As many as 85% of child seats are improperly fitted or inappropriate for the children who use them, according to a new What Car? study.
A roadside investigation carried out in conjunction with Leicestershire Police and Child Seat Safety Ltd, found that only 15% of the child car seats assessed were fitted correctly and were appropriate to 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 (74%) of the incorrectly fitted seats inspected were able to be rectified on site but four seats – 5% of the sample – were condemned, with two being removed immediately and replaced before onward travel was permitted.
Whereas car seats with ISOFIX attachments were all correctly installed, those that used the seatbelt as a restraint caused the most problems.
The most common problem, accounting for a quarter (24%) of issues, was with the harness or seatbelt restraining the seat being too loose, twisted or incorrectly positioned.
More than one in six (16%) required the seat belt to be re-routed and a further 11% needed adjustments to be made to the headrest to ensure optimum protection.
“It’s clear that the overwhelming majority of drivers are aware of their responsibilities when carrying a child in the car,” said Steve Huntingford, What Car? editor.
“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. It’s a form of Russian roulette that drivers are playing.
“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.”
Child Seat Safety co-director, Julie Dagnall, added: “The evidence from this study was that the overwhelming majority of drivers were exposing the children in their cars to significantly increased risk.
“It is important to raise awareness of this issue and to offer parents and other drivers carrying children the correct information and guidance.”