Which? is warning parents using car seats to carry out simple checks to make sure their children are as safe as they can be before heading off this half term.
One in three children ‘are at risk right now’ because they are not strapped into their car seat properly, according to recent findings by the child car seat experts at Child Seat Safety, who run car seat checks and fitting training in the UK.
Information taken from its checks, held around the UK, discovered that although some seats are correctly fitted in the car, one in three children are not properly strapped into the seat, which could put them at risk in a crash. With many parents heading away for half term, Which? is urging parents to take a moment to brush up on their car seat skills.
Julie Dagnall, co-founder of Child Seat Safety, said: ‘We have said so many times that there is no point in having a perfectly fitted child seat and a poorly fitted child!
‘Sadly, though parents and carers seem to still be getting it wrong.’
Find out which seats have passed tough frontal and side impact crashes and our fitting and usage tests to become the Best baby car seats and child car seats.
Top tips to keep your baby or child ‘car seat safe’
If you’re travelling over half term, there are a few quick and simple checks you can make to ensure that not only is your child strapped in correctly, your child car seat is fitted properly, too.
Removing bulky coats or clothing
It may be cold outside, but thick clothes such as bulky winter jackets will make the harness or impact shield less effective, as it’s harder to get either tightly fitted to your child, so take any thick items off before putting your child in the seat.
Strapping into the seat tight enough
Even without bulky coats or clothing on, a harness needs to be fitted correctly. It shouldn’t be too tight or loose – make sure you can get two fingers, flat, between the child’s collar bone and the harness and that there is no slackness. Check any shoulder pads are adjusted properly, too.
If you’re using a seat with an impact shield, make sure it’s snug against your child.
If your child is old enough to be in a high-backed booster seat, check the adult seat belt is fitting across your child’s body correctly, and not near the neck.
Correct car seat for your car
Not all child car seats fit all cars. Check the car seat you’re using is actually suitable for all the cars you’re using it in and that it fits properly.
Make sure the car’s head rest doesn’t interfere with your child car seat, and that the seat itself is stable and secure.
Check the seat belt you use to install the car seat isn’t twisted or, if you’re using Isofix, check the Isofix indicators are showing they’re locked into place.
Using the correct car seat
Getting the right car seat for your car is one thing, but making sure the car seat you’re using is the right size for your child is also key. Check out our car seat weight groups page to see if your child is in the right seat. Resist the temptation to move your child up to the next stage car seat too soon. Babies can stay in a baby car seat until the weight limit is reached or they grow to tall, usually around 12-15 months of age.
The law on child car seats
UK law states that you must use a child car seat when carrying all children up to 135cm tall or 12 years old, whichever comes first. But when we surveyed over 1,500 parents who use a car seat, only 11% knew both the correct age and height for car seat laws in the UK.
Safety experts recommend using a child car seat for all children under 150cm, and this height is the legal requirement in Ireland and also some European countries, such as Germany and France. For children weighing more than 36kg (5st 10lb) but under 150cm/4ft 11in, our advice is to go by height, not weight.
The law on child car seats – everything you need to know.
*Which? survey March 2017