Choosing and fitting child safety seats

The IAM provides advice to parents on how to choose and fit safety seats to meet the legal requirements and ensure maximum safety for children.

The UK’s Institute of Advanced Motoring (IAM) is providing parents with advice on the fitting and use of car restraints to ensure that children have both safe and comfortable car journeys. The use of such restraints for children who are under 13 years old is compulsory under UK law that they use an appropriate car seat but choosing the right one and ensuring it is fitted correctly, can be difficult for some parents.

To help them to make the right choices, the IAM’s Caroline Holmes has provided parents with the following helpful tips:

Suiting the child and the car

The seat should be appropriate for the age and size of the child and provide some flexibility for growth so the child doesn’t outgrow it too quickly. Professional help is available in finding and fitting suitable seats and most motoring retail outlets can provide advice on the suitability of child seating. There are also resources on the web that are helpful.

Additionally, some seats are unsuitable for some types of vehicles. ISOFIX is the international standard for child seat attachment and most modern vehicles have compatible mounts.

If the car is fitted with such mounts and it moves around, it’s probably not secured correctly. In such circumstances, Caroline advises contacting the manufacturer for advice. Having done that, if you have any doubts replace it.


The condition of the seat, its belts and its attachment to the car should be checked on a regular basis to ensure it hasn’t deteriorated or come loose. Wear and tear on the seat can detract from its performance.

Manufacturers provide a tag with an expiry date for the seat, which should also be checked and noted.


The advice from the IAM is that child restraints should always be fitted in the rear seat of the car whenever possible. If the front seat needs to be used, the front passenger seat airbag must be disabled to prevent injury if it deploys. Most modern cars have a clear switch which enables and disables the passenger air bag. If this can’t be found of if you’re unsure, consult a dealer before using a car seat in the front of the vehicle.

Some seats are front facing and some are rear facing. There are adaptable seats which can be faced towards the front of the car or the rear. For smaller children, babies and toddlers, front facing seats present a greater risk of neck in a crash because the head is heavy and unrestrained whilst the body is firmly secured. The neck structures haven’t developed enough to provide enough support and so rear facing seats are safer since they support the head in a frontal impact. The IAM recommends placing small children in a rear facing seat for as long as possible.

Toddler control

Toddlers can present particular challenges to drivers, according to Caroline, being particularly prone to wriggling out of their harnesses. “Double-check the harness is the correct height and pulled comfortably around the child. You can check the harness isn’t too tight by putting two flat fingers between your child’s collar-bone and the harness,” she said.

“Unfortunately some tough love might be needed here. Lots of children aren’t keen on being strapped in, but it really is essential to ensure a safe and secure journey for the whole family,” Caroline concluded.

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Human Factors

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