I don’t know about you, but buying my child’s car seat was actually harder than choosing my car. I hadn’t the first idea about what to look for or whether I need to spend a little or a lot. I just knew I wanted her to be safe and comfortable.
So I started off in Mothercare where I specified my priorities. Their staff suggested a rear facing seat and in particular Maxi Cosi and Britax because of the rigorous testing these companies do. Wondering if I was being ‘sold’ the most expensive seats I did some research. It turns out that rear facing car seats are much safer for children. However the reason that global manufacturers don’t generally sell them here is that apparently parents in this country don’t want to buy rear facing seats. The few that are on the market only cater for children up to about 15 months, or are really expensive because they have been imported. Bizarrely other countries do recommend and mass sell rear facing seats. Hilary Osborne from The Guardian says:
In some European countries parents are advised to use them until a child is four years old, while guidance in the US suggests using rear-facing seats until a child turns two. And most of the manufacturers we are familiar with in the UK are making these seats for the overseas market.
I can’t understand it, if our problem is that parents in the UK don’t want rear facing seats then we are knowingly, or unknowingly putting our children at risk. Surely every parent wants to put their child’s safety first? I spoke to some friends and their reasons for not choosing rear facing were ignorance and cost, but if manufacturers have done their research and parents once informed still don’t want rear facing seats there is a real problem.
An article from the Mail Online says that the problem is even worse and parents are putting children in front facing seats even before they reach the legal weight of 9kg! It also cites a report from Motors.co.uk which said:
‘Despite numerous studies stating that rear facing car seats are up to five times safer for children, our research exposes a shocking lack of awareness, information and availability of rear facing car seats in the UK.’
So should it be the responsibility of the government to give parents more knowledge? There’s plenty of support given to parents on breast feeding and weaning, what about helping them with car safety too? The government is looking to change the law so that all children up to the age of 15 months will legally have to use rear facing seats. Hopefully this will help and also open the market to more rear facing seats. I still don’t think it goes far enough and the government could do more to educate us parents, but at least it’s a step forward.
What about Manufactures and sellers? Should they take some responsibility? Maxi Cosi and Britax do sell rear facing seats, although the ones for older children are over £300 but could they do more to educate parents and could the other manufacturers that don’t seem to sell the rear facing seats for older children introduce models to the market? What about shops such as Mothercare, Halfords, and Mamas and Papas that have specialist advisers, should they stock more rear facing seats for older children and explain their benefits to parents?
And what about us as parents. Is your child rear facing? If not, what’s your reason? Could you be doing more to research the options? Should we buy rear facing seats so that demand increases and manufacturers start to sell more at a cheaper price?
Lots of questions I know but hopefully it demonstrates that there are lots of opportunities for everyone to make a difference.