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Child car seat testing: from babies in boxes to booster seats

Child car seats 1967-2017

Today, Which? celebrates 50 years of testing child car seats. We’ve been helping parents keep their children secure in cars since 1967 and we’ve seen (and influenced) a lot of changes along the way.

Why child car seats?

In 1966, almost 8,000 people were killed in road accidents in the UK. There was a huge push for better road safety, and the following year the motorway speed limit was fixed at 70mph, the breathalyser was introduced and the first Which? child car seat reviews were published.

At this time, you’d only be paying 65d per gallon for petrol, and an average of £960 for a car. The Ford Cortina was the most popular motor on the road, and Beatlemania was in full swing

Before child car seats, it was a case of transporting your baby in your lap, or in their carrycot on the seat. Some parents even put their babies in a box – see it in our video below. In fact, it was trying to find an alternative to transporting his daughter in a box that inspired former Britax Römer car seats designer, Hermann Wetter, to come up with his idea for a child car seat in the sixties.

Video courtesy of Britax Römer.

Britax is one of the child car seat names that was around in the sixties and is still familiar today. According to David Burleigh, who was the technical director at Britax at this time, it was initially ‘difficult to persuade parents’ of the need for child car seats, but with a ballooning road accident toll and growing media attention, public awareness of the need for children to be safely restrained in cars grew.

How we test child car seats

The first seats (see above) weren’t quite as sophisticated as those today. There was no ‘side impact protection’, ‘Isofix’ or ‘i-Size’ then. Seats were simply something to stop your child from moving around in the car.

Unsurprisingly, in 1967 we found that none of the first seats we reviewed were big on safety. ‘You cannot expect any of these to protect your child in a crash,’ we told parents. And one of the seats even had a toy steering wheel attached that was found to contain a high concentration of lead in the paint.

Watch our video below to see how things have changed between then and now, and see how our crash tests discover the best child car seats.

How Which? makes child car seats safer

As well as being at the forefront of independent safety testing of child car seats, Which? has campaigned for decades to help families travel more safely in their cars. We’ve helped usher in stricter seatbelt laws, and raise the standard for child car seat testing in the UK.

Child car seat rules 2017

Are you up to scratch on current car seat laws? Last year, we found that more than half of parents with babies are still not aware of i-Size, a recent addition to car seat regulations.

We think it’s important that parents know about it, because it’s the future of car seat protection for babies and children – you can find out more about i-Size car seats in our guide.

There are also new rules for backless booster seats. Under the new rules, any newly approved backless booster seats will only be approved for use for children taller than 125cm and weighing more than 22kg.

Watch our video below to make sure you avoid the confusion surrounding the new rules.

To avoid penalties and to make sure you’re keeping your child protected, brush up on the child car seat laws in the UK.

• 1 million: the number of parents we helped to choose a car seat last year
• 500: the number of fitting and usage tests we do each year
• 250: the number of crash tests we carry out each year
• 20: the number of samples of the same seat we can go through before the final score
• 12: the number of weeks it takes to test a child car seat

Right now, we have 42 Best Buy car seats, and 14 Don’t Buy car seats to avoid.

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