According to a research by leading child car seat initiative Good Egg Safety, nearly three quarters of UK car seats are fitted incorrectly. The company recently tested 3353 child car seats, and found just 29% of them were being used properly.
Here are some of the errors they frequently came across:
Mistake #1: Wedging the seat under the headrest
Test your seat: Look to see if the car’s headrest is pushing against the child’s car seat.
The danger: Many parents use the vehicle’s own headrest to support or stabilise the car seat. However, this can prevent the seat and seat belt from absorbing energy properly in a collision.
Fast fix: If the vehicle headrest causes a gap between the child seat and vehicle seat, or impairs the fit of the child seat, remove it.
Mistake #2: Harness straps fitted at the wrong height
Test your seat: Strap your child into their seat and look to see where the shoulder straps come out of the child seat. Ideally they should be at the same level as the child’s shoulders, or just above the shoulders in forward-facing seats and just below the shoulders in rear-facing seats.
The danger: Straps that are too high or too low may not fully restrain your child in a collision. Your child may also be encouraged to remove the harness due to discomfort, which is extremely dangerous.
Fast fix: Adjust the straps to shoulder-level (or just above shoulder-level in forward-facing seats and just below shoulder-level in rear-facing seats). Don’t forget to check and adjust the straps as your child grows.
Mistake #3: Straps too loose
Test your seat: If, after you’ve tightened your child into their car seat, you can still pinch the fabric of the harness straps between your fingers, the harness is too loose.
The danger: A child who’s loose in his harness can easily come out of his seat in a crash. The child could be severely injured if he hits part of the car’s interior or another passenger. The worst-case scenario: the child is ejected from the vehicle altogether.
Fast fix: Remove all puffy and thick clothing from your child, and pull the harness tight enough to allow you to slip two fingers flat between your child’s chest and the harness, at collar bone level. The straps should be snug and have no slack.
Mistake #4: Seat too loose in the car
Test your seat: With both hands, grasp the car seat at the base, near where the vehicle’s safety belt passes through the seat. You shouldn’t be able to move the safety seat more than 2cm to the left or right, or forward. If you can, it’s not tight enough. This is the number-one mistake parents make, according to car-seat inspectors. Remember, if it wobbles, it’s wrong!
The danger: In a collision, a child in a loose seat could crash into the back of the front seat, causing serious injury.
Fast fix: Place your knee in the seat, and put all your weight into it (use your arm for an infant seat), tightening the seat belt as much as possible. Then lock the seat belt–a step that many parents miss.
Mistake #5: Twisted seatbelt
Test your seat: Check that the vehicle seat belt is routed through the correct guides, and that it is flat and untwisted.
The danger: Twisted seatbelts reduce the amount of tension in the belt, which means that the child seat won’t be held firmly in place if you have a collision.
Fast fix: Make sure that you’ve have threaded the car’s seatbelt through the child’s seat in the correct way, without any twisting, and through the correct guides. There are usually two guides on the seat that show you where to put the belt, but only one should be used. The other is simply there to allow you to install the seat at either side of the car.
For more tips on correct car seat usage, or to sign up for a free assessment at car seat checking clinic, visit www.goodeggcarsafety.com