In-car safety for children

Child car seats and in-car safety for children - session now closed - thanks to all who participated, and especially to our experts for giving their time to provide such comprehensive and informative answers.

Thursday 3 December, 12.30-1.30pm

The forum was jointly hosted by Kat Furlong from Good Egg Safety and Julie Dagnall and Claire Waterhouse from Child Seat Safety, who answered questions submitted by road safety professionals, parents, grandparents and anyone else interested in this important safety issue.


Q1: POSTED BY RIVER PAIGE
What do you think child car seats of the future should be aiming towards (safety features, technology etc.)

KAT’S ANSWER:
I think child seats should be working towards removing the risk of incorrect fitment as much as possible – which thankfully, the new iSize rules address. I would also like to see further development to reduce misuse of the harness as much as possible – it’s vital to have the seat fitted correctly, but it is equally important that the child is also strapped in properly, for the seat to do its job.

There is a lot of exciting innovation for car seats at the moment and I’m looking forward to what the seats on the market will be like in 5/10 years’ time!


JULIE & CLAIRE’S ANSWER
At Child Seat Safety we see new technologies within vehicle design and child restraint systems being developed that are intuitive - for example, restraints that identify when the restraint and even the child isn’t incorrectly installed, as well as identifying to the owner if they are damaged and should no longer be used.

For the future, it would be great to see car manufacturers incorporating child seat design into their existing vehicle seating, without compromising on safety.


Q2: POSTED BY KRIS BEURET
What are your views on car seats/seat belts for children in taxis?

JULIE & CLAIRE’S ANSWER
Whilst this is an exemption to the law, it doesn’t make it any safer for anyone to travel unrestrained. A taxi company would not be breaking any laws by providing a child restraint and in fairness there are many companies across the UK that do provide them.

Child seat design has come on significantly since this part of the Act was written and it is possible now for a very small number of seats to be needed to provide this service. It would seem appropriate that as we see the full phasing in of i-size (ECE Regulation 129) this exemption is reviewed to suggest perhaps any taxi transporting children must provide child restraints, thus giving the taxi company an option to provide this type of transport if they feel their customer needs it.


KAT’S ANSWER:
While I understand why car seats are not required in taxis, I would like to see children required to use them by law – particularly for frequent or planned journeys. A 30 mph collision in a taxi is still a collision, and a child should be offered the protection whenever they travel by car, unless in an absolute emergency.

It is tricky for taxi drivers and companies - buying the right seats, storing them, knowing which one to use for children, fitting them correctly and using them correctly. Hopefully, the new iSize laws will remove some of these issues as the years go on.
Most taxis will allow parents to fit their own seats, and we do encourage this. However parents/carers do need to be careful that their seat is compatible to the taxi they are fitting it into, and that they are fitting it correctly.


Q3: POSTED BY: KIM HART
When my 16 month old falls asleep in her Joie I-Anchor her head flops forwards, is there anything I can do to stop this and is it dangerous?

KAT’S ANSWER
This is quite a common problem with larger rear facing seats, and it certainly doesn’t look comfortable. Ensure that the straps on your little one are as level with her shoulders as possible - so where they come out of the seat, they go straight over the top of her shoulders and down over her chest. They also need to be tight enough so that you can just slip two fingers flat between her and the straps at collar bone level – also remember to remove thick, puffy and bulky clothing. Children can flop forward if their harness isn’t set quite right.

If her harness is perfect, it could be that the slope of your vehicle seat is steep and lifts the base up, so she is more upright. There are two things to check with this:

1 - check the vehicle compatibility list for the iAnchor, and ensure it is compatible with your car.

2 - check the leg hasn’t been adjusted too long; the leg should be pulled forwards, and extended down until the foot sits square on the floor – it shouldn’t be extended so long that it lifts the base off the vehicle seat.

Finally, if you have already done the above, or have checked and it still happens, you can buy a neck roll to help keep her chin from dropping forward. If this doesn’t work, you may want to try her in a different seat, as the recline can differ between models.

Her head dropping forward isn’t necessarily dangerous, as long as her back is flush against the back of the child seat, and her head is still within the protection of the seat.


JULIE AND CLAIRE’S ANSWER
Without actually seeing your vehicle, seat and child it’s difficult to make a suggestion as to what you should do and advise you on the severity of the issue. You would be best speaking to the Customer services team at Joie
http://www.joiespares.com/customer-service/
and ask if they can make a recommendation, or return to the store you purchased it from for their advice.


Q4: POSTED BY: RIZWAN ASLAM
May I ask what is the main difference between ece4404 and isize carseat seats? Also, at what speed isize carseat seats are tested?

JULIE & CLAIRE’S ANSWER
There are several differences between the requirements found in ECER44.04 and Regulation 129. Without getting too in-depth on this I would say the important things for consumers are:

i-Size has been introduced with the aim to “reduce misuse”. This means we will be seeing more restraints that are simpler to fit – for example they will all use ISOFix systems which means no mistakes when threading seatbelts through complicated routes on a restraint as we have seen previously with ECE R44.04/ 03.

The introduction of i-Size will eventually mean better vehicle and restraint compatibility because the regulations have restricted the variations in the actual sizes of the seats. This, along with car manufacturers producing “i-Size ready” vehicles, will help to reduce misuse.

i-Size has also introduced some new mandatory testing including the side impact test. Some manufacturers already do this test for their R44.04 restraints but it isn’t a requirement for it to pass the standard – with i-Size this is now a requirement.

Finally, i-Size seats for children under 15 months must be able to able to restrain them in the rearward facing position. This is a big positive step in encouraging parents to keep their young babies and children rearward for as long as possible.

Regarding test speeds for i-Size, currently we only have the first phase in production and we are still awaiting the 2nd and 3rd phases which will incorporate children from 105cm in height upwards, therefore these impact tests may vary according to the requirement of the restraint. It is worth noting however that it is more about the force of an impact than the speed of an impact that is assessed.


KAT’S ANSWER
There are some key differences between iSize and R44.04, as follows:

R44:
- Weight based
- No side impact testing, just frontal at 32mph, rear at 18mph, and a roll test.
- Vehicle and seat incompatibility issues
- R44 allows forward facing from 9kg, which can be very young

R129 (iSize):
- Height and stature based
- The testing is the same (same speeds) but it now includes a mandatory side impact test
- Rear facing to 15 months by law, in iSize child seats
- Automatic compatibility between an iSize seat and iSize vehicle
- New test dummy measures more points of force

R129 has three phases, the first phase is iSize which has been implemented. The second phase relates to high back boosters and is currently being worked on. The third phase will relate to belt fitted restraints. Hopefully, this will all be fully implemented by 2018, although it can change.

R44.04 approved seats are still perfectly safe and legal to use, and will be for some time yet.


Q5: POSTED BY: TED BOOKER
What is being done to raise the standards with child car seat retailers fitting car seats correctly? What are the alternatives, apart from promoting independent / specialist retailers who performed better? Parents who often feel overwhelmed with this subject, may now find themselves losing confidence in retailers. In that case this might cause parents to not ask for help, fitting advice or start buying online, which is not what we want. Car seat clinics are a good way of helping parents, but we are not in a position to offer them year round.

KAT’S ANSWER
Thank you for your enquiry Ted. In the light of our mystery shop findings and the subsequent Watchdog results, it is an understandable one.

In answer, we would still recommend that parents use the services of retailers because it gives them the opportunity to check both their child fits the seat AND the seat fits the car.
We are now working closely with several leading retailers who are investing even more in training their staff because they genuinely want to offer the best advice to their customers.

In the meantime, we would encourage parents to print off our FREE Good Egg Safety Retailer Guide (http://www.goodeggcarsafety.com/ukincar/incar/buying_guide/) which will show them exactly what retailers should ask you prior to selling you a car seat.

If you’d like any further information please don’t hesitate to contact me on kat@goodeggsafety.com

JULIE & CLAIRE’S ANSWER
Obviously the WatchDog programme really highlighted the issues here, and the programme is now supporting Child Seat Safety’s #letsgetserious campaign which is encouraging retailers to see child restraints as a safety item rather than a nursery product. All retailers mentioned in the programme are revisiting their training programmes and looking at ensuring staff selling restraints have an independent qualification such as the IOSH Child Seat Safety Awareness Course run by Child Seat Safety.

If parents want to ensure they are getting correct advice then we would suggest you direct them to our website www.childseatsafety.co.uk where there is a ‘find an advisor’ page. All the people on here have undertaken the accreditation course and hold a current qualification with us. Or they can contact us directly for help and advice.


Q6: POSTED BY: DUNCAN MACKILLOP
Why is it that safety-critical things like brake pads are fitted by mechanics and engineers, yet car seats are fitted by sales staff?

JULIE & CLAIRE’S ANSWER
We couldn’t agree with you more, which is why Child Seat Safety set up the only accredited qualification course currently running in the UK. As in our reply to Q5, our #letsgetserious campaign is highlighting the need for retailers especially to see child restraints as a safety item, not a nursery product and we are currently working with several of the large retailers to ensure their staff are effectively trained and have the knowledge and experiences to assist parents/carers correctly.

It will be only be through continual campaigning and lobbying of Government bodies that we will see a fundamental change, which is one of our main priorities. We can’t do this alone so as much support as possible would be really helpful.

KAT’S ANSWER
Interesting question! We agree that child seats are a vital piece of safety equipment and therefore should be fitted by a professional, which is why we are working closely with key partners to deliver our much needed CPD accredited child car seat training - so those professionals are available. In addition to this, parents and carers also need to ‘become the professional’ in terms of learning to fit and use their particular car seat safely, as unlike brake pads, they are a safety item that is easily (and regularly) removable.


Q7: POSTED BY STUART HOWARTH, ROCHDALE
Unless they have updated their data in the booklet, why does the Good Egg Guide still insist that you should never or not put any child seat in the front with an active air bag. Obviously I am talking about forward facing not rear. I can find no evidence of any recorded injury in the UK from airbag injury in forward facing seats? I have asked the TRL, DfT and there seems to be nothing on record. It’s different in the states as airbags are different sizes to ours and there are recorded injuries to children and adults for that matter.

KAT’S ANSWER
The older copies of the guide did state that the you should not put any child seat in front of an active airbag, the new guides do not state this. For children forward facing in the front of a vehicle, it is important that their seat is not in the deployment zone of the airbag and that any vehicle manufacturer advice is adhered to.


Q8: POSTED BY: DEIRDRE MCKITTRICK
Is there any real life data (not crash test data from manufacturers) on injury statistics based on backless booster seats versus high backed boosters? Real life data is more reliable than laboratory testing from an impartiality standpoint.

I sometimes wonder if putting more and more hard plastics in the back seat could result in injury to the other passengers in the event of a crash. Surely the car manufacturers are being called on to provide more airbag protection for ALL passengers in the rear seat to avoid adding extra hard surfaces to bang heads on?

JULIE & CLAIRE’S ANSWER
Unfortunately, real life data is very hard to come by, as the way in which this kind of information is recorded after a collision varies tremendously. We tend to find the only other information we get is anecdotal from those or their families that have been involved in a collision. Also, some child restraint manufacturers will take back seats that have been involved in a collision to give them an insight into how their seat has reacted in a real life collision and enables them to adapt the seat if required.

We would recommend a high back booster that uses the ISOFix points to prevent any unnecessary movement during a collision. The advancements in the technologies of the crash test dummies that are used, give us a much better understanding of the injuries that are likely to be sustained when these types of restraints are used.

As for car manufacturers, the issue we have is they predominately design cars for adult passengers, therefore the safety features in the vehicle are based on adult sizes etc. We add a child restraint to keep child passengers safe and sometimes the two things can react against each other. So we have to ensure the child restraint is going to offer the protection the child needs, not the vehicle.


KAT’S ANSWER
It is very difficult to obtain that data, as the stats 19 report does not cover what seat the child was travelling in, if it was fitted correctly or if it was used correctly – in an emergency, the response teams need to remove passengers safely and quickly. Aside from that, there is anecdotal evidence from families after a collision, although this is not easy to obtain.

Crash testing data and evidence is a very good way in which we can find out what safety will be offered by a seat to a child. Many manufacturers take back their seats which have been involved in collisions, so they can improve and adapt seats if required.

Cars are getting much safer, however this protection is designed for adult passengers and not children. Airbags are not positioned or designed to offer safety to children. The child restraint is what offers protection to children, it’s not generally the vehicle itself, so it is important to ensure the child seat is compatible with both the car and child, fitted correctly and used correctly.


Q9: POSTED BY: NADEEM MOHAMMED
We have a Recaro Monza Nova IS that uses a crash cushion for the seat belt up until 15kg. My son is 11 months old and very tall - above 95%ile for height and of a stocky build. Should we continue to use the cushion up to 15kg regardless, even if there is little or no room left? I am concerned we may get to the point that it's too much of a squeeze and he doesn't like it.

We had the same problem with his rearward facing first seat where his legs were too long and scrunched up against the back seat. He was 7 months old when we got the Recaro and slightly under the 9kg starting weight. Any advice appreciated...

KAT’S ANSWER
R44.04 approved child seats are based on your child’s weight over anything else, and the weight limits must be adhered to. The cushion can be used up until your son weighs 18kg, although he can legally use the seat with just the belt from 15kg. Your child should use the impact cushion up until the maximum recommended weight limit, as this will offer him optimal protection. The child seat should not be used with just the adult belt for a child under 15kg in weight.

The Recaro Monza IS has a booster pad inserted underneath the covers where your son sits - this can be removes once he is 18 months old. The headrest of the seat also adjusts upwards; if you find the bottom of the headrest is very close to his shoulders, you may want to try clicking it up a notch to give him a little more room.

As your son is high on the percentile chart, he may be likely to reach 18kg at a very young age. Although child seats are based on weight, his age is also important. A child under the age of 4 years should ideally use a harness or shield system, before progressing to the belt only. You may want to take a look at other seating options which offer taller harness heights and higher weight limits, in case he outgrows the cushion quickly. There are lots of higher weight limit options available such as extended rear facing seats with a 25kg weight limit, and some forward facing seats can also offer this.

If you would like any extra help keeping your child safe in the car please do not hesitate to contact me at kat@goodeggsafety.com


CLAIRE & JULIE’S ANSWER
As we have mentioned previously it’s very difficult for us to make an accurate assessment about a child without actually seeing them together with the vehicle and the seat.

Car restraints are designed to accommodate the child securely and therefore I would recommend that you speak directly to Recaro about the requirements of the impact shield and what you consider to be a squeeze.

As your son is so young I would strongly recommend that you look into a rearward facing seat that has a harness and is designed for a child up to 25kgs. There are several on the market and you would certainly get a longer time span in this seat whilst still offering him the best protection for his growing body. Younger children’s bones are still growing and solidifying and therefore the protection that these sorts of restraints offer is vital in reducing the severity of injury compared to an older child whose bones may be slightly stronger.

Many people do move their children out of a rearward facing infant carrier too soon, because they believe their feet and legs are bent against the back of the seat. However if you think about how we as adults sit in a car, with our knees bent and feet flat on a surface, it quickly becomes apparent that that’s what a child is doing and that’s OK – more importantly, what we would need to ensure is that their head is completely protected by the seat and not peaking over the outer edge of this rear facing restraint.


Q10: POSTED BY: FRANCIS CARNEGIE
After seeing the Watchdog feature it has nearly lost my trust of retailers. I am about to purchase my first car seat for my newborn and am quite hesitant. I don't want to buy online as I would feel a lot more comfortable with advice in person. I know media can sometimes exaggerate and this is the reason why I would like the full report so that I can make an informed decision.

CLAIRE & JULIE'S ANSWER
For the full report you would have to contact BBC WatchDog themselves. To reassure you, we are working with the retailers to ensure their staff have the appropriate training enabling them to advise their customers correctly and show how to fit the restraints.
If you look on our website www.childseatsafety.co.uk you should be able to find someone close to you who would be able to assist with information.

Here are some tips:
• Do your research, checkout the different manufacturers and compatibility list for your vehicle, as a guide.
• Check out the best buys from independent sources such as Which? consumer magazine
• Ask if the advisor has been trained
• Many child restraints will have online fitting videos, watch these before you go to the retailer, so you have an idea of how they should fit.
• Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and if in any doubt walk away.

Feel free to contact us for any further advice by emailing us at info@childseatsafety.co.uk

KAT'S ANSWER
Your feelings are completely understandable – the Watchdog report certainly raised a number of concerns. It’s important to highlight, however, that most retailers genuinely want to provide the best service for their customers and invest in training. Many more are now investing more and working with Good Egg Safety and our partners at TRL to attain CPD Expert Accreditation which will significantly help improve standards nationally. Many retail staff are very good at their jobs, passionate about child safety and will give you good advice. While the report was good for raising awareness of fitting your car seat properly, the downside to the report was the loss of trust in retailers, and people potentially buying online instead. Like you, we would prefer parents to visit physical premises where they can check the seat actually fits their car and child and be confident they can fit it themselves.

Good Egg Safety runs our own independent mystery shopping and training programme, and we are working very closely with retailers to help them improve their service and advice to customers. We have more planned and will continue to monitor outputs.

Our website has a list of Good Egg retailers who have passed our mystery shopping, so you can visit them with confidence. It is also a good idea to visit a number of stores, including independent retailers, as this will give you a good indication of who is giving you good advice, and who is not. Finally, you can always ask one of our experts, who will be happy to help – just pop any questions through to enquiries@goodeggsafety.com

We also have a seat buying section of our website, which has a buying guide you can download and print off, which can help you ensure you are being advised correctly: http://www.goodeggcarsafety.com/ukincar/incar/buying_guide/

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