Drivers who allow their children to travel unbuckled in a vehicle are the very definition of unfit parents, but those who do take the trouble to strap in their children should beware: not all car seats are created equal.

Unsuspecting parents across the world have been purchasing cheaply-made portable car seat harnesses online that have proven to be deadly, offering little or no safety benefit. Crash tests conducted by UK authorities have revealed shocking results, with these cheap seats disintegrating at a low-speed collision of under 50km/h, propelling a crash test dummy into the front of the vehicle. A normal child car seat is tested to survive impacts at speeds over 110km/h.

“These cheaper options offer parents a false sense of security and do not help to prevent injury or death,” says Peggie Mars, founder of Wheel Well, a South African road safety awareness organisation focussing on children.

“When it comes to child car safety, the correct child car seat can seem extremely expensive and some parents may be tempted to choose a cheaper alternative.

“We are anxious to inform parents of the hazards of using this kind of device instead of a proper child car seat which conforms to EU regulations,” says Mars.

With the huge forces involved in a car crash, parents must ensure they purchase car seats that adhere to current and tested regulations and standards. South Africa adheres to European standards and the car seat must feature an orange European Economic Commission stamp of approval sticker.

“Parents need to be aware that any defects and shortcomings of a car seat will become apparent during a crash … and that will be far too late,” says Mars.

“Prevent a lifetime of regret and make sure you buy the correct and legal seat for your child.”

Wheel Well collects and refurbishes used children’s car seats to distribute them to less fortunate families. If you have a car seat you would like to donate or you require a seat, contact the organisation via email at [email protected], or visit the www.wheelwell.co.za website.

Cheap seat disintegrated in low-speed UK crash test and hurled the child dummy into the front of the car.