A clinic to check car seats and child restraints in Porirua last week showed parents still aren't getting it right.
Mana Parents Centre held a three-hour clinic in the Porirua New World car park on June 13, and only two car seats of 40 checked did not need to be adjusted.
"It's the first time we've seen it like that, much higher numbers than we expected," said Eleanor Cater, Parents Centre New Zealand marketing manager, who checked the car seats and baby capsules with Jane Knackstedt from Baby On The Move, a car seat rental specialist.
"Sure, the numbers may be skewed because people who came to see us knew their car seats may have needed fixing up, but we did a few random checks too," says Ms Cater.
"Car seats get taken out and put back in and there could be 'that looks about right' attitude that's really scary."
She says they saw one motorist drive past with their toddler restrained only by a seat belt, and a mother had the capsule for her baby installed in the front passenger seat, a big no-no.
Other problems included expired seats - each has a use-by-date - loose straps, tether bolts not being used and unsuitable-sized seats for the size of the child.
"It's important that people see someone from Baby On The Move or Plunket if they're not sure," says Ms Cater.
"We had a dad come down, really unsure how the seat fitted in.
"He told us 'I think you saved some lives today'."
Plunket car seat rental co- ordinator Viv Morton says a poorly- fitted child restraint can be as bad as nothing at all.
The issue remains "a huge worry", especially as their target audience - new parents - is always changing.
"At the checkpoints, less than a third [of car seats] are in correctly. People either haven't used the tethered strap or tightened the harness properly - the worst case I've seen was four kids in restraints but they weren't done up, so in a crash they would have been just thrown out."
Ms Morton says the problems occur "across the board", through all socio-economic areas of the city.
"People are in a hurry, they don't read instructions. If possible, try before you buy, otherwise it might not even fit your car.
"You have to get it right, there's no second chances really."
Ministry of Transport figures for car seat checks in Porirua-Kapiti between 2000 and 2010 show 89 per cent of vehicles had appropriate child restraints, four per cent below the national average.
These figures sound high, says Ms Cater, but when you consider the car seats may not be fitted correctly, "it is a real concern".
zCar seats can be checked by Porirua Plunket. Its car seat rental service is open 9am to 11am, Monday to Friday, and Thursday 5pm- 7pm, 47A Mungavin Avenue.
- Kapi-Mana News