Friday, 27 April 2018

We thought all Car Seats were the same until...{Lessons in Car seat Safety}

There are a lot of essentials to consider when you're anticipating the arrival of a little one but generally most of us start with the most important things; cots, pushchairs and of course car seats.
 Most hospitals require that your baby is in their car seat when you are discharged from the labour ward, for us it was certainly one of the first things on our list; what we didn't realise was that not all car seats are the same. Obviously there's an abundance of brands and styles, but we honestly believed that because all car seats were tested to the same standard they were equally safe and, apparently, we aren't alone. Of course any car seat is safer than none at all, but there can be a big difference in the level of safety. We did research the car seats we bought for our children but we found much more information on ease of use, comfort and being able to use it with pushchair adaptors than its level of safety.

A few weeks ago Joe and I were invited by the Besafe team to come along to the Harrogate Nursery Fair to learn more about choosing the best car seat and some of the differences in safety.
Besafe are a Scandinavian company who have been at the forefront of improving child car seat safety for many years.
They have a history of promoting extended rear facing seats which are common practice in Scandinavia. We had never heard that toddlers and indeed older children could rear face and were very surprised to hear just how much safer they are seated this way (up to 500% Safer!)
We also met with specialist car seat experts and bloggers, Therese from ERFMission and Margaret from Rearfacingtoddlers, who shared some of their invaluable knowledge with us and debunked a lot of our theories about sitting older children backwards!
They both not only have extensive knowledge on car seat safety but are extremely passionate about making sure parents are informed enough to make the best choices for their children.
It struck both myself and Joe that despite there being so much information out there, choosing a car seat is just so confusing! We've also found that despite doing our research like most parents before they buy child related products, there are a lot of things about car seats that just aren't common knowledge or widely publicised, which is concerning considering they are something almost every parent uses at some point.

We suddenly found ourselves with lots of questions and luckily we were with the right people to give us some answers...

"Aren't all car seats tested to the same standard? Surely they are all just as safe?"

All car seats sold in Europe must fall within the legal requirements ( known as ECE R44/04) but because they must only meet the minimum it leaves a lot of scope for just how safe a car seat they are.
Many retailers and parents have felt for a while that the current regulations just aren't rigorous or realistic enough as they don't take into account the effects of higher impact car collisions or impact from the side, which occurs in a large majority of accidents.
As well as the standard European test some car seat retailers voluntarily put their chairs through more strenuous testing to show how well they stand up against others on the market. The Swedish Plus test and ADAC (a German motoring company) are two of the most well recognised testers in the industry and both are known for being difficult to pass. We'd never heard of these tests until we met with the Besafe team. It really was an eye opener to see the differences on the seats up close!
Choosing car seats that have scored well on the ADAC or Swedish Plus tests means your child has significantly less chance of injury in the event of a collision. These tests are designed to take into account factors such as higher speed front, rear and side impact as well as things like the effect on neck load.
The newer regulation E129 or I-size has been introduced and will gradually become the only standard in the next few years but it only applies to ISO Fix car seats. Amongst other changes this regulation will require children to sit rear facing for longer, up until 15 months and see all car seats have side impact protection as standard. Car seat suitability will also rely on height rather than weight. These changes are very much being welcomed by car seat specialists and parents alike!

"What is extended rear facing? Why should my child sit this way?"

ERF or extended rear facing simply means going past the minimum age for a child to do so.
Speaking with specialists in car seat safety, Therese and Margaret, what surprised us most was that toddlers and even older children could be rear facing; not only that but they are 5 times safer this way.  They told us that although this is common practise in other countries as the safest option, here in the UK it is something so many parents are not aware of. Certainly it hasn't been included in any information I've been given after having two children nor something that has been presented as an option when we looked at car seats.
 Simply put, it is a fact that rear facing is the safest way for a child to travel and the longer they can sit this way, the better. The most important fact is that it dramatically cuts the risk of stress on the child's neck in the event of a collision.
There is more detailed information and some really interesting facts on Margaret's website here.

"What else do we need to know about car seat safety?"

Other things that we didn't realise were that not all car seats fit all cars and that the majority of injuries sustained by children are due to factors like poorly fitted car seats, using the wrong size seat for the child and improper use of the restraints.
Like us, most parents buy and fit the car seat themselves without realising they might not even fit their model of car; It was easy for us to pick up a car seat from a store but we had no idea that it might not even be compatible. Using ISOFix greatly reduces the risk of incorrect fitting thanks to the colour indicators on the base which go from red to green when properly installed.
Making sure the car seat is the size for your child is very important; follow the manufacturers instructions and if in doubt, get it checked by an approved fitting centre.

 Like so many parents I thought a lot more about pushchairs than car seats,
again it was largely down to my belief that they were all the same!
I was ready to spend a lot on a lovely pushchair but didn't think it necessary for a car seats.
Despite having had two children I can never remember much info in the Bounty packs or hearing any of the things, in the wider media, that I've now learnt.
I feel like this is something that really needs to change; we should be much more aware of the potential risks involved through ill fitted and cheaply made car seats. A child has little chance of escaping unscathed in a collision if they are not seated safely.

Therese has a brilliant post about choosing a car seat here which I highly recommend; it has a great list of things to consider before you splash out.

This is not about judging parents who buy cheaper car seats - price was certainly a big factor for us - or the decisions they make about whether to rear face or not, but the fact is that there just isn't clear enough information out there for parents to help them make an informed decision about the car seats they choose for their children.
In my opinion, travelling in a car is a risk full stop, so as parents it is our decision as to how we minimise the harm to our child in the event of a collision. Researching it myself, I found it really hard to find out just how safe a car seat is. Some of the popular brands, including ones we have used, despite passing the minimum legal requirements actually scored very poorly on the ADAC and Swedish Plus tests which is certainly something to consider.

It can be really confusing trying to sift through all the different sources of information- we definitely found a lot to process, but there are some great websites to help you make the best choice for your family

Over the next few weeks we're going to be testing our some of the new Besafe car seats, looking at the main safety differences and trying out rear facing with little E ourselves, pop back soon to see how we got on...
Stay Safe!

NB Post part of an ongoing collaboration with Besafe. All opinions are our own. Information on in-car safety and car seats has been sourced by us through a number of resources and links have been provided where possible. All information is what we believe to be true however it should not be substituted for the advice of an expert opinion or professional car safety specialist.


1 comment

  1. Really nice post, your blog is interesting and so informative. Wait for your next blog post. Lear More


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