'Check your child car seat today' urges Which?Safety checks reveal seats are incorrectly fitted

07 September 2012

Checking the fit of child car seats

Which? is calling on parents to spend 10 minutes today checking how well their child's car seat has been fitted. 

Which? spent the day with road safety experts from Portsmouth City Council helping parents check that their children's car seats were fitted correctly. 

Which? found that two thirds of the seats inspected were incorrectly installed. Of the 40 child car seats checked during the day only 35% were fitted correctly. 

Which? baby product expert Victoria Pearson said: 'There are so many ways that car seats can be fitted and parents face an uphill struggle knowing which is the right one for their car. 

'Many parents got it nearly right, but small mistakes meant that two thirds of the seats we saw weren't properly installed, which could affect how well they protect children in a crash.

'We'd urge every parent to refamiliarise themselves with how to fit a child car seat and spend 10 minutes today checking how well their child's car seat is fitted.'

A number of parents had also bought second-hand car seats. Which? advice is to always buy a new car seat - this gives you the best chance of buying one that complies to the most recent safety standards.

Why is a good fit important?

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa), every year about 15 children up to the age of 11 are killed while travelling in cars. 

About 225 children are seriously injured and more than 5,000 slightly injured. The safest way for children to travel in cars is to use a child seat that is suitable for their weight and size.

Fitting problems to avoid

Portsmouth City Council's road safety team holds regular car seat fitting checks throughout the year. 

A team of trained car seat fitters offer a free child car seat safety check to parents. If it's not right, the experts reinstall the seat and show parents how to do it themselves. 

There are some common errors that parents make when installing child car seats and these include:

  • Using a car seat that is not suitable for their car or the weight of their child.
  • Installing the child seat behind the driver - behind the passenger seat is safer.
  • Leaving the head rest on behind a child car seat, so it doesn't sit flush to the seat back.
  • Removing the backs from Group 2/3 seats to create a booster seat, reducing side crash protection.
  • Routing the seat belt incorrectly to hold the car seat in place.
  • Not tightening the seat belt enough to hold the car seat firmly.
  • Fitting bases with a support foot over hidden storage compartments.
  • Resting the buckle on the seat base creating 'buckle crunch'.

Buy the best child car seat

At Which? we take the subject of child car seats very seriously - our independent crash tests are the best in Europe and more stringent than official tests. 

To become a Best Buy, a car seat must protect the child in severe front and side crashes and must have no major weaknesses that might lead to it not protecting your child properly in a crash.

If you need to buy a new child car seat, find out which ones we recommend in our child car seat reviews, which include 12 Best Buys and 10 Don't Buys.

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