A picture Kim Kardashian shared on social media this week has sparked an online debate about car seat safety. Clearly, parents are still unclear on the type of car seat required for their child
New child booster seat laws were introduced on 1st March 2017 and yet parents still don’t know the right height, age and weight regulations when it comes to their children’s car seats. Worryingly, over half (56%) were unaware of the new booster seat regulations that came into force and of those who were aware 87% did not understand the changes. Freedom of Information data requested by motoring experts Confused.com reveals there were 4,646 incidents of UK drivers not adhering to child seatbelt laws in 2015, with a total of 19,358 offences recorded between 2013 and 2015(1).
As the past UK law stood, all children travelling in a vehicle had to use the correct car seat for their height, age and weight until they are either 12 years old or 135cm tall – whichever comes first. Children weighing as little as 15kg (2st 4lbs) are permitted to travel in backless booster seats – for reference, on average, a child of this weight is about the age of a three year-old toddler (2). Under the new rules that came into force in March, backless booster seats – also known as booster cushions – will only be approved for use for children taller than 125cm and weighing more than 22kg (3st 6.5lbs). To make it even more complicated, the backless booster seats bought before the law changed can still be used as the regulation will only apply to new products appearing on the market. Perplexed? Well you are not alone.
The research commissioned by Confused.com into parents’ knowledge and attitudes towards booster seats and seat belts reveals over a third (34%) of parents admit to occasionally not using a booster seat for their child. Excuses from parents include not transferring the booster seat when switching to another car (33%), believing their child did not need one (26%) and believing it was not needed as they were just making a short trip (25%). Even for parents who use a booster seat, the law can be contentious, as debates (3) are raging on social media over what is considered to be safe. Whereas nearly half (46%) believe booster seats with backs are safer, one in six (16%) believe backless booster seats offer the same level of protection. Research also suggested a cynical, 30% of parents believe increased booster regulations are a result of lobbying by profit driven car seat manufacturers.
Confused.com’s motoring editor Amanda Stretton says:
“If the old regulations weren’t hard enough to understand, the new changes may make it even trickier for parents to keep their children safe. The fact that car seats bought before the law changed are still acceptable to use sends mixed messages. The Government needs to simplify the messaging around backless car seat use so there is no misunderstanding over what is and is not safe.
“Parents must also be aware of the potential cost consequences of having an accident with their child in the car. Nearly half (44%) do not replace their child’s car seat after a crash. However, parents should always replace booster seats after an accident, even if there is no obvious damage, as they may become weakened and unable to provide the same level of protection should a second collision occur. Regulatory approved car seats can cost in the region of £80 to £350(4). If parents are caught travelling with their child in the car without the correct booster for their age, height and weight, they could face a £100 fine.
“For more information on the new booster requirements and how to comply with the law, visit Confused.com.”
Tanya Robinson, Child Safety Centre Manager at The Future of Transport, added:
“There is a large amount of uncertainty among parents and carers about the latest changes to child restraint regulations. Whilst this latest change affects the types of child restraint available in future, there is not going to be a ban on “boosters”. What it means is that new booster cushions approved and coming to market after the change to Regulation 44 will only be suitable for children over 22kg and 125cm height. However, TRL recommend, where possible, to use a high back booster seat.
“Regardless of the detail of the regulations, it is vital that parents ensure that their child is in the correct type of seat for their height and weight, as this will allow for maximum protection in the event of an accident. Parents faced with the growing range and style of seats should remember there is no race to move a child into the next type of seat because they get older. Ensure that the car seat you choose is appropriate for your child’s weight, height and age and that it fits well in your vehicle.
“The best advice for parents is to always check the markings on the child seat to help identify if the child seat is appropriate for your child. Parents should also remember that not all car seats are designed to be the same. The instructions that apply to one car seat may not apply to other seats. Always read the manual for your car seat.”
ABOUT THE ARTICLE
Unless otherwise stated, all figures taken from omnibus research are carried out by One Poll on behalf of Confused.com. This was an online poll of 2,000 UK parents who drive (nationally representative sample). The research was conducted between 07/11/2016 and 14/11/2016.
About TRL’s Child Safety Centre
TRL’s Child Safety Centre specialises in the safety of children in vehicles. It is the UK’s only independent accredited laboratory offering the type approval of child restraint systems, as well as product development and consultancy and training for manufacturers and retailers.