy to avoid", and include tightening seat belts, incorrect head restraints or harnesses being in the wrong position. Claire Evans, What Car? consumer editor, said: "Taking simple steps such as checking the seatbelt is fitted tightly enough around the seat and making sure the seat is the right size for the child can go a long way to improving children's safety. We recommend anyone who transports children in car seats to seek expert fitting advice and ensure they try the seat in their car, ideally with their child in it, before they buy it."
Children in the UK are legally required to use a car seat until they are either 12 years old or 4ft 5 inches tall. However, some road safety companies recommend parents keep their children in car seats until they are almost 5ft tall, no matter how old they are.
Many of the mistakes are simple and easily avoidable
The top 10 child car seat safety checks parents need to know:
- Is your child too small for the seat? If you are in any doubt, don't move them to a bigger seat until you've sought the advice of an expert.
- If the seat is secured by the car seatbelt, check that it is not twisted and that it is fitted tightly enough around the child seat. It should be tight enough that the seat doesn't move when you push it.
- If your child has been wearing a bulky jacket during cold weather, the child seat harness may be too loose when he or she switches to wearing thinner clothes, so ensure that it's still tight enough. To check this, try to pinch the harness in front of your child's collarbone; if you can get a good pinch of fabric between your fingers, it's too loose.
- If you’ve adjusted the seat's head rest because your child has grown, ensure that the harness has been correctly routed back into place.
- If you're using a travel system seat with a carry handle, don't forget to put it back to the correct position after putting your child in the seat.
- If you're using an Isofix seat, check that it is correctly clipped in. Indicators on the seat will change from red to green when it’s fitted correctly.
- If you're using a seat with a leg support, check that the leg is fitted firmly to the car's floor, that it's at a 90 degree angle to the floor and that it's not resting on an under floor storage compartment, unless this has been filled with a car manufacturer-approved filler.
- If you're using a seat with a top tether, ensure it is routed over the back of the seat and clipped into the correct mounting point, not a luggage hook.
- Don't secure a high-back booster with the car's head rest; this needs to be moved out of the way so the child seat sits flush with the car seatback.
- If you're using a seat that's suitable for a wide age range, check it regularly for wear and tear; don't just assume it'll stay safe for many years.