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Baby car seats: is yours fitted safely?

10 essential child car seat safety checks


As baby accessories company Ruby and Ginger launches its ‘Sit Tight Campaign’ on child car seat safety, here are the 10 safety checks you should make when fitting a child car seat.

Around 80% of parents aren’t using car seats correctly, with over half unaware that bulky clothes could be making car seats unsafe for their child, according to research carried out by the Department of Transport  in 2010.

Even if you have the safest car and child car seat, your child still won’t be as safe as they should be if the child car seat is fitted incorrectly.

If you’re not yet a Which? member, you can unlock all our reviews with a £1 trial subscription to Which?. Check out our child car seat reviews to find the best car seat for your child, as well as some Don’t Buy baby car seats to avoid.

10 baby car seat safety checks

Removing any thick or bulky clothes is just one way to make sure that your child’s car seat will keep them protected.

We recommend following the other nine steps below to make sure that your child’s car seat is fitted correctly, and that it will keep them as protected as it should.

1. Is the child car seat sitting squarely on the seat of the car?

Most of the base of the child car seat should be flat on the seat, sitting squarely and evenly. It shouldn’t be riding up, which can sometimes happen if the seatbelt is too short.

2. If the seat is rearward facing, is the handlebar in the correct position?

For some rearward-facing child car seats, the handlebar may need to be in a certain position, usually upright or fully back, as it can offer added protection if your vehicle turns over in a crash. Look at your child car seat’s instruction manual to find out where yours should be.

3. Is the seatbelt secure and untwisted?

If your child car seat is secured with a seatbelt, this must be tight so the seat doesn’t move. To test this, try pushing down on the seat where your baby’s head would be if the seat is rearward facing, and pulling on the harness if it’s forward facing – you shouldn’t be able to move the seat. The seatbelt mustn’t be twisted anywhere around the seat.

4. Is the seatbelt following the correct red or blue route guides?

Not having the seatbelt securely fitted into the route guides will weaken the seat’s protection. Check it’s correct – red guides for forward-facing seats, blue guides for rearward-facing seats.

5. Is the seatbelt buckle in the right place?

The seatbelt buckle must not bend around the child car seat as this could cause it to fail in a crash. Only the seatbelt should be in contact with the frame of the child car seat.

6. For Isofix seats, do the visual indicators show it is fitted correctly?

Visual indicators should show you that the seat is correctly clipped into the car, for example sections may turn from red to green. Check the instructions to see what this should look like for your seat.

7. Is your Isofix drop down foot securely on the floor, and/or is the top tether firmly attached?

If you have an Isofix car seat, you will have either a drop-down foot or a top tether or both. With the foot, you must ensure it sits firmly on the floor and isn’t lifting the seat up. It also mustn’t sit on underfloor storage as this could make it less effective in a crash. The top tether must go over the back of the seat and clip into the dedicated mounting point – be careful not to attach it to luggage hooks.

8. Are the shoulder pads level with your child’s shoulders and is the harness not too tight or loose?

The shoulder pads of the harness should be as level with your child’s shoulders as possible and the harness shouldn’t be too tight or loose – make sure you can get two fingers between the child’s collar bone and the harness and there is no slackness.

9. Is the seatbelt across their shoulder and hips?

If you have an older child strapped into their car seat with the seatbelt, this should sit on their shoulder. It shouldn’t cut into their neck or sit lower down on their arm. The lap part of the seatbelt should sit across their hips, not their tummy.

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