Child car seatsLast updated: 19 November 2013 11:13 UK
Children must travel in a child car seat until they're 135 centimetres tall or 12 years old, whichever comes first. Yet seven out of ten child car seats are still failing our safety checks.
Why use a child car seat?
In a 30mph car crash your body is thrown forward with a force 40-60 times your own weight. No baby could withstand this. Children continue to be at risk in car accidents because they are not properly restrained. You can best protect your children by putting them in a properly fitted seat, appropriate for their weight and size.
Never carry a child on your lap, or use a single seat belt for two passengers, whatever their age. Adult seat belts aren't designed for children because children are proportioned differently and their bones are still developing. Until your child is old enough or tall enough to use an adult seat belt alone, they should use a child's car seat.Think!, the Department for Transport road safety website, contains up-to-date information on the law regarding child car seats.
Top tips for buying child car seats
The Which? Guide carries out research into services provided when buying a child car seat. In a 2012 investigation, they found that only seven out of 35 stores installed the child car seat correctly when demonstrating it to them in an ordinary family car. These included some of the major retailers. Which? publish a buyers guide for people looking to buy a new child car seat, but here are our top tips:
1. Does the shop have trained and experienced fitting staff?
This is very important, as most seats fail our tests because they do not fit the car or the child. Ask for a member of staff with lots of experience in fitting seats, preferably someone who has Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) Child Seat Safety Awareness training, or who has attended training from seat manufacturers. Find ISOH trained staff local to you.
2. Is this seat right for my child?
Seats are categorized by weight. Children must travel in a child car seat until they're 135cm tall or 12 years old - whichever comes first. A good retailer will ask you how much your child weighs when you buy a new seat.
3. Will this car seat fit all the cars I want to use it in?
Not all seats fit all cars. When buying a new car seat, arrange for a trained member of staff to complete a fitting trial for you in all the cars the seat will be used in. If you buy online it's harder to do this, which may explain why all the seats bought online that we checked in 2012 failed our safety checks.
4. Does the car seat have the right safety mark?
All new child car seats must have the ECE R44.04 mark on them. Any new seat without this mark is not legally acceptable in the UK and may not be safe. Older seats with R44.03 can still legally be used, but seats of this age could have degraded and may not be as safe. You should never use a second hand seat unless you know its full history, as it may have been dropped or in a crash and have damage you can't see.
Contact the road safety and active travel team on 023 9268 8262 for advice and resources on fitting a child car seat.