The correct use of baby car seats and child car seats can be a matter of life and death for children. The good news is that the error rate for the use of baby seats and child seats in cars has fallen in recent years from 70 percent to 50 percent. This is the conclusion of a recently published study conducted in 2018/19 by the Chair of Automotive Engineering at TU Berlin and commissioned by the German Insurance Association’s accident research department. “The bad news is that the rate of serious errors has unfortunately increased,” says Dr.-Ing. Gerd Müller. Müller headed the study and is chief engineer at the Chair of Automotive Engineering lead by Professor Dr-Ing. Steffen Müller. “People are making fewer errors but the mistakes they make are more serious. Consequently, the risk of injury is rising.”
The researchers examined the use of 1000 child safety seats in Berlin and Brandenburg as well as Munich and surrounding areas in cars parked outside daycare centers, schools and swimming baths. Traffic law demands that children aged zero to twelve or children up to 1.50 meters in height use a baby seat or a child seat when being transported by car.
Serious errors of use include baby seats and child seats which are not properly fixed in place, belts which are too loose, incorrectly guided belts and seats that are not fastened in at all, leaving children seated but unsecured. A further serious error is changing to the next category of seat at too early an age. All these errors can cancel out the protective effect of baby seats and child safety seats in the event of an accident or even just a strong braking manoeuver. “It sometimes happens, for example, that the baby seat required for children aged up to one-and-a-half years is not fixed in the car at all, but merely placed on the seat,” says Gerd Müller.
It is not possible to say exactly which injuries result directly from the errors referred to above. Accidents are simply too complex by nature. “What we can observe, however, are injuries to the head and neck area which are in part due to a seat not being fixed in place, a belt too loosely fastened or not fastened at all,” says Müller. “Injuries to the neck area are particularly likely when babies are placed too early in a child safety seat where their heads are provided with less protection than in a baby seat.” Needless to say, such injuries represent a greater threat to life for a child than a broken bone.
Serious errors of use are the result of unintentional negligence and a lack of information. Müller stresses the importance of seeking expert advice when making a purchase. “Buying from department stores is perhaps not the best option,” he says. The increase in online retail in this sector also places a responsibility on manufacturers to provide user-friendly instructions, preferably in the form of an informational video. “Installing a child seat is really complicated and absolutely not to be taken lightly. And of course child car seats which can be properly installed come at a price,” Müller concludes.