A warning has been issued to parents after a study found that eight in 10 drivers fail to properly secure child seats in the car.
WhatCar? and Leicestershire Police and Child Seat Safety Ltd conducted the study, assessing 85 child car seats in 51 cars.
Of those examined for the research, a mere 31 were fitted correctly. After suitability and fitting of the child were taken into account, that figure dropped to 13.
Three quarters of these incorrectly fitted seats were able to be rectified on site.
However, five per cent of the seats examined had to be condemned – with two car seats removed immediately and replaced before onward travel was permitted, Leicestershire Police and Child Seat Safety Ltd confirmed.
The most common problem encountered, according to a quarter of drivers, was either an issue with the harness or seatbelt that keeps the seat in place becoming loose, twisted or incorrectly positioned.
Of those examined in the study, one in six required the seat-belt to be re-routed and a further 11 per cent needed adjustments to be made to the headrest.
Under the new child car seat laws introduced earlier this year, it is illegal to drive with your children in an incorrectly fitted seat.
Child car seat warning has been issued to parents
Only children who weigh 22kg or more, or measure 4ft 10in (125cm) tall will be recommended to use the backless booster seats.
They are significantly increasing the risk of death or serious injury to their children
All children who are under 12 years old or less than 4ft 5in tall (135 cm) will be required to travel in car seat.
What Car? editor, Steve Huntingford stated: “It’s clear that the overwhelming majority of drivers are aware of their responsibilities when carrying a child in the car.
“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.
Child seats were analysed by experts to determine if they were safe and legal
“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, said: “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.”
85 seats were tested in the study and only 31 were fitted correctly
Many parents have turned to peer groups, such as online forums for parents, as their primary means of discussing car seat safety.
Few of those surveyed had sought professional guidance in selecting their child seats, and fewer still had retained contact with the retailers or manufacturers of their child seats.
“If you buy from a retailer with expert fitting knowledge, you’re paying for a service rather than just a seat,” added Julie Dagnall.
“They will be happy for you to go back to them and get free advice as your child grows. Retailers we’d recommend include Halfords, John Lewis, Mamas and Papas, Mothercare, Toys R Us and many independent retailers.”
Steve Huntingford concluded: “Parents and carers often go to great lengths to ensure the safety of children in many aspects of daily life, and it is shocking that the proportion of unsafe child restraints in their cars was so high.
“Many of the issues that the survey revealed were in the operation of the seats and could be swiftly rectified without any additional cost – but when the risks of having an unsuitable seat, whether by design or operation, come with such high stakes attached we have a duty to highlight the problems and offer solutions.
“This is particularly pertinent as we approach Child Safety Week at the beginning of June.”
The full report will be available in the July issue of What Car? which goes on sale on June 1.