User-agent: * Allow: /. Would Like To Be A Yummy Mummy: Interview With The Britax Safety Expert

Friday, 16 September 2011

Interview With The Britax Safety Expert

"Britax are World Class Leaders"...that what I was told by a friend when I was pregnant for the first time and asked her which car seat to buy. Did I take just her advice? No not at all, on further investigation I discovered "Top European test organisations, such as independent motoring and consumer organizations, consistently rate Britax amongst the best and Britax constantly exceed legal safety requirements".

We have Britax car seats for both our girls and would highly recommend them.  I even approached them directly on twitter when I needed some advice and found them to be very helpful. I recently wrote a review on our recent car seat purchase which you can read here.

Last week I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to interview Mark Bennett, the Safety Expert for Britax. Having not been at work for four years I am a bit out of practice at doing this sort of thing and thought I had better get organised.  I didn't want to look or sound like the slightly dippy Mum I really am and came up with a list of 15 questions looking at development, installation, use with a child and the future of car seats.

Mark himself was very friendly and approachable. He obviously knows his stuff and told me he could talk about it all day, but he made me feel at ease and I think it went pretty well. Although this post is quite structured, the conversation flowed and he answered many of my questions as we went along. Now obviously we chatted for sometime so I have had to shorten it a bit for the purpose of this post.

Could you please start off by telling me about some of the testing Britax actually carries out on car seats other than the crash test dummies?
In order to ensure that car seats are usable for parents, children and the different makes and models of cars, Britax do lots of behind the scenes work with both families and car manufactures finding out what they want and need. They get inside the cars and work with the brands to come up with child seat solutions that work.  An awful lot of dynamic work occurs from model stage to full production to ensure everything they do and the materials selected are optiumn for the job they intend to do. All of this needs to happen before they get anywhere near the crash test dummy phase we hear about.  Britax are constantly exceeding the legal safety requirements. 

OK so clearly, all car seats have to meet a certain high standard, why is this not the same in all countries? I ask this because I lived in Canada 3 years ago and could not buy a Britax infant carrier.
Australia and Canada  have their own safety standards. These standards are not better, worse or even safer, just different. Pretty much everywhere else follows the same European standards.

What about when we go abroad, are we okay in most countries with our Britax car seats?
It is always worth checking but generally you will be OK except in those countries previously mentioned. All Britax child car seats are tested and approved to the current Child Safety Standard ECE R 44/04.

When you first start out you are bombarded with choice on make, model and styles of car seats.  Should you always go for an infant carrier first or are the combination car seats really OK for newborns?
There is no right or wrong answer to this. Many people chose to skip the infant carrier because they do not intend to use a travel system, personal taste, lifestyle or financial reasons. The main plus point of having an infant carrier is that it is designed only for a baby so it is very optimised, making your baby feel very comfortable, protected and secure. Often a newborn will look very tiny in one of the larger combination seats although they are still safe. It is personal choice.

Why is it important to have the right car seat for the weight of your child and not just the age?
Cars seats are generally built based on the size of a child at the 50th percentile. Obviously not all children are the same size so will weigh differently at different ages. It is always best to check both and go with weight over age.

Where is the safest position in the car for a car seat?
The centre is thought to be the best place but this is not always possible as many cars do not have ISOFIX fittings in the middle. The next best place would be the curb side for obvious reasons when taking your little one out whilst parked at the side of the road.

What do you think about car seats being in the front of the car?
Car seats are safer in the back and furthest away from the most likely point of collission. If however, you have made the decision to put them in the front believing you will be less distracted and therefore a better driver, do make sure the seat is fitted properly and if its rear facing, that any airbags issues are resolved. A good investment with babies that are rear facing, are those small mirrors.

Can a normal, sensible adult install a care seat or should you always go to an approved specialist?
There is no reason why a normal, responsible parent could not fit a car seat, they are designed to be simplistic. There are now videos provided on the site to show you how its done and Britax even provide a QR code on all of their child car seats, infant carriers and brochures. Using a smart phone with internet access, you scan the code, download the APP and it will take you to the appropriate video. (Pretty impressive I thought). If this isn't for you can always go to a  store where they will either fit it for you or show you how its done properley.

What do Britax think about the neck support cushions some families choose to use, are they safe?
As long as they do not effect the size of the harness or the position of the childs head (ie  push the neck forward) they do not have a problem with them and they will have no critical effect on crash performance.

Husband and I can never agree on how tight the straps should be, do you have any tips?
Harness adjustment is really important. Always aim for shoulder height in the correct position. So with forward facing car seats you ideally want the shoulder strap level with the shoulder or slightly above, with a rear facing seat it is the reverse: either level with shoulders or slightly below. If like us you have the click safe seats, a good tip would be to get the child in the car seat, fasten the harness and pull it tight so they cant wiggle. Check their bottom is properley in the seat, check for any looseness around the shoulders and pull it tight again. As a rule of thumb you should be able to get two fingers (together flat side to side) between the child's body and the harness.

At what age should you turn a child round to forward facing?
Many parents rush to do it to soon, it is usually around the 12 month stage. If their head reaches the top of the infant carrier or they have reached 13kgs it also time to move them into the next seat. The length of your child's legs are inconsquential.

We have a Britax Kidfix SICT for our eldest and already people have commented that she could be on an ordinary booster seat and that she wont sit in her seat until she is 12. Why is it that Britax do not sell booster seats without Side Impact Protection (SIP)?
Clearly any seat is better than none but the ordinary booster seat offers no protection from a side impact. 25% of European accidents occur from the side. With figures like that it is just not worth taking the risk.

I know that you need to change your car seat after having an accident but what if its just a tiny little bump, like when you are reversing into a parking space?
Tiny bumps are OK but you will need to change it if doing more than 10kph and have caused body damage to car other than a few scrapes and/or the air bags went off.

Is it okay to pass car seats on to siblings or friends?
If you are talking about passing them onto siblings born a few years apart that's fine just be aware of expiry dates as some car seats have them. If you are talking about one of the combination seats that have been used from 0-12 ie Evolver 123, they are designed to last one lifetime so it wouldn't really be good to pass them on. Be very careful with buying second hand car seats. You can never be too sure if they have been involved in an accident or if they have been taken apart to clean, that they have been put back together properly.

Finally we have seen the introduction of ISOFIX, Side Impact Protection (SIP) and Side Impact Cushioning Technology (SICT) what is next?
Britax want to push the boundaries with perfomance and useability. As well as offering an enjoyable environment for your little ones they are always trying to develop the next new and improved car seat. The technology never stops and SIP is constantly evolving. Mark could tell me that more and more ISOFIX seats will have a top-tether, a third anchorage point in the car. From 2012 all new cars for use in Europe will have to have one of these....interesting stuff!

So that's all of the questions I had. I would like to thank Mark on behalf of Britax for taking the time to answer them and hope it answered some of yours too.

For more information you can check out the Britax Safety Centre Homepage

Karen x