A new study on Traffic Injury Prevention has found that 37% of children's car seats are fitted incorrectly and it’s not due to parental blunders.
It turns out that some just aren't 100% compatible due to a mismatch between the angles of the car seat and the back seat of the car.
According to the research conducted by the Medicine Injury Biomechanics Research Center in Ohio State College, about a quarter of all car seats tested do not sit at the proper angle when installed and could be “potentially dangerous” in the event of a collision.
They also discovered that 34% of the time, forward-facing car seats are also at an awkward angle due to the headrests being in the way. Fortunately most - but-not-all - car headrests can be removed to get overcome this.
Saying what most of us are already thinking, Julie Bing the lead author of the study said it's vital that we check the angle of our children’s car seat, as "it's no big surprise that not every child restraint fits into every vehicle."
She also recommends that parents buy a seat well-suited for the car – meaning a bulky car seat may not be the best choice for a tiny car.
For a DIY fix, Bing suggests parents use a “rolled up towel or pool noodle behind the seat” to fill the gap or mismatch between the car seat back chair - we're slightly nervous and not at all convinced by this make-shift option.
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While we’re fans of DIY in general at MFM headquarters, we don’t think it applies when it comes to something as serious as fitting car seats. So we got some advice from an expert on child seat safety Kevin Clinton, the Head of Road Safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).
“We don’t advise putting cushions or rolled up towels underneath a child seat as this is likely to make it less stable, especially in a collision.
"The only exception is if the manufacturer has provided an accessory for this purpose."
What you can do to make sure a car seat is safe
“The child seat should sit firmly on the car seat, and it should not be possible to move it forwards or sideways once it has been securely fitted, with the ISOfix points or the car’s seat belt (depending on the type of child seat)."
“If you can rock the child seat forwards or backwards when it’s been fitted because there is a gap between the bottom of the child seat and the car seat, try the child seat in a different position in the car. If this doesn’t work, you may need to change the child seat – speak to the seat manufacturer or a retailer who has trained staff."
What can you do before you buy a car seat?
“Remember, not all child seats fit all cars, so when choosing a seat, take your car with you to a retailer who has trained staff who can check the seat you’re considering is suitable for your car and will show you how to fit it.”
There is also a brilliant car seat installation clinic run by the lovely people at Good Egg Safety, who will check your car seat is fitted correctly for free.
Working in partnership with car seat manufacturer Maxi-Cosi, the clinics will take place in car parks of supermarkets, retail parks and other public places around the country and will even give you the opportunity to speak to a car seat expert while you're there. Check the Good Egg Safety website for locations and available dates here.