Observer launches child car seat campaign

11.06 | 21 September 2011 | | 9 comments

The Observer has launched a campaign to highlight the problem of badly fitted child car seats and to encourage retailers and parents to ensure they are using seats properly.

The Observer ran a major feature on this subject on Sunday 18 September, with an edited version available online. Julie Dagnall, Road Safety GB specialist for in-vehicle safety, and Wirral’s principal RSO, provided input and was quoted in the feature.

The feature included research by Which? showing that even parents who have made use of a retailer’s fitting service may be transporting their children in unsafe seats. Testers from Which? shopped incognito at 43 stores around the country and found mistakes made in almost half.

The retailers all offer fitting to parents who buy child car seats in their stores or on their websites, and most claim to have trained staff doing the job. However, Which? said that in 49% of the stores it visited assistants failed to install seats correctly. A similar number recommended seats that were incompatible with the tester’s car.

The Observer says that at least 66% of car seats for babies and young children are wrongly fitted, according to figures supplied by RSOs from across the country. Problems included seatbelts routed wrongly and harnesses that were too high or too loose.

Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, said: "Major retailers made serious and potentially dangerous mistakes when advising parents on child car seats. This just isn’t good enough.

“A child’s safety will depend on having the right seat correctly fitted, and parents expect to be able to rely on the advice they’re offered in-store. Retailers have got to raise their game and train their staff properly."

The new Observer campaign includes a factsheet giving advice on choosing, buying and testing child car seats; and a series of car seat clinics in Wigan, the Wirral, Oxford and Edinburgh in the first week of October 2011.

Click here to download the factsheet; click here to read The Observer online report dated 18/9/11; click here to read a further Observer report dated 25/9/11.


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    This is a disgrace, parents will trust these shops thinking they’re doing the best for their child. Im glad the issue has been highlighted and fully support this and The Good Egg In Car Child Safety Campaign, both fantastic campaigns. I do hope this will highlight shops lack of knowledge in extended rear facing too.

    Linsey Myers, Rotherham
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Any national campaign to highlight the importance of correctly fitted and appropriate car seats is a step in the right direction as the main problem in this country is ignorance and complacency.

    I work in this industry and have a special interest in this subject and I know that in most cases, once parents are given the correct information, the majority will make the right decisions and choices, although there are always an element who feel “it just won’t happen to them”.

    Statistics on road traffic accidents should reflect deaths and serious injuries caused by children being transported inappropriately but unfortunately the information is not often available to the people in the industry who could use it in a positive way.

    It should be accepted that there will never be such a thing as a universal car seat or car seat fitting because of ever-changing technology. Isofix is not necessarily the answer as it is expensive and the car seats take up a lot of space, making it unusable in some cars. Many people do not realise that Isofix car seats should not be used in a car unless they are listed by the car seat manufacturer as having been tested in that particular make, model and year of car and APPROVED. This is because not all Isofix fittings can take the same weight loadings. It takes some time for this information to filter through when new specification cars are brought out. It would be helpful if these loadings in themselves were standardised but Isofix will still not be the answer for everyone.

    Knowledge is the key and this is what we need to make the general public aware of; not all car seats fit all cars and it is ESSENTIAL that a car seat is fitted in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Children should not be rushed from one car seat to the next. Each stage is appropriate for the age and should be maximised within the limits of the manufacturer’s weight and height restrictions for its use.

    Some local authorities offer fantastic “try before you buy” car seat checking services with staff who have a wealth of experience in the industry and can give impartial advice. These services should be utilised, advertised and increased instead of being the subject of local authority cuts.

    Suzanne, London
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Local Councils used to give superb and impartial advice on Car Seats. I know that the team in North Yorkshire had regular sessions in car parks. For some reason this has sadly stopped, and I wonder if the teams have been removed as part of budget cutbacks? Can someone please confirm

    David, Whitby
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    We are pleased that you agree Bill; and actually a timely reminder of the significant value Strathclyde Police and our other enforcement and road safety partners across Scotland brought, and continue to bring, to the Good Egg campaign.

    This campaign, as everyone knows, is funded by Road Safety Scotland and generously sponsored by Arnold Clark Group.

    The police support and the Good Egg Charter focus on ‘safety ahead of profit’, which was introduced in Scotland in 2003, has no doubt played a key role in helping reduce in-car child KSIs in Scotland by a staggering 72%.

    The importance of getting the right advice at the point of purchase becomes even more vital when considering that in one English city where we held car clinics recently, only 2% were correctly fitted.

    The reason for this?

    Our RSO partner had the support of four police outriders pulling people in at random. They didn’t get to ‘choose’ whether to get a seat check or not and the findings were horrendous. One mother was transporting her 2 day old baby in the footwell behind the driver’s seat.

    This additional focus on the importance of in-car child safety couldn’t come soon enough and our Good Egg Team is delighted to be working closely with the Observer/Which? to share best practice.

    Jan Deans -Dynamic Group
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    As Jan knows and mentions it is good that someone at last has the courage to name and shame, as this along with ‘mystery shopping’ retailers was one of the long debated issues we had when the first Good Egg Guide was being hatched back in the dim and distant past in Glasgow.

    It never happened due to the fear of litigation to the partners of the working group, however Which/The Observer can cover this issue very easily under ‘investigative’ journalism that is in the public interest.

    Good luck to them in exposing more profit before safety retailers.

    Bill Smith, dbda
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    This initiative by the Observer / Which? is excellent and reinforces the findings from Road Safety GB’s national Good Egg Initiative which found that too many retailers continue to put profit ahead of safety.

    The fact that Which? can name and shame without fear of litigation is extremely helpful in encouraging retailers to refocus their attention where it counts; namely ensuring the safety of their customers children.

    Following the Observer’s promotion of Good Egg, we have already received several enquiries from retailers wishing to join the ‘Good Egg Charter’ which champions best practice, so it is already having a positive effect.

    Long may it continue…..

    Jan Deans – Dynamic
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Firstly – In response to Honors comments regarding ISOFIX and how long will it take? ISOFix is a very good system, but it isn’t perfect, as there are universal, semi universal and now there is a 3 point anchorage fixing. The later will be fitted in all vehicles registered by Brussels from Feb 2011. So it probably is going to take another 10 years or more before every car on our road has this as standard. Cars are designed to last longer and families are keeping older vehicles for longer which means they may not have access to the latest technologies such as ISOFix. I did point out to the Observer that not all families will pay or can pay the additional cost (in some cases £120) for a fixing system.

    Secondly – this is the first of a series of articles and could be bigger if their readership comments are taken on board. Thanks to everyone for the positive feedback – it’s appreciated!

    Julie Dagnall
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    In a word: Isofix

    In a few more words: make Isofix the legal standard requirement for child seats in all EU cars
    How long does it have to take?

    Honor Byford, North Yorkshire
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Once again this is great exposure for a particular issue that is high on the current road safety agenda, particularly with RSGB and those of us that have an affinity with the current material being produced to address the concern.

    It does however, still cause much apprehension that despite all the effort that has gone into in-car safety over many years going right back to Fit Safe Sit Safe initiatives, rental schemes in maternity units as well as material produced by RoSPA and the DfT through to the present day with the Good Egg Guide that wrongly fitted seats, although down slightly over a great number of years, still continue to be the norm – with the same fitting faults being noted.

    There is a need for a constructive debate on why two thirds of child seats are wrongly fitted yet all child casualties in Great Britain in 2010 were 56% below the 1994-98 baseline!

    To achieve this figure is indeed testimony to the work of road safety professionals when you consider two out of every three children being transport in a vehicle on the road network were in a seat that was not fitted correctly.

    It is great that Julie has worked with The Observer to once again highlight this issue and provide a factsheet for those that have not been exposed to previous campaigns.

    Let us hope The Observer is in this campaign for the long haul as like other ETP initiatives there appears to be no ‘quick fix’ solution.

    Bill Smith, dbda
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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