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Should there be an official safety body for testing child car seat? Please read.

(10 Posts)
SaffronCake Tue 16-Aug-11 11:14:36

I have written a letter to send to my MP and the childrens secretary. Before I send it I'd like some feedback from Mumsnetters? Here it is...


I am currently trying to chose a group 1 carseat (roughly 9 months to 4 years) for my daughter, who has just turned 9Kg and is 10 months old, before she entirely outgrows the group 0 seat she is using (which will happen within weeks). I am dismayed to find that there is no single, clear source of reliable safety information.

Which? carry out independent testing but some of their results are keenly disputed, not least by a significant number of paediatricians. This is worrying. There is also a rearfacing carseat lobby, who have some persuasive evidence to suggest we all should be using one of the half or dozen or so rearfacing seats available for children up to 4 years old (and sometimes beyond). Yet another picture emerges from the most often consulted source of safety information- carseat retailers. The likes of Mothercare, Halfords of are often unclear about what seat is safest and the fitting an installation advice received by such retailers is regularly called into question.

Some manufacturers do maintain lists of cars known to be a good fit with their carseats, however the lists typically only cover a limited range of the cars commonly found on the UK roads. Where a parent purchases a carseat online they are often effectively gambling that they will fit it correctly to their car, so fitting lists need to be far more comprehensive and detailed by each variation in model. I have heard estimates that as many as 7 in 10 carseats on UK roads are incorrectly fitted. It shouldn't even be 1 in 10!

It all builds to a picture whereby a concerned parent can find it completely impossible to know what kind of seat provides what quality of protection. Price and manufacturer provide no clear indication either, with some very expensive seats being widely condemned and some seats at half the top prices being much praised (which ones depends on who you believe of course).

A few years ago the government introduced “Sharp” testing to give motorcyclists a more accurate picture of what level of safety a helmet could provide. After some initial teething troubles with what exactly was involved in the testing there is now a wide consensus among riders and manufacturers that the Sharp tests are useful. The sharp tests were developed from the NCAP safety testing of cars, which again has been found to be very helpful to both the buyers of cars and the manufacturers.

With the ongoing political interests in minimising road traffic injuries and deaths and in saving money spent on public services (for example the cost to the NHS of treating a seriously injured child) shouldn't we be looking to having a proper, official and reliable way of rating the safety of child car seats? This, surely, is too important to leave to conflicting sources like Which? and the Scandinavian official tests. It is definitely too important to leave to the advice of a minimally trained teenager selling these things on their day off from college, or from a video clip posted on a website, but all too often parents find this is what they are having to rely on.

I envision that the proposed body for testing child carseats would be virtually self-funding too, with manufacturers being asked to cover the testing costs of the seats they submit. After a period for fine-tuning the practices testing could then be made mandatory.

I see this as an absolute win-win situation, for parents, for children, for manufacturers and for politicians. I await your reply with interest...


So Mumsnet, what do we think of the idea? Am I onto something here or am I alone in my confusion?

BartletForAmerica Tue 16-Aug-11 19:02:59

I think it is interesting but your letter is far too long. Letters should be on side of A4 or you run the risk of people just skimming your letter & ignoring it.

yousankmybattleship Tue 16-Aug-11 19:07:24

Your letter is far too long and wordy. I'm also not sure it is an issue. There are several specialist organisations (CAPT, Rospa, Brake to name just a few). Why not approach them first if you really want to do something?

SaffronCake Tue 16-Aug-11 22:30:00

I'm really disappointed that the responses above have attributed more importance to my writing style than to any of the substance. For the record, the whole letter fits onto one side of A4 in Open Office writer (font Times, size 11, default letter layout, rich text format).

Neither CAPT, RoSPA nor Brake appear to publish reviews on individual car seats at all. I could find not one single named seat tested or reviewed in any way by any of them. Perhaps this my research is at fault? yousankmybattleship you say these organisations have done the job already, could you tell me which seats were tested, by whom, how and where can I read the results please?

yousankmybattleship Tue 16-Aug-11 22:43:03

I don't understand why they would test individual seats. They are all manufactured to meet European safety standards. The differences between them are really just down to personal choice, not safety.
If your question is whether they are fitted correctly then that is a different issue and one that requires better training for retailers and information for parents. It is not difficult to test whether a car seat fits your car properly, but maybe you are right that not all parents feel confident to make this judgment. If this is your worry then maybe a pleasant and focussed letter to Halfords and/or Mothercare from a concerned parent might achieve more than a rather rambling letter to an MP.

BranchingOut Tue 16-Aug-11 22:55:18

I think that the substance is fine and good for you for writing it, but the first two responses were correct in that it needs to be much sharper.

This letter will be scan read by a secretary/administrator, who may or may not put it in front of your MP - the salient points need to really jump out.

Your first paragraph should spell out exactly what you want to achieve and why. To be honest, I think somebody will read the description of your daughter's age, size and weight and their attention will already be drifting.

Your first paragraph should make it clear:

You want: an independent source of reliable safety information similar to the Sharp system.

Because: the current sources are not reliable

Why: to cut child passenger deaths and injuries in road accidents.

Consider using headings (maybe basing it upon the above structure) and breaking up the letter with bullets etc.

SaffronCake Tue 16-Aug-11 23:12:28

"I don't understand why they would test individual seats. They are all manufactured to meet European safety standards. The differences between them are really just down to personal choice, not safety."

That is scarily ill-informed.

yousankmybattleship Tue 16-Aug-11 23:17:40

It is not actually, but hey ho!
I wish you well with your campaign.

omnishambles Tue 16-Aug-11 23:25:20

I think its tricky because it isnt like helmets in that one will be safest no matter how you wear them as there is only one right way of wearing a motorbike helmet.

You could make the safest, most 5-star car seat when fitted correctly but that will still be a deathtrap in a crash if not fitted properly whereas a 2 star one will be better if fitted properly.

What I am trying to say is that there are too many variables for an organisation to control properly and on balance it is probably the fitting that is the most important thing and not the 'best' in terms of safety.

In fact the biggest battle is still to get all people using them in the first place judging by round here...

BartletForAmerica Wed 17-Aug-11 09:53:34

"Before I send it I'd like some feedback from Mumsnetters?"

"I'm really disappointed that the responses above have attributed more importance to my writing style than to any of the substance. "

You got feedback and then were "really disappointed" that you were given feedback.


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