Car Seat Safety Crisis: 70% of Car Seats Are Missing the Mark

Experts Share 6-Step Guide to a Perfect Fit

Choosing the perfect car seat can feel like navigating a maze for new parents. With endless options and conflicting information, ensuring your child’s safety on the road can be overwhelming.

Recent data from In Car safety Centre reveals that 70% of child car seats are either unsuitable for the child, incorrectly fitted, or in some cases, both. This includes more straight forward ISOFIX seats, where as many as 6% are incorrectly fitted.

With these shocking statistics in mind, leading car seat brand Avionaut, has shared its ultimate car seat checklist, a comprehensive guide that reveals the top 6 things parents should consider when choosing a car seat, along with insights from car seat safety experts.

“Choosing a car seat is one of the most important decisions a parent makes for their child’s safety,” says Fiona Suffield, Country Manager at Avionaut. “With so many car seats available, it can be difficult to find clear and unbiased information to pick the perfect one. To help navigate this process, we’ve created a helpful checklist highlighting the top 6 things to consider when shopping for a car seat to make sure you get the perfect fit for your child.”

  1. Safety First 

When selecting a car seat, look for an i-Size car seat (also known as R129), which meets the most up-to-date European safety regulations. Some car seats go the extra mile with even more rigorous testing by organisations like the Swedish Plus Test. The voluntary Swedish Plus Test is especially valuable as it measures neck impact forces, making it the world’s toughest crash test. 

Top Tip: By prioritising i-Size compliance and considering additional testing like the Swedish Plus Test, you can ensure your child has the best possible protection on the road.

  • Rear-Facing

Fiona Suffield, Country Manager at Avionaut, commented: “Rear-facing car seats are incredibly effective, reducing the risk of head and neck injuries by up to 5 times and the risk of death or injury in a crash by 90% .”

The law requires babies to travel rear-facing until at least 15 months old, but some i-Size car seats extend this benefit up to 6 years old. This provides superior head, neck, and spine protection during a crash. Once your child outgrows their rear-facing seat, choose a high back booster seat for continued top-notch safety. High back boosters are suitable for children up to 12 years old, offering long-lasting peace of mind.

Top Tip: Once your child’s head is within 3 centimetres (or about an inch) of the top of the seat, it’s time to find the next stage car seat. And when they finally outgrow their rear-facing seat, choose a high back booster seat for continued protection.

  • Car Compatibility

Planning ahead is key. Make sure that your chosen car seat is compatible with your car and install your seat before your baby arrives – a safe ride home from the hospital is essential. Most manufacturers offer online car fit guides for easy checking. 

Check if your car has ISOFIX connectors (sometimes hidden between seat padding) for simple car seat installation. Check your car’s manual or consult a professional if you’re unsure.

Top Tip: ISOFIX is an internationally standardised car seat fitting system. It uses two metal anchors built into your car to securely lock the car seat (or its base) in place, eliminating the need for seat belts. While ISOFIX simplifies installation and minimises errors, a properly installed seatbelt is still considered equally safe.

  • The Perfect Fit

A perfectly fitted car seat is crucial for ultimate safety. Here’s how to ensure a snug and secure fit in 3 simple steps:

  1. Tight Harness: A tight harness is key to keeping your child secure in the seat. The harness should be snug against their body, not loose or baggy, with enough room to fit two fingers under the strap. This is true for all car seat models.
  2. Seat Inclination: An overly reclined seat can cause your little one’s head to flop forward uncomfortably, and more importantly, unsafely. Adjust the seat to a more upright position for optimal support.
  3. Strap Placement: As your child grows, the harness straps should be adjusted. For rear-facing seats, the straps should come through the slots at or slightly below their shoulders. For forward-facing seats, the straps should be at or just above the shoulders. Straps should always be parallel on the shoulders and straight, without any twists.

Top Tip: Always remove your child’s coat before securing them in the car seat. Thick coats create extra space between the child and the harness – in a crash, this space could allow them to slip out of the straps. You can place a blanket over the straps to keep them warm if required.

  • Must Have Features

Extended Rear-Facing

Keep your little one rear-facing for as long as possible, ideally until they outgrow the maximum height limit, to reduce the risk of severe injury in the event of a collision.

Lightweight

Choose a car seat with a weight that you can comfortably manage in addition to your baby’s weight, especially if you’ll be lifting the car seat frequently. 

ISOFIX

Consider an ISOFIX base for easy installation that minimises installation errors and stays in the car for convenience.

360º Rotation

As your child grows and transfers to a second stage car seat, a 360° rotating seat will make it easier for you to get your little one in and out of the car. No more awkward manoeuvring – just swivel the seat and you’re good to go!

Ergonomic Design

Look for a car seat designed with ergonomics in mind. This means adjustable harnesses and headrests that adapt to your child’s size for a snug fit. Some seats even offer removable padding for newborns and extra space for toddlers, ensuring proper head, neck, and back support at every stage. This ergonomic design keeps your child comfortable while maximising their safety during car journeys.

  • Second Hand Seats

While second-hand car seats can seem tempting, they may have hidden damage, passed expiry dates or missing parts that could compromise your child’s safety in a crash. Additionally, older models might not meet the latest safety standards.

For peace of mind, prioritise a brand new car seat. It will come with complete instructions, ensuring a proper fit in your car and maximum protection for your child.

Top Tip: Keep an eye out on retailer websites for discounts and promotions to save money on high-quality car seats. Some retailers also offer a price-match guarantee and payment plans.