Leicestershire mum's seat belt invention hits high street shops
A seat belt adaptor, invented by a concerned mum to keep her sleeping tots safe, has hit high street shelves.
Hannah Batham, from Market Bosworth, dreamt up the BeltUpp with husband Phil, after their children Zach and Phoebe fell asleep on the way home from a family day out.
The belt, which clips on to a standard seatbelt around a car seat for older children, creates an "X" shape across the youngster's chest, stopping them from slumping forward when they fall asleep.
Hannah hand-stitched the first prototype in September after she was forced to hold her dozing children into their car seats.
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The device is already available in John Lewis, with Halfords set to follow in June.
Hannah, 39, said: "It is amazing that we have come this far from an idea to being on sale in the high street in just five months.
"It has been really exciting every step of the way, really – the prototype, passing the safety check, receiving the first one."
Hannah and Phil, 47, came up with the idea because they were concerned their younger children – Zach, four, and Phoebe, three – would not be protected if the car crashed when they were slumped forward asleep.
"When they fell asleep they slipped forward and slowly it pulled the seatbelt out, until at some points their heads were pretty much at their knees," said Hannah.
"The traditional belt only locks in place when the car jerks or breaks sharply. They were totally unsupported."
The duo, who have an online optical business and six children, took to the internet in search of a solution.
When they could not find one they sketched out some designs and ordered materials to create their own.
After many late nights of perfecting the design and testing prototypes on their youngest children, they had one officially tested by the Transport Research Laboratory.
It passed in October and the couple headed to the banks in search of initial capital to fund the start-up.
When the banks were unwilling to lend, Hannah wrote to John Lewis and Halfords directly, who confirmed they would stock their product.
A factory in China agreed to mass-produce their invention, and the first batch arrived at the end of January.
The length of belt features two clips which fix to the main seatbelt near the base, and around the back of a group two car seat – the type used by older children.
John Lewis lodged an initial order of 200 BeltUpps, which they started to sell at the start of February. Hannah said they planned to order more.
Halfords has ordered 1,500, and she said Boots and Kiddicare were in the process of finalising orders. The couple have also sold about 45 on their own website since mid-January, priced at £17.99 each.
"Our hope is everyone will stock it eventually," said Hannah.
"We could sell this all over the world – fingers crossed."
John Lewis's nursery buyer Caroline Bettis said: "We're sure BeltUpp is going to be very popular with parents. John Lewis takes car safety very seriously so we were extremely pleased to be able to stock a product which will improve safety for kids and their parents when driving."