Four in ten parents breaking the law on child seats and putting children in ‘deadly peril’ Skip to main content
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Four in ten parents breaking the law on child seats and putting children in ‘deadly peril’

Four in ten parents (38%) admit to breaking the law by not always using a child seat for children who legally require one, according to new research. In addition, 22% of those with infants under 15 months usually travel with them facing-forward - something which is also illegal.

Child seats are a legal requirement until a child is 12 years old or 135cm tall (whichever comes first) and rising to 150cm in the Republic of Ireland. But many parents are not following this and could be putting their children in danger, according to the new figures, from Halfords.

The cost of living crisis could be a contributing factor - two thirds of parents (66%) with children aged 12 or under say that as a result of money being tighter currently, they are trying to make their child seats ‘last longer’. For some, this could be impacting safety - of them, 26% say their child is using a child seat that is not the correct size.

Just 62% of parents who have children under the age of 12 and under 135cm say their child ‘always’ uses a child seat. Instead, a quarter (25%) admit to making ‘exceptions’. A further seven per cent say their child ‘regularly doesn’t’ use one, and five per cent (equating to one in twenty children who should be using one) say they ‘don’t usually’ use one or ‘never’ do.

Amongst parents whose children regularly do not use child seats, over half (53%) say their child has outgrown their previous one and they’ve not replaced it, while 27% say they do not think they are necessary.

Parents breaking the law on infants car travel

Of particular concern is the number of infants under 15 months travelling in an illegal manner. Infants' heads are proportionally heavier than older children compared to their body, and their necks are more delicate. As such, it is a legal requirement that they are rear-facing until 15 months, to protect them in the event of a crash. While not a legal requirement, it is also strongly recommended they travel in the rear seats for further protection.

However, just over half (55%) say that their child travels rear-facing in the back. A further 21% travel with them rear-facing in the front. And nearly a quarter (22%) are breaking the law completely by having their infant forward-facing. Most worryingly, 3% say their infant does not use a child seat at all and is instead just held by an adult - leaving them at risk of being flung around the car in the event of an accident.

Parents getting many other factors wrong

There is a raft of guidance for parents aimed at making children as safe in the car as possible. But just 23% of parents say they have never contravened any of the guidance - from ensuring kids are not wearing bulky outwear in the seat, to how long they can be placed in a child seat.

Instead, over a third of adults (36%) say they let their child wear a jacket or other bulky outerwear in their child seat. This is advised against because it increases the likelihood of the child coming out of the seat in the event of a crash, and also increasing the risk of them overheating.

In addition, 28% of parents with an infant under one year old admit to driving for longer than two hours with them in a child seat - something which is advised against as it can cause breathing difficulties, and has previously been linked with child deaths.

It all goes out the window on holidays

Many parents may have noticed a slightly more relaxed approach to child seats in some European countries. And it appears that many Brits take the ‘when in Rome’ approach when abroad, with 41% saying they act differently abroad when it comes to use of child seats for their children than they do at home.

A fifth of parents (20%) who go abroad and use a car say that they ‘never’ use a child seat when in different counties. Meanwhile 42% say they would only bother with one if they were renting a car, but not for other car journeys, such as transfers.

Halfords CEO Graham Stapleton said: “As a parent and road safety advocate, I’m very concerned by these figures. Adult seat belts are simply not suitable for children and in a serious crash, may not hold them in place, potentially putting children in deadly peril”.

“We’re very aware of how the cost of living crisis is impacting families across the UK at the moment, and that it can be tempting to try and make car seats last a bit longer, even when kids are starting to outgrow them. Saving up for the full cost can take a bit of time. To help parents in this respect, we offer interest free credit on child seats, so they can get a car seat when they need one, even if they’ve not got the full amount up front.

"There’s also a lot of rules, regulation and guidance to get your head around when buying a car seat - that’s why we offer a fitting demonstration service, so parents can get bespoke advice to make the best decision for their child. For those that can’t make it in-store, we’ve also got a comprehensive list of easy-to-follow guidance on our website.”

Halfords was the first national retailer to offer a free car seat fitting demonstration and still leads the way today. When a car seat is purchased from Halfords, one of its fully trained fitters can demonstrate how to correctly fit it in the vehicle. Meanwhile in store experts are on-hard to offer parents advice about the best seat for their child. To help parents understand their iSize from their ISOFIX, Halfords has created an online buyers guide offering parents all they need to know - from an overview of the current rules and guidance, to how to choose the right size and type of seat.