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Poorly fitted child car seats put 8 out of 10 kids in danger

More than eight out of ten drivers may be putting children’s safety at risk by failing to correctly fit child car seats, a new study has found.

A roadside investigation carried out by What Car? magazine, in conjunction with Leicestershire Police & Child Seat Safety, found that only 15% of the seats assessed were fitted correctly and were appropriate for the children being carried in them. Of 85 seats analysed at random, in 51 cars, only 31 (36%) were fitted correctly and, when the suitability and fitting of the child were taken into account, that figure dropped to just 13.

Three quarters of the incorrectly fitted seats were able to be rectified, but four – 5% of the sample – were condemned, with two being removed immediately and replaced before onward travel was permitted.

The seats with ISOFIX attachments were all correctly installed, but those that used the seatbelt as a restraint caused the most problems. The most common problem, accounting for a quarter of issues, was with the harness or seatbelt restraining the seat being too loose, twisted or incorrectly positioned. 16% required the seatbelt to be re-routed and a further 11% needed adjustments to be made to the headrest to ensure optimum protection.

Up to the age of 12, when it is assumed that children will be able to use the seatbelts fitted in a car, the driver is responsible for ensuring that an appropriate child restraint is fitted and that it is being used correctly.

Many parents have turned to peer groups such as online forums for parents as their primary means of discussing car seat safety. Few of those surveyed had sought professional guidance in selecting their child seats, and fewer still had retained contact with the retailers or manufacturers of their child seats.

“It’s clear that the overwhelming majority of drivers are aware of their responsibilities when carrying a child in the car,” What Car? Editor Steve Huntingford said. “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. 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.”