Of course, I would expect most of you to reply with a resounding ‘Yes!’. So why are so many children’s lives being put at risk by bad safety and fitting advice about child car seats?
Preventing people dying or being injured is something Which? has been campaigning on long and hard since its launch.
I’ve raised this question today to point you towards the theme of this year’s Road Safety Week: ‘Too young to die’, which has been running all week.
The Which? Car team has been supporting the week with news stories, with a particular focus on child car seats. Of course, a lot of you might yawn when I mention child car seats – maybe you don’t have children, or are way beyond that stage with yours.
I hope you don’t yawn, and I urge you to think about it in any case. It could affect you if you’re a grandparent, or a carer in some other way. In fact, anyone who takes a child up to 12-years-old in their car needs to use an appropriate seat.
Proper installation is crucial
If you have had to use a child car seat (for a child, obviously, not for yourself!), it’s important to get the installation right. Even the best seats can have their safety compromised if they aren’t correctly installed – and some are really quite complicated.
The first port of call for advice is the store you buy it from – and we recently investigated the big high street retailers. The results were shocking, with an unacceptable number of stores recommending inappropriate seats for our car and more than half fitting the seats incorrectly when demonstrating them.
Luckily, we recorded all the mystery shopping data and secretly filmed each visit, so we had hard evidence to take to the retailers in our follow up, asking each to sign up to our Retailer Best Practice charter – promising to improve what they do.
Improvements are on the horizon
Of the six major retailers we investigated and spoke to, four have signed up to our charter so far. Babies R Us, John Lewis, Mamas & Papas and Mothercare have all promised to improve.
Some have already conducted reviews of their car seat fitting services. For instance, Mamas & Papas has conducted its own mystery shopping investigations at its stores and promised to make big changes to how it trains staff.
A way still to go
Disappointingly, Halfords has so far not signed up. It welcomed the concept of a charter and says it’s considering it internally. We’re continuing discussions with Halfords on this.
Tesco was more disappointing still. Not only has it not signed up, it also lacks a national car seat fitting service. So until it changes its stance, we advise you to steer well clear of its stores when buying child car seats.
This isn’t the end of the process though – we plan to go back to all the retailers when the charter has been established to see how they’re getting on with delivering acceptable advice.
In the mean time, we’d really like to hear about your experiences. Have you been sold a seat that doesn’t suit your child or fit your car? Has a retailer installed a seat for you, only for you to discover they did it wrong? Or maybe you’ve found a retailer that went the extra mile?