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   Inside Out - West Midlands: Monday January 24, 2005

CAR SEAT SAFETY

Car sear being checked for correct fitting
A visual guide to selecting the correct car seat
Read our guide to choosing and fitting a car seat
Is your child's car seat fitted correctly?
Watch car seat expert Damon Marriot perform car seat checks
  REALPLAYER REQUIRED

Startling findings suggest that around 70% of car seats are fitted incorrectly. When you consider that every year more than 100,000 children are involved in crashes, it's clear just how crucial a safely secured car seat is.

Holly Smith is a healthy, happy 18-month-year-old, but had it not been for her child seat, it could easily have been a different story.

Mum Victoria was driving to work one morning. Holly was strapped up in her car seat in the back.

Victoria was momentarily distracted by a noise and turned to the backseat to check on Holly.

When Victoria turned back, she realised she had veered onto the opposite side of the road into the oncoming traffic.

Victoria Smith
"She had no cuts or bruises on her whatsoever. I know it is because of her car seat."
Victoria Smith

"I hit the car head-on. The car pushed me about 150 yards down the road and I ended up in a hedge," says Victoria.

Her injuries were life threatening and Victoria was air lifted to Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham.

"I had broken my leg, completely shattered my pelvis, I'd ripped my spleen and my liver," she explains.

"I was told if the air ambulance hadn't arrived, I wouldn't be here today."

Safe in her seat

There was better news for her daughter. Holly came away from the accident completely unscathed.

"She had no cuts or bruises on her whatsoever," says Victoria.

Holly Smith
Holly's car seat ensured she remained unharmed during a head-on collision

"I know it's because of her car seat. It was fitted properly, the seat belts worked fully.

"Holly was safe in that car seat."

Holly is living proof that a correctly fitted car seat saves lives.

But, according to car seat expert, Damon Marriot, many parents are unknowingly driving their children around in badly fitted car seats.

"I generally find that about 70% of the ones we check are not fitted correctly.

"It's normally a minor thing where they don't pull the seats tight enough, but you do still get some where they don't use the seats at all."

Second hand safety

The Facts

In 2003, 30 children aged 0-11 were killed and 481 seriously injured in cars.

Of this group the number of 0-4's killed was 15, 173 were seriously injured and 2,344 were slightly injured in cars.

In 2004, a survey conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory showed that 5% of 0-4 year olds were not restrained in any way in the rear of cars.

The morning and afternoon school runs are the peak times for accidents involving children.

Even at low speeds, having your child in an incorrectly fitted seat could increase their risk of injury.

Children up to 11 aren't big enough to travel without a child seat of some sort until they are about five feet (150cm) tall. Until then, the adult belt will not fit safely and they are safest using a suitable child seat.

Source: Think! Road Safety

Despite tempting cut-price offers, experts advise against buying second hand car seats.

To find out why, Inside Out puts a second hand seat to the test.

The £15 seat is tested in one of the most advanced crash test rigs in the world.

The results serve as a stark warning about the dangers these seats can pose.

The harness is clearly not strong enough and the dummy is thrown forward in the seat.

Brian Mycock of Trading Standards explains that the crotch strap would have caused considerable damage, whilst the dummy's head is forced forwards onto the dashboard, causing possible internal injuries.

"With second hand car seats you don't know how old it is, you don't know its history, or if it has been in an accident," explains Brian.

"The only time you should consider a second hand one is when you're buying from a member of family, whose knowledge and information you trust."

Sitting tight

With two thirds of child seats being incorrectly fitted, Inside Out has produced a guide to buying and fitting child car seats. Click here to find out more.

See also ...

Inside Out: West Midlands
Selecting the correct seat
Choosing and fitting

On bbc.co.uk
Parents to check child car seats
Use car seats up to age of 11
Child seat mistakes can be fatal

On the rest of the web
Think!
RoSPA - Child car seats
Department for Transport
Trading Standards

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Sylvia Klemz
I believe the best people for Charlie McNair to contact are, surprisingly, the fire brigade! They certainly visit Parent & Toddler groups to advise on car seat safety. For Mrs. Lewis, when making similar enquiries, I was told that the reason car manufacturers will not state that specific car seats will fit their cars is that no two seatbelts are exactly the same, and much depends on the length of the belt on your car's seat! I hope this helps.

Mrs Corinne Lewis
I am interested in purchasing a Graco Junior car Seat - brand new. I have found a site on the internet which would save me a good £20.00 on one. However, they can't tell me whether or not it would be suitable for both family cars - a Fiat Cinquecento (L reg) and a peugeot Estate (2002). Nobody will try fitting it to both without charging an arm and a leg, unless I purchase it from them. I've tried contacting both car manufacutrers, to no avail.... Can anyone help?

Kate White
I am very concerned, my mum uses a family members older car seat for my daughter. I know the history, it hasnt been involved in a crash but it is about 5 years old, does this mean i have to buy a new one?

Charlie McNair
I have a 1 month old baby, we have been lent a complete Graco Travell System base inculed. The system was bought brand new 2yrs ago and the baby seat was only used for around nine months. I can garantee it's immaculate condition & that it has not been bumped or knocked in anyway. No garage or halfords will check wether we have fitted the seat safely or whether it was appropriate for our car. The AA are unable to help. The fitters in Halfords and both garages hadn't done a refresher courses recently. I am not convinced that our seat is in it's optimum safe position or is the best model for our car. Yet no professional is prepared to check the safety of this seat. If we purchase a brand new car seat someone will fit it in for us. We just want the safety of ours checked!!!not a brand new one. In view of the above I would like to organise a meeting point for parents to meet in an appropriate place and get their child car seats checked. Who would I approached to organise an event like this in the county we live in. Please adivise us on who can check the safety of our car seat, without having to purchase a brand new one.



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