The Good Egg Car Safety Blog

Revealed: the child car seat retailers 'putting babies lives at risk'

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89% of stores failed to ask key car seat questions

A joint undercover investigation by Which? and Good Egg Safety into car seat retailers has discovered most stores are failing to ask key safety questions of parents, potentially putting children's lives at risk.

We sent mystery shoppers into all the top car seat retailers. They were posing as parents upgrading a baby car seat. We visited 213 stores in total and, judged against a success rate of 100% for asking all the right questions, we saw an 89% failure rate. 

John Lewis and Mamas & Papas came bottom with what we judged to be a fail rate of 100%. This means that none of the store staff at their stores correctly asked all of the key questions (listed below) before recommending a car seat (though half of John Lewis branches that were visited did achieve a score on our scale of between 80 and 91%, only missing out on a few questions). 

Only three Mamas & Papas stores scored more than 50% on our scale. 

Halfords performed best of the retailers we visited, but still had an 83% fail rate overall against our scale. Halfords stores in Scotland scored best: 13 (38%) Halfords stores out of 34 in Scotland passed with 100%. In England/Wales, two out of 52 Halfords stores also got 100%.

Car seats - which retailers are best? - Find out who came out top and how other retailers, including independents fared.


Car seat safety questions that aren't getting asked

Our mystery shoppers visited retail stores in Scotland, England and Wales, across all the major car seat retailers: Halfords, Mothercare, Smyths, John Lewis, Mamas and Papas, plus a range of independent retailers.

Our mystery shoppers posed as customers wanting to upgrade a baby car seat for a nine-month-old, 9kg, baby. Among those questions they should have been asked were:

What's your baby's weight, height and age?

Many baby car seats are chosen by weight or height, and keeping a baby in a lower group seat is considered better than moving up a seat too soon. 95% of stores we visited asked the age of the child rather than the child's weight or height. Age is a starting point, but it's not the best way to select a child car seat. Asking the child's weight and height, too, will help to ensure the right car seat can be recommended, especially if the baby isn't with you.

What vehicle do you have?

Not all car seats fit in every car, so it's vital that staff ask this question to ensure they can select the correct seat. However, 18% of assistants we questioned didn't ask what car the seat would go in.

Will you be using the car seat in any other vehicles?

Assistants should also be asking about any other cars the seat will be used in, to ensure any car seats recommended will be compatible. 54% of those assistants we visited completely missed asking this question, but went on to recommend car seats anyway.

Does your car have ISOfix connectors?

Almost a third (29%) failed to ask if the car had ISOfix connectors. If a car does not have Isofix connectors, this will affect the seat recommendation.

Does your car have a top-tether point?

Not all cars have a top-tether point. Just over a third of visits (34%) didn't mention top tether when discussing ISOfix. This could affect which car seat should be recommended.

Does your car have underfloor storage?

A whopping 81% of those sales assistants we visited failed to ask if the car had underfloor storage, which could lead to the wrong car seat being recommended. In some cars, a child car seat using a support leg, can't be used in a seating position with underfloor storage. However the majority of assistants did not mention underfloor storage at all or give advice about why this could be an issue.

Other key safety issues that are getting ignored

Fit list check

Not all ISOfix seats are compatible with all ISOfix cars. If an ISOfix seat was recommended, the manufacturer fit list should have been checked by sales assistants to confirm compatibility. 10% didn't do this check.

Demonstrating the fitting of the car seat

A demonstration of how to fit the car seat is vital as it allows parents to see what they are buying and ensure it's the best car seat for them, their car and their baby, but nearly a quarter (23%) of assistants didn't offer this.

Not explaining benefits of rear facing for longer

Our mystery shoppers were posing as parents upgrading from a baby car seat to the next stage. But, despite this, 20% of sales assistants didn't explain the benefits of keeping babies rear facing for as long as possible. Turning a baby forward facing too soon is a potential safety risk.


Years of safety failings

What's most disappointing is that these safety failings aren't the first we've seen. Which? investigated car seat retailer fittings in 2011, 2012 and 2014. In each of those years we received similarly shocking results which were fed back to retailers.

In our 2014 investigation, nine out of 10 retailers failed our car seat fitting tests and promised to follow up and improve the situation.

Jan James from Good Egg Safety says: "These are extremely disappointing results. Following last year's independent checks commissioned by Good Egg Safety, we shared all of the information with retailers in our national joint industry group meeting. They were given the information in great detail and understood the methodology. Nothing has changed, nothing should be a surprise.

It is evident retailers have a genuine interest in improving their advice in-store by attending our meetings and we have always stated that we'd prefer parents to buy in a store than online. That is still the case. One of the main issues, however, is sales assistants are not completing a safety assessment form at the point of sale. In a busy store, with children, ear pieces and myriad distractions;without a consultation form, some of these critical questions are being missed. We see the results in our child car seat events where almost 70%, on average, are incorrectly fitted to either child or car."

Jan James, CEO Good Egg Safety

Lisa Galliers, Which? car seat expert says: "Years on we really shouldn't be seeing results like this.

Retailers continue to put babies lives at risk by failing to ensure car seat salespeople are asking the right questions and giving out the best advice and recommendations for car seats.

Retailers say they're offering training, and I've been on some of these training courses, but something is clearly still not filtering down to the shop floor. That needs to change. We've offered to meet with all retailers involved to help them improve.

We carried out our mystery shop in partnership with Good Egg Safety, an organisation that champions car seat safety and runs regular mystery shops and car seat checks carried out across the UK. Its last mystery shop, in 2017, recorded a nine out of 10 failure rate."

Lisa Galliers, Which?

What we want to see from retailers

We want to see all sales assistants selling child car seats using a 'Safety Assessment Form' and we want to see parents asking for this to be used. This lists all the key questions that need asking, so that no vital safety information is missed. Some retailers say they have these forms, but 86% of of the store staff we mystery shopped did not use one - the results could have been a lot different with this simple check in place.

Until this happens we'd encourage all parents to download our 'seat buying check list' and 'retailer safety assessment form' to take with them when buying a child car seat.

How we carried out our testing

In one of the largest car seat mystery shops, 213 retail stores were visited in total, divided across 10 different areas of the UK. These included all the major car seat retailers: Halfords (86), Mothercare (52), Smyths (36), John Lewis (12), Mamas and Papas (7), plus range of independent retailers (20). The number of visits to each retailer (indicated in brackets) were a snapshot based on the number of stores across the UK offering car seat fitting.

The salesperson at each retailer was marked according to how many of the applicable key safety questions were asked. The questions, developed with car seat industry experts and car seat manufacturers, were all rated equally. Retailers were marked with a 'fail' if a question wasn't asked, or there was no understanding of the topic demonstrated, or the store staff simply didn't explain why they hadn't asked that question.

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Child fatalities rise as some retailers are still not showing parents how to choose and fit child car seats safely.

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Good Egg Safety has been in the business of saving children's lives for seventeen years. Supported by the Arnold Clark Group, they lead the way nationally in car seat safety, and in monitoring the retailers who sell these seats to parents. In 2017 their latest car seat checks showed that, over the last eight years, there has been a 47% increase in the number of child car seats found to be incorrectly fitted, at the same time that child casualties are on the rise. 

Children's car seats can be quite expensive items and parents mainly trust advice from car seat retailers, on how to fit them properly. Alarmingly some retailers are continuing to fall short in providing this vital support.

More than 9 out of 10 retailers failed these tests in 2017 from a sample of 146 stores, even though this vital advice is freely available through Good Egg Safety, a community interest company which specialises in making our roads safer.

Parents are being encouraged to download Good Egg Safety's free new parents' checklist. This outlines all the questions parents need to have answered in order to be more confident that the seat will protect their child as intended.


"We have been relentlessly campaigning for greater in car child safety for over 17 years and it is of major concern that we are still finding major errors in child seat fitting in our free car seat clinics. The difference between a correctly fitted seat which is compatible with the cars it's used in and fits the child who will use it, could literally mean the difference between life and death for that child in the event of a collision. This reality was recently brought home last week when a child was saved from serious injury in a dreadful crash in the south west, by being secured in a correctly fitted seat."

Good Egg has founded a joint industry group of leading retailers, child seat manufacturers and road safety organisations and all these results have been openly shared with them to help drive change. More mystery shops are being undertaken by independent testers who have no commercial links to retailer training, to establish whether the increased retailer focus on training provision is working.

Jan added "it is clear that the retailers represented in our national industry group care deeply about this issue and costly training can seem like a luxury in the face of other business challenges.But it's not a luxury, it is essential to help save lives, and we are calling for the government to endorse the need for child car seat specialists to be fully accredited."

Good Egg Safety chief, Jan James

"IAM RoadSmart are acutely aware that parents need the best possible independent and informed advice when choosing a new seat for their most precious cargo. It is very disappointing that some of our most trusted retail brands have done so badly in these secret shoppers surveys. IAM RoadSmart are confident that these retailers can turn this around quickly through better training and more consistent service delivery. In the meantime our advice to parents is to do your research thoroughly and go into every shop armed with the Good Egg questions." quote here...

Neil Greig, Policy & Research Director, IAM

"It's important that parents get the right advice when it comes to choosing a child's car seat to ensure children are well protected, should a crash occur. Retailers have a duty of care over their customers and should always put safety and quality at the forefront of their minds when talking about and fitting child seats into a vehicle. We would encourage all parents to do their research, and make the most of tools like Good Egg Safety's free parents' checklist, to make an informed decision when buying a car seat for their children."

Mike Bristow, spokesperson for Brake, the road safety charity

"As long-term supporters of the Good Egg initiative, Arnold Clark is committed to promoting in-car child safety. This disturbing statistic shows that it's more vital than ever to educate people about the correct way to fit car seats and we are fully supportive of Good Egg's efforts to monitor retailers and spread the message that in-car child safety is of paramount importance"

Eddie Hawthorne, Chief Executive and Group Managing Director for the Arnold Clark Group
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Carry handle or safety feature?

The handle on your baby’s car seat is more than just a convenience, it is also a very important safety device!


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While it makes it easy to lift your infant seat in and out of the car, it is really important to check the instructions on your child seat.  Not all carry handles are placed in the same position in the car.

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The instructions on the side of your seat will show the correct handle position.

The handle is often required to be upright, or forward towards the baby’s feet when driving.  This is because your child’s seat can rebound in a collision, and having the handle in the correct position prevents this from happening.


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What happens if the carry handle is at the back?

If you were to have a collision, with the carry handle back by the baby's head, the seat may not protect your child adequately.  The seat may flip up and make contact with the vehicle seat back, which would be avoided with the handle in the correct position.

This is exactly what happened to one Mum, when her husband was involved in a collision - thankfully he was OK and her little one wasn't in the car at the time.


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Child seat group stages

For child car seats to legally be sold in the UK, they must pass various tests and gain recognised approval. To be sold, they can be approved to R44.04, which is a regulation that has been running for some years, or they can be tested under the new R129 (i-Size) standard, which was established in summer 2013.

This blog looks at the different group stages for R44.04 child car seats, along with the weight and the height limits that you should take into consideration. There are three main group stages and also combination group stages to create multi stage, longer lasting seats.


Group 0+


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The hidden projectile in your car - Booster seats

The hidden projectile in your car - Booster seats

 

When children are younger, they use a child car seat that contains a harness to restrain them. This seat is fitted into the car, where it normally stays strapped in, so even when your little one is not in the car, their seat remains restrained.

 

  

 

The next stage seat - boosters

When it comes to your child moving up to a booster seat, both the seat and the child are restrained with the adult seat belt.

 

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This means that unless you buy an ISOFIX booster seat, you need to remember to strap the booster in when not in use.

 

Why?

An unrestrained booster will multiply its weight by the force of a collision, so if you have a crash when your child is not in the car, but their booster is sat on the back seat - you have a very heavy projectile waiting to hit someone!

  

Spot the Error!

 

Spot the error! Take the above child seat, the Britax Adventure. This seat is known for being lightweight and portable, so it is easy to move between vehicle's. This child seat weighs just 3.9kg. In a 30mph collision, the seats weight will be multiplied, and when the seat flies forward, it will hit whatever it impacts with a weight of 117kg - or 18.4 stone! If you have a little one sat next to the seat that is flying around, or a passenger in the front, or even if the seat is behind you as a driver - 18 stone hitting the back of the seat, or a person is not good news! So for the safety of all, remember to strap in your non ISOFIX booster seat!

 

ISOFIX Boosters

 

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ISOFIX boosters don't need to be strapped in when your little one is not in the car, because the ISOFIX provides a rigid attachment to the vehicle. Just one of the great benefits of ISOFIX! Both ISOFIX and non-ISOFIX booster seats offer great protection for a child, but remember to strap in the non-ISOFIX booster when your child isn't out and about with you!

 

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Winter coats and car seats – the winter facts every parent needs to know.

 

The danger you may be putting your child in when travelling in the car this winter.


The temperature is beginning to drop outside, and children are being bundled up in thick winter coats and snowsuits to keep them snug and warm in the cold weather.  But did you know that you are supposed to remove your child’s coat before you strap them into their car seat, and not doing so may put them in danger?

This video demonstrates why winter coats and car seats don't mix:

 


Winter Jacket sequence

 

Leaving your child’s coat on in the car is a problem because it creates a gap between your child and their safety harness. In a collision, the harness isn’t as close to your child’s body as it needs to be to allow it to properly restrain them.

To keep your children safe in the car this winter, remove their coats and jackets and pull the harness tight enough that you can just get two fingers between your child and the straps.


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How to keep your child warm:

Despite puffy and thick coats being dangerous, children will still feel a chill when they first get in the car!

There are several ways you can safely keep your child warm.

 

Babies

 

Keep your newborn warm OL

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Babies should be dressed in thin layers when in the car seat, and thick or puffy snowsuits will cause the harness to fit incorrectly.  Instead, use  a cosy toes approved by the child seat manufacturer, or fold a thin blanket in half and tuck it tightly around your baby over the harness, once they are strapped in correctly.  Make sure any blankets do not come up higher than arm pit level.

 

Children 

 

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Remove children's coats and jackets, and strap them into their car seat properly - then tuck a blanket around them.  Your child will be able to remove the blanket if they get too hot, which they cannot do when they have their coat on, this can lead to them overheating.


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Some parents may place the jacket over both their child and harness, however Good Egg Safety do not recommend doing this as it may delay removing a child from their car seat in an emergency.

 

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Your baby's first car seat

Welcome and congratulations on your exciting news!


Although choosing a car seat for your baby might be the last thing on your mind early in your pregnancy, it really is the very FIRST thing you need to get right before bringing your precious little bundle home.

We can help. Good Egg Safety is the UK's most trusted in-car safety specialist and, based on our experience of checking over 20,500 child car seats, we've put together this useful guide just for YOU.

It covers the key things you will need to consider when the time comes to buy your baby's first car seat. You can also read further blog posts or visit our main website for all the free advice you will ever need on how to keep your baby safe.



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Researching your baby’s first car seat


Your baby’s car seat is perhaps one of the most important things you will buy them, it will keep them safe and secure in the car, and should you ever be involved in a collision, it is there to protect them. However, despite the car seat being so important, it can also be one of the most confusing things to buy!

 

There are three stages suitable for new born babies:


Group 0 child car seat – normally lay flat, with a 10kg baby weight limit, these seats often take up two seating positions.

Group 0+ child car seat - rear facing, with a 13kg baby weight limit, these often have a base option and are portable, they often fit on the pram.

Group 0+1 child car seat – rear facing, and may turn forward later on, with an 18kg child weight limit.  These seats tend to remain fitted in the car.

 

Awards


Research what awards the child seat has won – Mum and Baby awards will assure you of comfort and user friendliness, and crash test awards from German Stiftung Warentest and ADAC will assure you of superior crash performance.  Alternatively, an iSize approved seat meets the very latest requirements, including mandatory side impact protection.

 

Fitting options


Child car seats are either fitted with ISOFIX or the adult seat belt, and while both are very secure when correctly fitted, ISOFIX is considered safer as it reduces the risk of misuse.  Group 0+1 car seats which use ISOFIX normally have the ISOFIX attached to the seat.  Group 0 and 0+ car seats may utilise a separate base that remains fitted in the car, not all infant seats have this option so check for this before choosing your seat.

 

Travel systems


Travel systems are very convenient, however it is very important for your baby’s health that they do not spend excessive amounts of time in their infant seat.  The car seat should only be used on the pram for very short, quick trips out of the car and if you are going to be out for any length of time, your baby is safer being moved into their lie flat pram.  The maximum amount of time your baby should be in the infant seat is 90 minutes, and they should then have a break from the seat. However, if you are driving, this may be exceeded as your baby must always use a car seat when in the car, ensure you plan in time for regular breaks on long journeys.

 

Buying your baby’s first seat


When it comes to purchasing your baby’s first car seat, we recommend that you visit a retailer, with properly trained staff, who will spend time with you ensuring you are happy with the seat and how to fit it.

 

Base options


The child car seat base is typically available for group 0+ car seats, and will either be fitted with the seat belt or ISOFIX.  The benefit of the base is that it remains fitted into the car, and you simply click the infant seat on and off the base.  The base will normally have an indicator to tell you that your seat is properly clicked into place.  The benefit of a base is that you do not have to re fit the seat every time and the audible click and indicators will give you peace of mind that your seat is properly fitted on every journey.

 

Compatibility


NOT EVERY CHILD CAR SEAT FITS EVERY CAR, so it is important to ensure the seat is tested in every car it will be used in.

 

Practice


Practice fitting your car seat regularly, so you are completely comfortable with how you secure it in the car, and ensure you know how to loosen and tighten the harness.  Read the fitting instructions as these will give you extra information specific to your child seat.

 

Accessories


If you buy accessories for your baby’s car seat, ensure toys are securely fastened and soft.  Avoid adding frilly covers, or aftermarket covers to your seat, as these are not crash tested and may alter the safety offered by the seat.

 

How to fit your baby’s car seat


Here are our top tips to follow when fitting your baby’s seat!

 

Seat belt fitment


1. Your new baby must travel in a seat suitable for their weight, which is either lie flat, or rear facing, babies are rear facing. Rear facing car seats have blue seat belt guides to follow


2. Ensure the base of your infant seat, and the edge of the seat sit flush with the vehicle seat and seat back.

3. When fitting the car seat, ensure the seat belt remains flat and untwisted. The buckle of your seat belt should not rest on the frame of the infant seat, or base.

4. Ensure the seat belt is routed through the correct guides, as the belt may not necessarily go through every guide. Be sure to consult the fitting instructions and watch a fitting video if one is available.

5. If you have an infant seat, ensure your carry handle is in the correct position for travelling in the car.

 

ISOFIX fitment


1. Not every ISOFIX car seat is suitable for every car, be sure to check the vehicle compatibility list and make sure your seat is suitable for your vehicle, and every other vehicle it will be used in.

2. Locate the ISOFIX points in your car, and fit the ISOFIX guides if required – these do not have to be fitted if your ISOFIX is accessible, they are simply available to help make fitting easier.


3. Extend the ISOFIX arms fully, and fit these to the ISOFIX points in your car – you will hear an audible click when each arm is connected, and the indicator will turn green.

4. Now lower the support leg to the floor, the leg should sit firmly on the floor so the indicator is green, but the base should not be lifted off the vehicle seat.


5. If you have an infant seat, ensure the carry handle is in the correct position for travelling in the car.

 

How to strap your baby into their car seat safely


Strapping your baby into their car seat sounds like it should be easy, however it is one of the most common errors that we come across – straps are often left too loose or set at the incorrect height.  Here are our 5 tips for ensuring your baby is safely strapped in.

1. Remove any thick, puffy and padded coats, jackets or snowsuits. These create a gap between the harness and the child, which may cause the harness to not work properly. 

2. Ensure the harness is at the correct height – the straps should be level with the tops of your child’s shoulders. However, if you can’t get the straps level with, they may dip just below when rear facing and sit just above when forward facing.

3. Ensure the harness is completely flat against your child, with no rips, tears or twists in the harness.


4. Pull the harness over your child’s shoulders, and clip into the buckle – if your seat has a 5 point harness, now pull the straps from just above the buckle to ensure the straps are tight over your little one’s hips.


5. Finally, pull the harness to tension it, so the straps sit firmly on your child. You should just be able to get two fingers between your child and the harness at collar bone level. 

 

Newborn Checklist

 

Our Top Tips


Here are our top tips for your new baby’s in car safety!

Tip1

Practice fitting and using your car seat


 

Tip2

Pull the straps tight enough so they are snug to your baby, you won’t hurt them by ensuring the straps are fitted properly.


 

Tip3

Do dress your baby in light clothing when in the car seat, and tuck a blanket around them once they’re strapped in if the weather is cold.


 

Tip4

A travel system is a great convenience, but if you’re going to be out for longer than a quick trip, swap your baby over to the lie flat part of the pram.


 

Tip5

If you use your infant seat on the pram, always keep your baby strapped in, if your pram tips, the straps will prevent your baby from falling out.


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What happens at a child car seat checking event?

 

Good Egg Safety is the leading child car seat initiative here in the UK checking more child car seats than any other UK organisation - over 22,000 since our campaign launched in 2001!

We offer free child car seat checking events because we feel that we cannot tell parents their children are in danger from poorly fitted child car seats, yet not offer them a solution!

 

So what happens at a Good Egg child car seat checking event?


Our Good Egg child car seat checking events are always run by a Good Egg Safety Expert.  These are highly trained and dedicated individuals who are able to check a wide range of child car seats.

The checking events normally run 11am - 4pm, although check your local event as times can differ!

The expert arrives early to the event to get set up, and we have a fun height chart for children to measure themselves, as well as a supply of stickers and our FREE Good Egg Guides.  

 

 

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How do we check a car seat?


When we check a car seat, we are checking for 4 things:

 1. That the child seat is compatible with your child

 2. That the child seat is compatible with your car

 3. That the child seat is fitted correctly, either ISOFIX or belt fitment

 4. That the child seat harness or seat belt is used correctly


Finally, we will also give any other useful advice - such as strapping non ISOFIX boosters in when not in use, and the importance of removing puffy clothing.



 

What happens if you've done something wrong?


We strive to ensure that we do not make you feel guilty, or judged if your car seat is incorrectly fitted.  It is very common to see errors on child car seats so it is nothing to feel ashamed about, and you've done the right thing by having your seat checked!

If your car seat is incompatible to your car or child, we clearly explain to you why it is not suitable, and what type of seat is required.  Although this may mean buying a new child car seat, it is not that often that we come across an incompatible seat.

If your child seat is fitted incorrectly, we will explain what the errors are to you, and show you how to put them right.  If your seat needs to be taken out and re-fitted, we will show you how to fit the seat properly, and then ask you to fit it yourself, so you can be fully confident the next time you need to fit your seat.

We also check that your child is strapped in properly, and for this we are ensuring that the harness or seat belt is at the correct height, and that the harness is the correct tension.  If your harness needs adjusting, we are able to show you how to do this.

 

What are the consequences if your seat is found to be incorrectly fitted?


At Good Egg, we always say that it is MUCH better to find an error on your car seat at a checking event, then during a collison.  A car crash would be a very bad time to find that you have an error on your child's car seat!

If you do have an incorrect seat, we will show you how to put it right.

We do not report parents for incorrectly fitted seats - we are more concerned that you are confident to fit the seat correctly in future.

 

 

Having your car seat checked is nothing to worry about, and it may save your child's life.

 

 

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Global Road Safety Week Q&A!

Today our expert Kat took part in a live Q&A session over at Road Safety GB for Global Road Safety Week!

The session was very busy, with lots of questions answered - the hottest topics were iSize and booster cushions.

Do you have a burning question that isn't asked?  You can ask our experts at any time!

 

Ask an expert

 

1. Is an extended rear facing seat really safer than a forward facing Group 2/3 car seat? Why?


Child car seats which are tested under R44, are broken down into ‘group’ stages. The main stages are:
Group 0+ (infant seat)
Group 1 (toddler seat)
Group 2,3 (booster seat)

It is possible to have combinations of these seats, such as group 0+1, or group 123. Your question asks about group 2,3 car seats which are for children weighing 15kg, however, extended rear facing car seats are another option to group 1 toddler seats.

Rear facing children, after the infant seat stage, has been found to be safer. It is safer because a young child’s neck and spine are still developing, and their head is very heavy in proportion to this. In a frontal collision, which is the most dangerous and most common type of collision, a child’s neck is put under great amounts of strain. This is because the forward facing car seat secures their torso, but their head continues with the forward momentum. When rear facing, a child’s head, neck and spine remain fully aligned in a collision, which hugely reduces the force they are subjected to.

Countries which have their children rear facing until the age of 4 years have very low numbers of serious injuries and fatalities, and evidence does show that up to age 4, children are safest rear facing. Forward facing car seats have hugely reduced the numbers of children being killed or seriously injured, and we do not know how the misuse level affects the number of children getting hurt.

The risk of misuse is something to consider as well, as extended rear facing car seats can often be more difficult to fit – they are improving however and becoming easier to fit.

So in a nutshell, yes, rear facing is undoubtedly safer for children up to the age of 4, but it is important to ensure you fit and use the seat correctly.

 

2. Booster cushions (which I believe are a seat pad with no back) according to the .Gov website:  "should only be used for children over 22kgs." However they are being sold in high street stores as suitable for Group 2 with a 15kgs minimum weight limit on them.  Does this mean they are legal to use from 15kgs, or is the .gov website the law? Or does a child from 15kgs up to 22kgs have to have a "Rear or forward-facing child seat (booster seat)" as the .gov website says? Could you be prosecuted for having a child under 22kgs on a booster cushion?


Booster cushions are approved from 15kg, and may be used once a child reaches this weight, provided the adult seat belt fits across them safely (lap belt low on hips, and the shoulder belt running from their hip and across their shoulder). However, children are safest using a high back booster, over a booster cushion – although you won’t be prosecuted if you do use a cushion. Both high back boosters and booster cushions may be used from 15kg, up to 36kg/12 years old/135cm – whichever comes first.


3. I'd love to see some more evidence that impact shields aren't as safe as harnesses as there's a lot of confusion caused by how those seats perform in tests where dummies can't record the internal injuries, but apparently loads on the necks are lower than in forward facing harnessed seats?


Impact shield car seats spread the force of a collision over a wider surface area, which reduces the forces a child’s neck is subject to – these forces are lower than when a child is using a 5 point harness. The test dummies do not currently measure abdominal forces and there is currently no evidence available to show if impact shields are less safe due to abdominal loading.


4. Are high backed boosters with Isofix any safer than ones without? Thanks.


There is little safety difference in performance between ISOFIX and non ISOFIX high back boosters – both will protect a child well in a collision. ISOFIX is beneficial however, as it keeps the booster locked into place when the child is not in the car. A loose booster is a very dangerous projectile if you were to be involved in a collision, and the ISOFIX removes this risk as the seat is attached to the car.


5. I have heard it is unsafe for newborn babies to be in an infant car seat for extended periods of time. However some reports quote for as little as 20 minutes whereas others quote 2 hours. What is the recommended length of time for a baby to be safely in a car seat and if it is unsafe why are infant seats still being sold with pushchairs as a viable option for a newborn?


The research to show the safe amount of time a baby can be in a car seat has shown that the car seat can cause a baby’s oxygen saturation levels to drop. When tests have been carried out, the oxygen saturation levels have been shown to drop within 30 minutes. The ‘2 hour rule’ is generally thought to be the maximum amount of time a baby should be in their seat at any one time, although some organisations cite 90 minutes. There are other risks associated with infants spending too much time in their car seat, such as the development of ‘flat head syndrome’. Your baby must always use their car seat when in the car, but parents and carers should ensure they plan time for regular breaks of at least 20 minutes. If a car seat is going to be used on a pram chassis, it should only be used for quick trips, and the baby is safest being transferred to the lie flat pram if you will be out for any length of time.

 

6. Why are backless booster seats still available to buy if they offer no body protection for children?


Booster cushions are tested under R44.04 which tests for a frontal impact, rear impact and roll over - there is currently no side impact test required under R44. A booster cushion is designed to lift a child up enough so that the adult seat belt fits safely across their hips and upper body, it does not offer any protection for the torso, head or neck. A child is safer using a high back booster over a booster cushion whenever possible.

 

7. BeSafe say that their ERF seats are 5x safer. I know it relates to the load on the child's neck in the event of an accident. However, 5 x safer than what? 5 times safer than ANY forward facing seat, or 5 times safer than a harnessed seat? If this is true, why do seats with impact shields top the Which? Best Buy charts, and the first ERF seat is 11th in the chart, and only scores 4 stars for overall safety rear facing (not 5 stars.) What is the truth behind the marketing? Are ERF really safer? Are impact shields safer for the child as the Which results imply?


The 5x safer rule comes from a report which was undertaken in Sweden, which found that children were 5 times safer rear facing, than if they were forward facing in a booster seat. In Sweden, children are either rear facing up to age 4, or they are put into a booster seat – forward facing harnessed car seats are not available there, and so there is no evidence relating directly to them. What we have seen, however, is that Sweden has a very low casualty rate, whereas the UK rate is still too high. There is no doubt that forward facing car seats do a very good job and protect children in our cars, however, rear facing car seats do offer the best protection, particularly for younger children.

WHICH? take into account many things, as well as crash performance. One of the things which can bring a score down is ‘ease of fitting and use’ – extended rear facing car seats are considered to be difficult to fit and use, which is why they score more poorly. Impact shield seats score highly because they slightly reduce the force to a child’s neck and are considered easier to fit and use, and are quick to transfer between vehicles. However, based solely on crash performance, rear facing car seats are safer.

 

8. Is it true that although i-Size keeps children rear facing until 15 months old, this also means that the smallest 15 month olds - the lower 25% of 15 month olds will legally be able to forward face even if they weigh just 6, 7 or 8kgs? Will any minimum weight or height limit be added to an infant carrier to protect these children or will they really be fine forward facing at 15 months old?


i-Size does require children to rear face to 15 months old, and they are allowed to turn forward once they are 15 months, as there is no lower weight limit. However, i-Size child seats do have a lower height limit, so a child will not be allowed to use a seat they are not tall enough for, even if they are 15 months. A child may use the infant seat past 15 months, if they are within the height limit of the seat –the height on i-Size infant seats is 83cm.


9. I'm having trouble with my ERF, ISOFIX, swivel seat. I am speaking to the company but it looks as though I'm going to have to have a different seat. I'm not going to be able to have rear-facing (she's 18 months) so my choice will be between forward facing static ISOFIX seat or forward-facing swivel non-ISOFIX. Having a swivel seat makes my life easier, and I feel I can pull the straps tighter, but I want the one which is safest for my child. If fitted correctly, do you think a non-ISOFIX seat can be as safe as ISOFIX?


A non ISOFIX child car seat will perform just as well in a collision as an ISOFIX seat if they are both correctly fitted, however ISOFIX is considered safer as it is easier to fit.

With any child restraint that you buy, it is vitally important to visit a retailer who can give you advice and ensure the seat is compatible with your child and vehicle, as well as show you how to fit and use the child seat.

There are a number of swivel seats coming to market, many of which also do forward facing and are ISOFIX.


10. I'm confused with ISIZE as a lot of websites say it's the new regulation but then others say it's just a part of a new regulation. Which is it?


i-Size is both – it is a new regulation, but it is also part of an ‘overall’ regulation – which can become a little confusing!

The new regulation is R129, which i-Size is part of. i-Size covers phase 1 of the new regulation 129, and phase 2 which is looking at the safety of booster seats, is currently underway with completion aimed for 2016. Finally, phase 3 will be looked at, which includes all belt fitted only seats, the aim for completion on this is 2018.

So i-Size is a new regulation, but it is part of a larger regulation – R129.

The older regulation R44 is still valid and will be for some time yet, you do not have to replace your current car seat if it is not i-Size.

 

11. I was recently at a road safety conference in Dublin. In a survey the Irish Road Safety Authority found that 3 out of 4 child seats were incorrectly fitted and would therefore not meet required performance in the event of a collision. They have initiated "Check it fits" roadshows visiting supermarkets, etc. Are any similar initiatives planned in the UK?


Good Egg Safety runs a national child car seat awareness campaign and we conduct child car seat checking events across the UK. We are just about to launch a Child Seat Checking Roadshow throughout Scotland. You can find a list of checking events on the website: www.goodeggcarsafety.com

We have checked over 21,000 child car seats nationally since 2001 and data from our most recent 5 year average (12500 checks) indicates that 57% of child car seats are incorrectly fitted or used – last year alone 71% of seats in England and Wales were incorrect and 64% in Scotland.

It has prompted the development of a powerful new advert which will be screened here on Road Safety GB’s GRSW site on Monday 11th May so stay tuned and keep checking goodeggcarsafety.com for all the new child seat checking events clinics being booked throughout this year.


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Second hand child seats - Tips for buying

Welcome to the next installment in our second hand child seat series!  This post is looking at how we can use second hand seats as safely as possible.


Whenever possible, your child's car seat should be purchased as a new product, from a retail store who are able to give you good advice.

In purchasing from a retailer and taking advice, you can be sure the seat you buy is suitable for your child, compatible with your car and you will be shown how to fit the seat.  You will also know that your seat is brand new, and can be confident that the seat will do its job should you be involved in a collision.

Sometimes though, financial hardship can leave no choice but to buy a second hand seat, or a family member or close friend offers you a seat that you know is in perfect condition.  In this situation, what can you do to ensure the seat is used safely?

Our Good Egg Expert has put together 10 things to do before you decide to take a second hand seat!



Tip1



Only buy from family or close friends

Is the seat from someone you would trust with your child's life, such as a close friend or family member? Don't be tempted to buy a seat from a friend or family member to spare their feelings!

Only buy a seat you 100% know the history of - if you have any doubts about a seat, don't use it!



Tip2



How much is the second hand seat?

Can you buy a brand new seat for the price of a second hand seat?  There are many options available, and a benefit of buying new is being able to get advice and seat fitment - check out our blog on top seats for under £100!



Tip3



Find out the make and model of the seat.


What seat is it that you're buying?  Is it a well known brand?  Be aware that there are fake seats out there!



Tip4



Check the ECE approval label:

Does the seat carry an approval label?  A seat must carry a label for R44.03, R44.04 or R129 iSize.



Graco 44.03 OLECE LabelOL
 

Tip5



Check that the seat is suitable for your child

Does the seat accommodate your child's weight and height?  If the seat is forward facing, don't move up until the rear facing seat is fully outgrown!  Our chart will help you find out if the seat is the correct group:



Pic5

 

Tip6



Check the seat will fit your car

Some child seat manufacturers have fitting lists or online fit finders to help you find out what is compatible with your car.  Research what will fit your car - does your car have issues with buckle crunch?  Floor storage boxes or forward anchor point?



Tip7



Research the seat

    • Is the seat still currently available?

 

    • Has there been any recalls on the seat?

 

    • If it isn't available in shops now, why not?

 

    • Is it an old seat that is no longer manufactured?



If the seat is currently available, visit a store to see it close up as a new product - what does it look like new and what items comes with the seat.  Ensure the second hand seat has all parts present and instructions!



Tip8



Inspect the seat

Once you know what the seat looks like new, inspect the second hand seat - is the seat shell plastic, foam protection under the covers and harness in good condition, with no marks, rips, dents or tears?  If the seat shell, foam or harness is damaged in any way - don't use the seat!



Tip9



Are safer seats available?

Check out what your options would be buying new, is a safer seat available, or a seat that is more compatible with your vehicle or easier to fit?



Tip10



Get the fitment checked!

If you decide to take the second hand seat, get the fitment checked at a Good Egg Clinic or with your local road safety team (if they do car seat checking).  We won't be able to confirm your seat is safe without knowing the history, but we can confirm if the seat is fitted and used correctly!


 

 

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