Just before Christmas, I was involved in a car accident just a couple of miles from home. Steph and Brock (then just 4 months old) were in the car with me. Driving up a country lane, we were confronted by a pick-up truck coming around a corner at speed, across the middle of the road, towing a large trailer. We stopped in plenty of time, but he was going too fast and we had to sit there and watch as he braked, skidded and then hit us head on. The impact was forcible and resulted in our car being written off.
At the time of the accident we had three car seats in the vehicle, the one which Brock was travelling in, plus the other two which our older children usually travel in.
Now the Royal Society for the prevention of accidents state: “It is RoSPA’s advice that a child car seat that was in a car that has been involved in an accident should be replaced, even if there is no visible damage.
The only reliable way to test whether a child seat is still capable of providing the performance and protection for which it is designed would be to conduct laboratory tests, which would themselves destroy the seat. It is possible that the child seat has been weakened to such an extent that it will not provide the same level of protection in another accident.”
We were aware of this advice but on submitting our claim with Swiftcover the problems began. When we originally took out the car insurance, we had checked that our child’s carseat would be covered. However, what we hadn’t done was checked the policy details after the arrival of the other children… and despite having fully comprehensive insurance, when we claimed for the car seats, we were informed that they were classified as ‘personal items’ and the maximum allowed in for a single claim was £100 – not even close to the value of the three carseats which was closer to £300.
As the accident was not our fault, we pressed for the claim from the other insurers, however, legally they have 90 days to respond, which meant in the short term, dealing with the cost of replacing the carseats was our problem, and potentially if the insurers contested our claim, we might never get that money refunded.
This raised a really important point – every time you renew your policy or have another child, check the terms of your insurance policy regarding carseats. Some insurers are a lot more family-friendly than others, so if you want to make sure they are covered, check the small print to see what their policy is on changing car seats after an accident.
Thankfully, none of us were badly hurt, just a bit sore and shaken.
With no alternative but to look to pay for 3 new car seats while we waited the 90 days to see what action the other insurers took, we were very grateful when the lovely people at Diono sent us two carseats for our older children. They sent us their Monterey2 and their Cambria for the children to use and test.
At first glance I was impressed by the apparent sturdiness and build of the seats.
The Monterey was very luxurious, well-padded and fully adjustable in both height and width, able to accommodate a child up to 160cm in height and 36kg in weight, so it will be a suitable car seat for our children as they grow.
The Monterey features deep, protective sidewalls that are reinforced and lined with energy absorbing EPS foam to provide side impact protection. The Monterey was designed to protect a child in a side impact crash not just a head-on collision, as side wings help to prevent injury in a side impact by protecting a child’s head.
The fact that the Monterey is a booster with a full back, means it provides a better fit for the seat belt, as it is important that this is correctly adjusted to be safe for the child passenger, including that, the lap belt should go over the pelvic region, not the stomach and the diagonal strap should rest over the shoulder, not the neck
It also comes with ISOFAST connectors if you are able to use them but can be used without. The base of the Monterey is quite wide, so in our Peugeot 807 is was a snug fit on the seats due to their shaped design.
The children loved it and were especially impressed with the pop out trays built in to the base, and instantly started planning all the things they could store in them and different ways they can use them. From sweet holders to pen holders, from cuddly animal holders to toy storage, the list went on and on!
It has very deep sides, offering side impact protection and a full back, so provides a lot of the same enhanced safety features as outlined in the review of the Monterey above. It is also well padded for comfort and fully height adjustable to meet the individual requirements of the child using it.
It does not come with ISOFAST but does come with a Y strap which is used to keep seat in place when not in use.
Again, the children were more than impressed with this seat, once again particularly liking the fact it also has side storage holders built in.
Now the only downside I noted with the Cambria car seat is the width of the base, as it is very wide, and therefore would only safely fit on one seat in our whole car again due to the shaped sides of our seats.
Overall, I was impressed with the Diono car seats for build quality and comfort, obviously I cannot test them for their safety but they are both tested to the latest European certificates.
When buying a carseat, I would always recommend you go to a store and actually try the car seat you are interested in, before buying, to check that it safely fits. We have done this a number of times and have been surprised at the number of carseats that don’t fit safely even when listed as being suitable. Sometimes the safety considerations are not obvious, you need to know what different points to look for, so to keep your little one as safe as possible, every time you change car seats get a professional to check it fits your car (or cars if you have more than one which are different from each other) properly and to show you how to make sure it is as safely fitted as it can be.
Car seats and insurance are purchases which the majority of us will make, and arguably they are some of the most important purchase decisions we make, as they are there to safeguard our family…. definitely worth taking time over and doing your research thoroughly before purchasing.
For more information on carseats you can visit http://www.childcarseats.org.uk/