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Child Car Safety Seats: The Dangers of Not Choosing the Correct Seat

Child Car Safety Seats: The Dangers of Not Choosing the Correct Seat

Every parent’s priority is their child’s safety, and almost all parents will go out of their way to ensure that their child is safe and protected. They will buy all the products necessary and in their capacity to safeguard their children. However, when it comes to the correct use or assembly of those products, parents are falling short. In fact, a survey conducted earlier this year by the consumer service, Which? revealed that only 52% of 2000 parents asked, believed that ‘children must normally use a child car seat until they’re 12 years old or 135cm tall’ . Although it is occasionally understandable that parents put their children in a car seat not fit for their needs, it is never acceptable, and the case of Louise Emma Williams v The Estate of Dayne Joshua Williams [2013] EWCA Civ 455 , perfectly illustrates this.In the case, three parties were involved in a car accident: Dayne Williams, Louise Williams (not related) and her daughter Emma, who was three years and two months old at the time. Dayne, who caused the accident while under the influence of drugs and alcohol died, and Emma suffered serious back injuries. Later Louise fought the estate of Dayne Williams for the injuries endured by Emma and the estate accepted liability to Emma, but had stated that Louise should also be held liable as she acted negligently when she put Emma on a booster seat, for which she did not meet all the requirements, when she carried a different child seat in the car. The judge found that ‘if she had been placed in the seat with the five point harness, her injuries would largely have been avoided’. This clearly demonstrates the importance of using the correct child car seat.

How the law currently stands

The law currently states that babies who weigh up to 13kg should be placed in a rear-facing baby seat. If that seat is placed in the front, then that particular airbag must be deactivated. A child who weighs between 9kg and 18kg can be placed in a forward or rear-facing baby seat, whilst children weighing between 15kg and 25kg should be seated in a forward-facing child car seat, AKA a booster seat. Finally, if your child weighs over 22kg, they should still be using a booster cushion until they reach a height of 135cm. It is also important to note that unless the car seat is compatible with a lap seat, it should only be used in conjunction with a diagonal strap. And remember, it is the driver’s responsibility to make sure that any child under the age of 14 is restrained as the law requires, including using a UN ECE approved restraint.

When can a child travel without a restraint?

The only time a child can legally travel without a car seat is in a taxi or minicab. The rule is that a child under the age of three can sit in the back without a car seat or a seatbelt, and after the age of three, can travel in the front or back seat only when wearing an adult seat belt. If an unexpected journey occurs and you have to use your own vehicle, only children above the age of three can travel when using an adult seatbelt if it is necessary and over a short distance. Under no circumstances is a child under the age of three allowed to travel if the correct child seat isn’t available and there is no seatbelt. Further, the only time a child over the age of three can travel in the backseat without a seatbelt, is when the vehicle does not have one.

What car seats are available and how to correctly fit them:

Car seats fitted with seatbelts:Firstly, you must ensure that the seatbelt passes through the blue guidelines if it is a rear-facing seat and through the red guidelines if it is a forward-facing seat. As you tighten the seatbelt, you then need to push all your weight into the seat to ensure it is secured in place. If it is done correctly the seat should not be able to move forward or sideways. Finally, check that the seatbelt is not resting on the frame of the seat. Isofix Seats:These seats are connected to built in Isofix slots in your car (but not all cars will have these). You have to first make sure that the specific Isofix seat is approved for use in your particular vehicle, as these particular seats don’t fit into every car that has Isofix slots. First find the Isofix connectors on the child seat and push them into the Isofix slots, usually located behind the back seat in your car. Note that if the seat you are using has a supporting leg, that the leg is correctly adjusted, to ensure the seat is braced to the floor. You will see an indicator light on the car seat change from red to green when this is all done correctly.Remember, these are the basic guidelines; there are many different child car seats and all of them are going to be different. Some may have a lever or button to tighten the seatbelt; others may have a lock off device to prevent the seatbelt slipping. What’s important is that you read and follow the instructions provided with that particular product.Finally, if a child car seat has been involved in a previous accident, you must never use that seat again. The product could be damaged even if the damage is not visible.If you would like advice on personal injury issues, you can contact a member of IBB's Personal Injury team, call us on 08456 381381 or email pi@ibblaw.co.uk.