A recent survey by road safety campaign group Good Egg reported that two out of three parents are strapping children into wrongly fitted car seats.
The figures were released shortly after the Department of Transport revealed the number of children killed or seriously injured in road accidents in Britain has risen for the first time in two decades. Some have blamed a rise in purchasing seats on-line with no lessons in fitting the seat to blame. However, a Which? Survey in 2014 revealed nine out of ten shops, including well known high street stores, made potential lethal mistakes when demonstrating how to install baby and child seats.
Legislation currently going through Parliament will provide a new safer standard of child seat known as “i-size” to be used alongside existing laws. A child will be required to travel in a rearward position until the age of 15 months and will provide better protection for head and neck. A system based on the height rather than age of a child will give greater protection to young children.
All parents want the best for their children and to keep them safe. But many parents do not realise the dangers to their children of using incorrectly or poorly fitted seats. There are also severe dangers caused by having items stored on the rear parcel shelf of a car which can fly off in an accident and cause severe injury to a passenger even if they are properly secured in a seat.
The failure to check that the child seat is appropriate and properly fitted can have other consequences too. Usually where an accident is entirely caused by another driver you would not expect to be liable for any damage or injury suffered by yourself or your passengers. However a recent case decided by the court demonstrates that extra caution is required where child seats are concerned. In this case the mother had strapped her 3 year old daughter into a booster seat rather than the forward facing child seat she had available. The manufacturer’s instructions indicated that the child did not meet the age, height or weight criteria for the booster seat. The car was involved in a collision with another vehicle. The accident was entirely the fault of the other driver but sadly the child suffered serious injuries and a claim was made for damages on behalf of the child.
At the trial it was admitted by the insurers on behalf of the driver that the accident was entirely his fault however they argued that, had the child been strapped into the appropriate child seat, the child’s injuries would have been much less severe. They therefore claimed that the mother had been negligent and should have to pay 25% of the damages awarded to her daughter. The court agreed with this argument.
Regardless of the legal implications of this ruling, it is a salient reminder to all drivers that they must ensure that any child seat they use is appropriate for the particular child and to follow carefully the manufacturer’s instructions as to installation and suitability.
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