Hands up if you have an isofix point in your car?
This will amaze you: Out of 4,015 mums who applied to be a Mother & Baby awards tester this year, how many…? Go on. Have a guess? Or perhaps everybody knows this?
Perhaps, I should explain why my jaw dropped at the answer. Four, maybe five years ago, isofix car seats were entered into the Mother & Baby Awards for the first time. I remember I found it nigh on impossible to find enough mums who had isofix points in their car and I was quite ready to thrown my hands up and declare that it would be impossible to do a proper test. If I found one mum, none of her friends has isofix, so everybody would have to examine the isofix car seat in the one and only car it would fit. “How’s this going to catch on?” I remember thinking, “and what good if an isofix car seat wins and most people can’t use it?”
So I built the question into the application form just to make my life a little easier. 2,703 mums said that they do have an isofix point in their car. That’s more that 67%! Put it another way, ask 20 car-driving mums and only 7 will say that they don’t or they don’t know if they do. Certainly shattered my early scepticism.
Car seat safety has come a very long way. When I was a child I remember the government advertising campaign with the unforgettable slogan: “Clunk Click every trip.” It has been so completely etched on the public conscience. Now, if I don’t put my seat belt on before I drive – even though it cuts my neck – I feel naked. Having lost a school friend through the windscreen of her mother’s car, it seems insane that we were once so lax about using our seat belts. But before that time, as the youngest child in my family, I’d travel just sat on a cushion on the handbrake between my parents in the front seat! The reason was both to prevent my carsickness and the inevitable squabbling that I’d cause with my siblings on the back seat. Anyway, I’m still here to tell the tale.
The day we took our first child home from the hospital, we had to bring in our brand new Britax rocker car seat into the maternity ward to prove to the midwife that we were going to take our parenting responsibly very seriously. She watched us strap our newborn in and escorted us to the car to check we knew how to secure the seat properly. I was nervous if I didn’t pass the test she’d not let us take our precious cargo home. The next 20 minutes dive was the most apprehensive journey of my life. My husband drove cautiously and meanwhile i wanted to scream at all the overtaking cars, “Slow down, we have a baby on board!”
Two years later, Britax bought out a seat that would fit onto a pushchair. I was gutted. This was in effect a travel system. Such a brilliant idea to be able to move baby from car to pram without having to disturb him; however, being strapped for cash we had to make do for baby number 2 with what we’d purchased for ‘numero uno’.
I have to ask a few questions here:
Do mums today buy their first stage infant carrier car seat (group 0/0+) as a single item anymore?
Or do you choose the Travel System because it gives you the whole whole package (pushchair, carry cot, raincover, cosytoes and car seat) and look to see which Travel System is a Gold winner and just accept whatever car seat that comes with it?
If that’s true, is there any point having a Mother & Baby Award for the group 0/0+ car seats if no one purchases one on its own anymore?
There’s no doubt that every parent takes the subject of getting the right car seat for their car and ensuring that their baby is a safe as it is possible to be, however it doesn’t make the subject any less confusing. I know I’m confused.
My youngest is now nine, nearly ten and since the law changed to say that every child under 1.35m in height or under 12 needs to be in a booster seat, as the little squirt that he is, he really should be in his. However, as a rule, I’m not sure all car seat rules are properly thought through.
You’ve probably seen the crash test videos where they propel a car body down a track at speed and show the effect that the impact of a crash will have. The child car seat breaks loose and the dummy of a child is thrown across the inside of the car. Normally when I see these things my thoughts take this kind of order: “Gosh, how shocking! I wouldn’t want that to happen to one of mine.” I’m scared of what might happen. Then comes my guilty conscience because the issue of child car seats has become a source of irritation lately. Everytime I fail to get my independently minded and very vocal child to use his rather hard and uncomfortable booster seat. I guess I’m breaking the letter of the law. But trying to both ensure his safety and keep within the law involves a lot of stressful yelling. Possibly if I just give up, let him ditch the booster and leave him to cling on with his teeth, toes and finger nails I’d drive without the distraction and we’d both be a lot safer.
Which? are very vocal about child car seat safety and are seen as an independent body who have the consumer’s interest to heart. They rate car seats based on how well each seat performs in crash tests, how good the level of side impact product the seat gives and so forth. However, I’m a bit confused about how they draw their final conclusions. Part of the test looks at how easy the seat is to fix and what the likelihood is that somebody will fit it wrongly. They are looking for the idiot proof. Surely today’s parents whose super-antennae are sharply tuned to protect our little ones aren’t going to make the mistake of fitting a car seat incorrectly? Doesn’t this explain the growth of the isofix system? We’re absolutely paranoid! And when they show you a child dummy strapped into a car seat flying across the inside of the car and through the front windscreen; is that to show you that the car seat is rubbish or what happens if incorrectly fitted? They normally end with the statement: “Any child car seat is better than none.”
Is it? After what you just showed me Which? it looks like I might have belted my baby to an expensive block of steel and plastic. Is that scare-mongering supposed to reassure me?
Children are not crash test dummies. They do things like undoing their own seat belts and standing on the back seat thrashing their bigger or smaller brothers and sisters; later on they argue that it’s not cool to sit in a booster or they are uncomfortable dangling their legs. You can bet that you might have the best car seat in the world that won’t shift even if the rest of the car was blown away; but that the crash – let’s hope it never happens – was because you were yelling at little Johnny who has just undone his belt and is now about to open the passenger door while you’re doing 60MPH down the motorway. I can remember moments like this especially when mine were in their ‘impossible to reason with’ phase.
In the end, most parents spend most on the Group 1 car seat; the one that takes your 12mth baby to 4 years. If possible it will be an isofix, it will offer maximum protection, a five point harness, have washable covers and feel cosy and comfortable. You will then possible go out and buy a cheap or reasonably inexpensive high back booster seat and ditch the high back when they get to six or seven. I’ve not seen crash test videos of children on just the booster seat. I’m not convinced they can be safe. Where’s the side impact protection for their body and what’s to stop the plastic block – the seat- which isn’t secured from slipping away?
When the law was changed to have under 12’s on boosters is was to stop strangulation from the seat belt in the event of a crash, but what I’d like to know is if cars now have isofix points, why can’t they have lower points for the shoulder strap of the seat belt? Wouldn’t that be a better way to solve the problem? Surely older children would be better protected and more comfortable on the adult seats than perched on blocks of plastic?
The solution I found has been the Renolux Easy Confort for my short and highly-opinionated last born. High backed and with a really comfortable memory foam seat, he is now happy to sit in it because he finds it incredibly comfortable. Even my big sister squeezed her skinny bottom into it and found it comfortable for her! At last, the end to protests and arguments and I can drive easy without fretting and paranoia.
I wonder, how do choose your child’s car seat? Do you buy by brand or does knowing what these award winners were influence you? How do you feel about the level of protection that different car seats offer your babies, toddlers and young children?
I’d love to know if you own any from the list below and what you think of them.
Car Seat winners 2009
Gold: RECARO Young Profi Plus
Silver: IZI SLEEP PRO
Bronze: Maxi Cosi CabrioFix with EasyFix IsoFix base
Gold: Britax King PLUS
Silver: Maxi-Cosi Axiss
Bronze: Britax First Class PLUS
Gold: Renolux Quick Confort
Silver: Britax Evolca 1-2-3 plus
Bronze: Graco Logico LX Comfort
Car Seat winners 2008
Best Infant Carrier (group 0/0+)
Gold: Graco Logico S and base
Silver: Mothercare Meteor
Bronze: RECARO Young Profi Plus
Best Baby / Toddler Car seat (group1)
Gold: Storchenmuehle STM Starlight SP
Silver: Maxi-Cosi Tobi
Bronze: Britax King PLUS
Best Junior Car Seat
Gold: Renolux Quick Confort
Silver: Sunshine Kids Monterey
Bronze: Silver Cross Navigator