Almost two-thirds (59%) of children are not as safe as they should be when travelling in a car, What Car? reports as part of Child Safety Week (4-10 June).

An independent check on more than 3000 vehicles, carried out by specialist organisation, Child Seat Safety, revealed that 36% of car seats were incorrectly fitted to the car and 33% of the seats were not suitable for the children they were carrying.

The investigation also discovered that more than 90% of drivers using a large impact shield-style seat had correctly restrained the child, whereas only two thirds (61%) of children were secure in a harness style seat. ISOFIX mounted seats had fewer problems with eight out of 10 (79%) seats correctly fitted, while belted seats only protected 52% of children.

The most common problems with car seats are simple and easy to avoid with more than two out of five (41%) requiring the seatbelt to be rerouted. An additional third (30%) simply needed to adjust the headrest to ensure the seat was safe.

Avon and Somerset police has been working to improve child seat safety by holding around nine child seat checking days each year for the last five years. The force has implemented a system whereby when a driver fails the check, they are educated instead of fined. The driver has to complete a 20-minute e-learning course on with nine 90-sec modules that cover a range of topics.

Dave Adams, road safety officer with Avon and Somerset Police, said: “Each event helps around 150 parents ensure their children’s car seats are fitted correctly.
“We know that the message is getting through to those whose child seats are checked, because it’s rare for the inspectors to find the same seat incorrectly fitted a second time. “The aim is to offer the e-learning course to other police forces so they can also use it to improve child seat safety in their areas.”

Claire Evans, What Car? consumer editor, said: “Ensuring a child is seated safely is vital for all parents but often many don’t realise the mistakes they are making. Taking simple steps such as checking the seatbelt is fitted tightly enough around the seat and making sure the seat is the right size for the child can go a long way to improving children’s safety.

“We recommend anyone who transports children in car seats to seek expert fitting advice and ensure they try the seat in their car, ideally with their child in it, before they buy it.”

A child is legally required to use an appropriate restraint from birth until they are either 12 years old or 135cm tall – whichever comes first. However, road safety practitioners such as Brake urge parents to use child car seats until they are 150cm tall, regardless of age, as this is the law in many other countries.

The full report is available in the June issue of What Car?

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