John Lyus, who runs the In-Car Safety Centre in Milton Keynes, said yesterday: "We don't know how many children are injured because of badly fitted seats but statistics mean nothing. If it is your child, then one child is too many. I would estimate the figure was even higher and it is the same across the country. What makes the child-seat safe is the adult who fits it."
Many parents were not given proper information on installation. Few realised child-seats were not universal and different car makes required separate models of seat.
"People seem to think they are magic - you just stick them in the car and they will work. That is not the case," said Mr Lyus.
The survey also showed that one in five parents allowed their baby or toddler to travel in someone else's car without a safety seat, despite the fact that experts say an unrestrained child can be killed in a 5mph collision. Many were unaware that rear-facing baby seats should never be fitted in the front of a car with passenger airbags.
Department of Transport figures show that 74 child car passengers were killed in 1997, 1,271 were seriously injured and 15,938 received some form of injury while travelling in a car.
Mother and Baby has launched a campaign to improve the safety of children: in conjunction with the Safeway supermarket chain the magazine is offering parents free car- seat checks at store carparks nation-wide during a 12- week period until the end of August.
A spokesman for the Department of Environment, Transport and Regions said: "The Government is very aware of the problem and we are currently negotiating to improve international standards as a matter of urgency."Reuse content