There are loads of people who often say they would love our job, its usually when we talk about the days when we work with the Police and stop cars with children and/or child seats in and check them over.
It is a great opportunity to talk to drivers and parents about their children’s safety and on the whole, everyone is grateful for the advice, although you’ll always have someone who’s decided I have nothing better to do with my time than victimise them.
But after 25+ years in the “in car safety” business, you really can surprise us for some of the things we see. It’s sad that we still see children with no car seats and twisted harnesses etc, and that’s why we do this work, because those sorts of common things we can educate drivers/parents on every day, but what about the more unusual surprises we get?
Well, I just thought I’d share a few experiences from my never-ending list of “been there, done that” stories. They tend to fit into 5 categories:
Are my ears deceiving me?
These are the ones where people say the strangest and sometimes, the rudest things.
- I was once shouted at by a gentleman because if I didn’t stop checking the car seat and move out of the way, the car would be setting off with me half in it, this was because he was late for an appointment (he was already late when the police officer stopped the car.) I did wonder how that was going to be possible when he was in the passenger seat and the driver was stood next to boot!?
- One mother explained “ #*#$, the way you’re talking, you’d think this was life or death!”
Are my eyes deceiving me?
You can guess what this could be about….
- As one car pulled up into the designated bay, I could hear a baby crying, but on closer inspection, I could see the newborn in the back in the infant carrier was fast asleep. How could this be?? I then realised that the noise was coming from the front of the car and another baby (the twin) was laid in the floor well wrapped in a blanket. On questioning the mother, she claimed she already had the infant carrier from her 3 yr old but didn’t have one for the other twin! So when you think about it – she’d picked which child she least liked.
- A premature baby was once in a dolls car seat.
- We checked an infant carrier for a 6-month-old which was fitted, forward facing and upside down, no harness being used just the vehicle seat belt. (The parent had bought it at a second-hand shop, and didn’t know how it fitted.)
- We’ve seen a large number of additional unsecured passengers including dogs, chickens, cats, a parrot, a snake, a goat and probably the most unusual, the ashes of the driver’s father in a pot!
Is my nose deceiving me?
Food hygiene experts would wretch at some of the rubbish we have seen….
- I asked one parent “why haven’t you got a car seat for your child?” …..“ I have” came the reply, Having looked again and then removing enough empty crisp packets to camouflage the seat I found it!
- I slid my hand down the side of the seat to checked a seatbelt buckle was attached and stuck my hand into a cold take away burger – apparently the child didn’t like the meat so threw that away.
- I placed my foot into the floor well of a car and started to notice my shoe was getting wet. On closer inspection ( not too close!) I realised it was a bowl of breakfast cereal and green fluffy milk. The driver laughed and said, “I was beginning to wonder what the smell was!”
Could try harder….
We have seen so many different “inventions” to stop a child from removing their harnesses, clearly none of them to the manufacturer’s instructions:
- Bungee ropes
- Cable ties
- Hair clamps
- Gardening wire and string
- Phone charger cables
- Leather trouser belts
- Old socks
And, similarly in this category – unsecured loads: we’ve seen not just prams and strollers next to children but also:
- Petrol cans full of fuel
- Bicycle frames
- Flat pack furniture resting on the top of the occupied child’s car seat
- Bales of hay
- Christmas trees
- Bed mattress
- A wheelbarrow
- Opened tins of paint
I can honestly say that the additional securing some parents/ carers provide to the child’s car seat is ingeniously dangerous!
- Luggage belts – designed for a suitcase
- Ducting tape – designed for DIY jobs
- Tarpaulin hooks/ Bungie clips
- Cable ties
- Lengths of old seatbelts
Never assume anything…
- A lady van driver was stopped by the police for not having her seatbelt on, she opened the car window about 2 inches and asked if she could just drop her dog at the compound next door and come back. As the dog was very noisy, angry and keen to inspect us a lot closer, we agreed and her registration etc was taken. True to her word, she returned 5 minutes later, got out the van, stumbled over and then provided a very positive breath test!
If there is one thing I have learnt, it is that car seats are brilliant at doing their job, if only we use them in the way they were designed to be used and we don’t put them at risk from doing their job correctly.
Oh and sorry if you now feel a bit queasy!
Director -Child Seat Safety Ltd