Child seat manufacturer Britax’s UK division has released a new video showing the risks of using a simple booster cushion seat for larger children, encouraging parents to instead purchase a high-backed seat with ample head and side impact protection for their kids as families travel during the summer holidays.

Regulations in the UK require children to be seated in child seats until they are either 135 cm tall or 12 years old, whichever comes first. However, Britax claims that there is a lack of understanding in the safety of Group 2-3 seats, which are designed for children between four to 12 years of age.

Britax says that many British parents choose to use a backless booster cushion – still legally allowed to be sold as European regulations do not test for side impact protection on seats built for Group 2-3 – at this stage of their children’s growth, to help lift the child and ensure that the car’s seat belts sit correctly on the bony parts of the body.

The company found, however, that about half (49%) of the seat belts used to restrain child seats may be fitted incorrectly – they’re often twisted, placed too high or are fitted around the seat and not the child. On top of this, by virtue of the cushions’ lack of upper support, they do not offer any head or side impact protection.

Britax Kidfix XP SICT (left); Volkswagen Sharan integrated booster seat with head and side supports (right)

To show the inability of these cushions to adequately protect larger children, Britax has revealed a crash test video at its facility in Andover, Hampshire, comparing the performance of a booster cushion versus a high-backed seat. Watching it, it’s clear that even with the child dummy raised, the car’s seat belts is unable to provide proper restraint on its own.

As the car comes to an abrupt halt, the upper body of the dummy on the cushion slips free from the belt, hurtles forward and swings around to hit the side of the car, even in this frontal test. By contrast, the dummy in the high-backed seat remains secured, thanks to the upper seat belt guide, side wings and headrest – this would undoubtedly reduce the risk of injury significantly in a real-life collision.

It has to be noted that some car manufacturers – like Volvo, which pioneered the technology – offer integrated booster cushions as optional extras, but so far only Volkswagen has included proper head and side restraints with seat belt guides with them – in Malaysia, it’s fitted as standard on the Sharan, on the left second-row seat.

With the gradual push towards the mandatory use of child seats in our country, it’s easy to overlook the nuances in protection different seat variants provide. It’s important, however, to have a thorough, no-stone-unturned attitude towards child safety – children are our loved ones, after all – and ensure the right seat is used at each stage of a child’s growth.