|How NOT to do it.|
Most parents do some careful research before investing in a new car seat. What's the safest model? What does the latest research say? Which manufacturer do other parents rate best?
But very often one of the most important issues is overlooked - that of car seat compatibility.
Did you know that not every car seat fits every car? So having the top of the range, latest, greatest model isn't necessarily the safest option for your child. If it isn't compatible with the car you drive - it isn't safe. And of course that goes for any secondary car that the car seat is used in.
There are a number of factors that affect the fit - the shape of the car seat, the length of the seat belts, fixed headrests, underfloor storage compartments, the position of the seat belt anchor...so it's essential to check the compatibility before you purchase. Some retailers are extremely knowledgeable and will allow you to try out a seat in your car before you buy, but there are many that are not and buying online can also be risky. Check your retailers or sellers terms before committing to anything.
Added to the complications of making your selection is how many car seats you need to fit into your car. Three along the back can be tricky unless the car you drive has a wide, spacious back seat where they can be fitted safely side by side. And the use of Extended Rear Facing seats for example is almost entirely dependent on the space available.
The RSA Check it fits service found that out of all the installation errors they came across last year a total of 6% were purely down to incompatibility with the car. That's hundreds of children being ferried around day after day in car seats that simply don't fit the car they are in.
In fact, incorrectly fitter seats can be just as dangerous as no seat at all.
Ideally do all your homework before buying. If you are currently using a car seat and you'd like to get it checked out - the RSA Check it Fits free service can be found here.
Disclosure: I am working in collaboration with RSA for a series of posts on the importance of child car seats and the correct use of them. If you have any queries or concerns that you would like to raise on the matter please feel free to contact me and I will pass them over to RSA.
The importance of choosing the correct car seat