Thousands of parents have admitted that they are risking young passengers’ safety due to confusion over child car seats.
And a worrying third have said they have knowingly broken the law by transporting someone else’s child without a car seat.
A poll of parents by car maker SEAT found that 80 per cent were not confident that they understood the rules around car seats, with a third saying they had used the wrong age group seat for a child and a fifth admitting to using an incorrectly fitted one.
All children must use an age-appropriate car seat until their are either 12 years old or 135cm tall. If they don’t, the driver of the car can be fined £500 and given three penalty points.
Almost 10,000 children aged 15 or under were injured while travelling in a car in 2017, according to the Department for Transport, with 20 killed.
You can read our full guide to the law and choosing the right child seat here.
To correctly fit a car seat you should ensure it is securely fastened, either with Isofix clamps or an adult seatbelt. There should be no excessive movement and if you’re using a seatbelt to hold the seat it should not be twisted. Make sure the buckle is clear of the seat edge.
If you must use a rear-facing seat in the front, make sure the passenger airbag is deactivated.
With your child in the seat the harness should be pulled tight, with no more than two fingers’ space beneath the strap and no twists in it. Set the harness buckle as low as possible.
Javier Luzon, from the SEAT vehicle safety development department, commented: “According to research from Spain’s Traffic Department, the difference between correct and incorrect child seat use can reduce the risk of casualty by 75 per cent and injuries by 90 per cent.
“It is crucial to use the seat which is certified for the child’s height and weight, as the design of each one meets the specific requirements to protect children’s bodies.
“Children should always travel in the rear seats. This is by far the safest place to travel.
SEAT’s 10 golden rules for transporting children in your car:
1. Use a certified child seat according to height and weight
2. Always use the rear seats rather than the front
3. Fasten the child seat correctly
4. Tighten the straps on the harness
5. Ensure the seat faces the rear for as long as possible
6. Make no exceptions during short trips
7. No outerwear of backpacks
8. Place all equipment in the boot
9. Lead by example
10. In the event of an accident, remove the child from the car in their seat
“It is also important children face the rear for as long as possible. In the event of a frontal impact, a baby’s neck cannot support the weight of its head when propelled forward.
“Make no exception during short trips. For trips lasting only a few minutes, many children are placed in seats while still wearing a coat or even a backpack, which are major obstacles for the correct operation of the safety harness.
“Even though the trip is a short distance, you should never forget safety is a priority from the moment you set out.”
As well as confusion over which seat to use and how to fit it, the study also found some parents were knowingly breaking the law around transporting children.
One thirds said they hadn’t used child seats when carrying other people’s children, one in 10 had squeezed four children across the back seat of a car and one in five let their child use a regular cushion instead of a proper booster seat.