More research into most common car seat installation errors

The most recent research from the Transurban Road Safety Centre at NeuRA uncovered that when installing a car seat, fewer people make mistakes when using ISOFIX compatible systems, compared to those installing the car seat with the vehicle’s seatbelt.

Researchers found that:

  • People who installed their child car seats using ISOFIX were up to three times less likely to make a mistake, versus those who installed their seats using the vehicle’s seatbelt.
  • Despite this, one in three people using ISOFIX systems still made mistakes, reinforcing advice to always get a child car seat fitted by a professional.  
  • Australia has very high levels (99%) of child car seat use and 98% of the time children are in the right car seat for their size. However, through this study, researchers found that more than 55% of the time people are still making errors in installing and using the restraint. This is important, because mistakes in the way a child car seat is used can increase the risk of injury to children in a crash.

To inform the study, researchers observed over 370 children in vehicles at daycare centres, primary schools, pre schools and local government restraint fitting days. Overall, the most common errors observed included:

  • Loose seatbelts
  • Seatbelt twists
  • Incorrect seatbelt routing

In ISOFIX compatible restraints, the most common errors were:

  • Use of both ISOFIX and seatbelt to install the restraint
  • Loose webbing
  • Failure to correctly attach to ISOFIX fitting on car

In addition to the observational study, crash testing at NeuRA’s Transurban Road Safety Centre looked at the protection offered by both ISOFIX and seatbelt-installed restraints in a crash, as well as what happens in a crash when car seats secured each way were installed incorrectly.

This testing showed that when they are installed correctly (with no errors), both ways of securing the restraint offer the same protection to a child in a crash.

However, the crash tests also demonstrated that although errors are made less frequently with ISOFIX systems, the consequence of making an error when installing a car seat this way could be worse than if errors are made when installing the restraint with the vehicle’s seatbelt.

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