As many as one in four parents is breaking the law and putting their young child at risk by using the wrong kind of car seat.
Research by nursery group Kiddi Caru found widespread confusion around the most suitable way to transport babies following a change in the law in 2017.
One in 10 thought parents babies could be moved from a rear-facing car seat to a front-facing one at just six months old, and a quarter said they had switched from rear-facing to front-facing when their child turned one.
However, the law states that children must remain in a rear-facing seat until they are at least 15 months old, and research has suggested that rear-facing seats are safer than front-facing ones for children under four years old.
Rear-facing seats provide more head support and spinal protection for babies and young children in the event of a crash, with researchers saying they offer up to five times the protection of a front facing seat.
While the survey found most parents (83 per cent) agreed that rear facing seats were safer, the majority (52 per cent) with children under five years old have chosen to use front-facing seats.
Separate research by car maker Seat last year found that 80 per cent of parents are not confident that they understand the rules around child car seats, and a between one fifth and one third said the had used the wrong age group seat for a child or used in incorrectly fitted one.
All children must use an age-appropriate car seat until their are either 12 years old or 135cm tall. If they don’t, the driver of the car can be fined £500 and given three penalty points.
Simon Bellamy, managing director of In Car Safety Centre, said: “Often parents consider their children as little adults, they are not. Their heads are disproportionately heavier in relation to the rest of their bodies, their bone structure is not fully formed, the rib cage offers little protection to the organs which are still not in the position they would be when they are actually adults.
“Forward-facing too early places a child in an extremely dangerous position. It is our responsibility as parents to provide our children with the greatest level of protection we are able to afford. Rear-facing provides that added protection and is no more expensive than forward-facing. You cannot turn the clock back if you are involved in an accident, the child may suffer life changing injuries or the outcome could be fatal.”
A version of this article first appeared on the Sheffield Star