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Why nobody knows which is the best car-seat

Tristan Honeywill

My first couple of weeks blogging have been brilliant. Loads of late nights and stress, juggling deadlines, but it’s really satisfying. Thank you to everybody for all the encouragement and feedback so far. I knew we couldn’t be alone in our obsession with safety and it’s great to have people to talk about it with at last.

We’re realising that there’s a lot of demand for information on child seats, boosters and ISOFIX, as well as car safety. There’s a lot of good, basic information out there already that I think we can build on.

We’ve started talking to some of the experts in these areas – independent safety researchers. Even when you have access to the cleverest guys in the business, we’re realising how hard it is for parents to get independent information about these really important purchases. (There are Which reports, but you have to pay for them and a couple of scientists have expressed doubts over their appropriateness.)

Like car crash tests, once everybody knows which are the safest, the manufacturers will have to get involved and start investing more in safety

Time and again we’re hearing the same problem. All car seats conform with the same lacklustre safety standard formulated 30 years ago. With everybody getting the same certificate, it’s hard to gauge which are better. The advice you get from stores depends a lot on the brands the company or the salesperson favours. Sometimes that’s based on proper training and education, sometimes it’s a commercial or personal decision. Sometimes we’re just encouraged to buy something because it’s popular.

I’ve discovered that the Department for Transport spent a lot of money in recent years developing a series of safety tests and assessments for child seats. These are stricter than the legal requirements and would be a useful guide for parents. An initial study revealed that some of the more affordable seats outclassed their more expensive competitors.

Guess what: the results have not been published and the DfT programme has been mothballed because of budget cuts. The child seat manufacturers aren’t willing to invest in the scheme until they’re sure all their seats will get five stars.

Just a couple of weeks into this and I’m wondering how to raise the money to get a first group of seats tested and the results published. Like car crash tests, once everybody knows which are the safest, the manufacturers will have to get involved and start investing more in safety. Child seats are a lot cheaper to test than cars and can be just as important in a crash.

In the meantime, we’re going to be explaining the importance of using ISOFIX. And if you are using seat belts to secure the car seat, we’ll get some advice on how to do it properly and as safety as possible. We’ll also identify cars with more than two ISOFIX mounts and look at the new standard coming in soon.

 

Like car crash tests, once everybody knows which are the safest, the manufacturers will have to get involved and start investing more in safety

There are people out there campaigning already to promote rearward-facing seats for older children. It’s what they do in Sweden apparently and we’ll investigate. We’ll also look to provide reliable information on booster seats and when it’s OK to move kids into them. Everybody says to wait as long as possible, but also that the fit is really important. It’s hard to know when to do it and what to buy.

There’s been some research done in the US that highlights the boosters most likely to work in any car. We’re checking which ones are also available in the UK and Europe and will share this as soon as we’ve double-checked our facts.

I can’t understand why this information isn’t already freely available. If you agree this needs to change, like us on Facebook to stay in touch on this issue.

 

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