Top tips for protecting your child in a carRead our guide to child car seats

23 November 2010

Fitting child car seats

Top 10 tips to keep your child safe in the car

As part of Road Safety Week, Which? Car brings you our top five tips for choosing the right car to transport your kids and the top five guide to picking the right child car seat.

Top five tips for choosing the best car for transporting children

1. Think about how many children you need to transport. Check the car can actually accommodate the number you require (for example, many ‘family cars’ will struggle with more than two children in child car seats).

Front passenger child car seat

Will you have a newborn in the front?

2. Will you be carrying a newborn in the front? If so, make sure you can disable the car’s front airbag. It is illegal to place a rear-facing seat in front of an active airbag (if the airbag were to go off the forces could injure or even kill your child).

3. Isofix child car seats come with latches that allow you to simply clip the seat into mounting points in the car. If you plan to use these, make sure the car has Isofix mounts for you to attach them to.

4. If you are using an Isofix seat with a top tether strap, check that you know where the tether should be fastened. Always try the child seat in the car before you buy.

5. Does the child seat use a support leg that rests on the car floor? If so, make sure the car doesn’t have underfloor storage – if it has, it is unlikely the cover will be strong enough to support the leg in a crash. Check with the car manufacturer if you are in any doubt.

Top five tips for buying a child car seat

Child in child car seat

Buy the right size child car seat

1. Choosing the right child seat always starts with your child’s weight. This governs which seat you need to buy (the age is just for guidance):

Group 0 0-10kg (from birth to about nine months)
Group 0+ 0-13kg (from birth to about 12 months)
Group 1 9-18kg (about nine months to four years)
Group 2 15-25kg (about four to six years)
Group 3 22-36kg (about six to 12 years)

2. You can choose between Isofix car seats and those fitted using the car’s seatbelt. Isofix seats are designed to be easier to install (and hence less likely to be incorrectly fitted). However, they don’t suit all cars and are not automatically better in a crash. A good, easy-to-fit belted seat can offer excellent protection and may suit your needs just as well, or better.

3. If you’re buying a belt-secured seat, make sure your car’s seatbelts are long enough to feed through the recommended routing, and that you can secure the seat without buckle crunch (where the buckle rests on a hard-point on the frame of the seat). Only the seatbelt webbing should be in contact with the frame of the child car seat. If the buckle lies across the frame of the child seat, pressure on the buckle (in an accident, or even under sharp braking) could cause the buckle to fail. If it fails, the buckle is likely to open, allowing your child to be projected out of the seat, completely unrestrained.

Mother fitting children into child car seats

Try before you buy

4. Once your child reaches 15kg (about four years old), you may be tempted to buy a backless booster, but we would advise against this as these seats do not offer adequate protection in a side-on crash. If you already have one, it is better than using no child seat at all, but we suggest swapping it for a Which? Best Buy full-back booster as soon as possible.

5. For any seat you are considering, ALWAYS try the seat in your car (preferably with your child), before making your purchase decision. Even the safest child car seat won’t offer the intended protection if it’s not suitable for your car, or is poorly fitted. If you have any doubts, seek expert advice (from your local authority road safety department, or from a retailer with trained fitting staff).

Read our guide to fitting a child car seat or our advice on buying a child car seat

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