Research gathered since 2013 by Child Seat Safety from clinics and enforcement events shows that more than a third of children are moved up to a larger seat too soon, and a quarter aren’t using a child seat at all. The other most common problems centre on incorrectly fitted harnesses and seatbelts.
The findings highlight two important areas that parents need to bear in mind in order to keep their children safe in their cars: the compatibility of the child car seat with the car and the compatibility of the seat with the child.
Top 10 child car seat checks
1. Is your child too small for the seat? If you’re in any doubt, don’t move them to a bigger seat until you’ve sought the advice of a fitting expert.
2. If the seat is secured by the car seatbelt, check that it is not twisted and that it is fitted tightly enough around the child seat. It should be tight enough that the seat doesn’t move when you push it.
3. If your child has been wearing a bulky jacket during cold weather, the child seat harness may be too loose when he or she switches to wearing thinner clothes, so ensure that it’s still tight enough. To check this, try to pinch the harness in front of your child’s collarbone; if you can get a good pinch of fabric between your fingers, it’s too loose.
4. If you’ve adjusted the seat’s head rest because your child has grown, ensure that the harness has been correctly routed back into place.
5. If you’re using a travel system seat with a carry handle, don’t forget to put it back to the correct position after putting your child in the seat.
6. If you’re using an Isofix seat, check that it is correctly clipped in. Indicators on the seat will change from red to green when it’s fitted correctly.
7. If you’re using a seat with a leg support, check that the leg is fitted firmly to the car’s floor, that it’s at a 90deg angle to the floor and that it’s not resting on an underfloor storage compartment, unless this has been filled with a car manufacturer-approved filler.
8.If you’re using a seat with a top tether, ensure it is routed over the back of the seat and clipped into the correct mounting point, not a luggage hook.
9. Don’t secure a high-back booster with the car’s head rest; this needs to be moved out of the way so the child seat sits flush with the car seatback.
10. If you’re using a seat that’s suitable for a wide age range, check it regularly for wear and tear; don’t just assume it’ll stay safe for many years.
Where can you get child seat fitting advice?
Any store that has trained child seat fitting staff will be able to assist you. Retailers we’d recommend include Halfords, John Lewis, Mamas and Papas, Mothercare, Toys R Us and many independent retailers.
Child Seat Safety has a list of IOSH-accredited advisers on its website (childseatsafety.co.uk), along with contact details, so you can find a local expert wherever you live in the UK.
Good Egg Safety is a charity that works with Britax to offer child car seat checking events at a number of locations around England. Details of upcoming events can be found at goodeggcarsafety.com/events.
If you live or work in the London Borough of Bromley, you can take your child car seat to its car seat centre to check that it fits your car properly and to practise fitting it. Find out more at bromley.gov.uk/info/200082/road_safety/426/child_car_seat_advice.
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