Two thirds of children not safe when travelling in child seat, study finds

In the UK, children are legally required to use a car seat until they are 12-years-old

Sarah Young
Tuesday 05 June 2018 14:55 BST

Almost two thirds of children are not as safe as they should be when travelling in a car, new research reveals.

The What Car? study, created in conjunction with specialist organisation Child Seat Safety found that a shocking 59 per cent of children are sitting in car seats that have been incorrectly fitted or are inappropriate for them.

It conducted 30 seat-checking events 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 on 3,000 seats revealed that 36 per cent of them were incorrectly fitted in the car, while 33 per cent of those that had children in them weren’t suitable.

Researchers said that many of the mistakes were “simple and easy to avoid” including seats belts needing tightening, harnesses not being in the right position and incorrect head restraints.

Most worryingly though, three per cent of children who legally needed to be in a child seat were found to be completely unrestrained.

In the UK, children are legally required to remain in a car seat until they are either 12-years-old or at least 4ft 5 inches.

However, road safety companies advise parents to keep their children in car seats until they almost reach 5ft, regardless of their age.

“Ensuring a child is seated safely is vital for all parents but often many don’t realise the mistakes they are making,” said Claire Evans, What Car? consumer editor.

“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.”

Top 10 child car seat checks from What Car?

  1. Is your child too small for the seat? If you’re in any doubt, don’t move them to a bigger seat until you’ve sought the advice of a fitting expert. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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. 
  5. 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. 
  6. 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. 
  7. 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 90deg angle to the floor and that it’s not resting on an underfloor storage compartment, unless this has been filled with a car manufacturer-approved filler. 
  8. 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. 
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

For more information on how to choose the best one for your child, you can read The Independent's car seat buying guide here.

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