More than eight in 10 drivers are putting children’s safety at risk by failing to correctly fit child car seats, according to a new study by What Car? magazine.
The investigation carried out, in conjunction with Leicestershire Police and Child Seat Safety Ltd, found that only 15% of the child car seats assessed were fitted correctly and were appropriate to the children being carried in them.
The most common problem, accounting for a quarter (24%) of issues, was with the harness or seatbelt restraining the seat being too loose, twisted or incorrectly positioned.
“The evidence from this study was that the overwhelming majority of drivers were exposing the children in their cars to significantly increased risk,” said Julie Dagnall, Child Seat Safety co-director.
“It is important to raise awareness of this issue and to offer parents and other drivers carrying children the correct information and guidance.”
The investigation found car seats with ISOFIX attachments (international standard for attachment points for child safety seats in passenger cars) were all correctly installed.
Those that used the seatbelt as a restraint caused the most problems.
Of the 85 seats analysed at random, in 51 cars, only 31 (36%) were fitted correctly.
Nearly three quarters (74%) of the incorrectly fitted seats inspected were rectified on site, but four seats were condemned, with two being removed immediately and replaced before onward travel was permitted.
More than one in six (16%) required the seat belt to be re-routed and a further 11% needed adjustments to be made to the headrest to ensure optimum protection.
Steve Huntingford, What Car? editor, said: “It’s clear that the overwhelming majority of drivers are aware of their responsibilities when carrying a child in the car. But, unless the child car seats have ISOFIX attachments, there is confusion over how to correctly fit them and ensure your child’s safety.
“At best, drivers could land themselves with a £100 fixed penalty notice, but at worst they are significantly increasing the risk of death or serious injury to their children. It’s a form of Russian roulette that drivers are playing.
“We would urge anyone who transports children in car seats to seek professional advice about fitting them and buy their seats from specialists who offer free support not only at the time of purchase, but for the lifespan of the product.”
Dagnall advised parents to buy from a retailer with “expert fitting knowledge”, adding: “Retailers we’d recommend include Halfords, John Lewis, Mamas and Papas, Mothercare, Toys R Us and many independent retailers.”
The full report will be available in the July issue of What Car? which goes on sale on 1 June.