Look for the following safety features (found on all the models tested, unless specified):
The effectiveness of the brakes and their engagement is vital. Look for rear brakes on both wheels that are linked, so the left and right brakes can be activated by a single lever rather than applied individually. Get an idea of how well they work by applying the brakes and then trying to push the handle. Check that they actively lock into position. Brakes that are foot-operated or operated by a lever on the handle mean you don’t have to bend down, but make sure you can access them easily.
A five-point harness consisting of two shoulder straps (attached to the backrest at shoulder level), a waist strap and a crotch strap. The waist straps in particular should be securely linked to the stroller’s frame, so that the child can’t lean out and tilt the stroller. Give the harness a tug to check that the seat doesn't pull away from the frame. The straps should be adjustable (allowing for growth) and the buckles easy to use (for you, but not your child).
Front wheels that swivel to make manoeuvring easier, and that can be locked in the forward direction when travelling at higher speeds or over rough terrain. Large ones tend to be better on kerbs and stairs; pneumatic (inflatable) ones can puncture but generally give a comfier ride.
Also, check the following:
- Are there protruding parts that can hit your child’s head or small parts that can detach easily and pose a choking risk?
- Are there gaps that could trap your or your child's fingers? (Look especially around the release and folding mechanism areas).
- Are there sharp edges or points on any surfaces?
- Is there a child-resistant mechanism for locks?
- And is the stroller stable enough not to tip easily?
Stroller safety is about more than just buying a model which meets all provisions of the relevant standard, and has good safety features. There are a number of safety precautions you should take while using it.
- Never leave your child unattended in a stroller, and if it has a safety strap, put it on your wrist.
- Always engage the brake when the stroller is standing to prevent it from rolling.
- Use a lift where possible, but if you have to use the stairs, take the baby out of the stroller.
- When at a train station, park the stroller parallel to the tracks with the brakes on and keep the stroller in view at all times. Travel in the carriage near the guard so they can make sure you’ve safely boarded or alighted.
- When jogging, always lock the front wheel of a three-wheel stroller into place to prevent the wheel swivelling.
- Be extra careful when talking on a mobile phone as you can easily not notice the stroller roll away – it only takes a second for a disaster to happen.
- Don't attach a dog lead to the stroller.
- Don't overload the stroller with shopping or other items, especially around the handles. It can affect stability.
- If parking on a slope, park at right angles and lock the front wheel(s) in line if that’s possible. Apply the brakes carefully. Be especially careful in train stations, close to roads or water.
- Take care when folding or unfolding the stroller that you don't get your fingers caught in the folding mechanism.
Mind your fingers
Recent incidents involving both adults and children injuring their fingers while folding or unfolding a stroller highlight the need to be careful while doing this. Most strollers have plenty of places where a carelessly placed finger could get a painful pinch (or worse).
We check each stroller for any pinching, shearing or scissoring hazards that might pose a risk to either the child or an adult operating the stroller. We find most strollers have some possible pinch points for the adult carer. Pinches are avoidable if you take care when folding or unfolding the stroller and don’t let children play with it.