Road crashes are one of the main causes of injury-related deaths of children in NSW, according to a recent report by the NSW Ombudsman.
Despite the strong national message to ‘click-clack, front and back’, the report revealed just over half of the 66 children who died from car crashes over a 10-year period, from 2007 to 2016, were improperly restrained.
In the report, Dr Julie Brown, senior research scientist from Neuroscience Research Australiaexamined the role of seatbelts and child restraints in passenger fatalities of children aged less than 13-years-old in NSW.
Of the 66 children who died, 29 were properly restrained, 15 were unrestrained, 14 were using a restraint that was incorrectly fitted, and six children, aged between two to six, were in a restraint that was inappropriate for their age.
The review found most drivers wore seatbelts. But in cases where the driver wasn't wearing one, the children were also unrestrained. Dr Brown stated more than a third of children who died would probably have survived if they had been properly restrained in a children's car seat or with a seatbelt.
The report illustrates the necessity of regular monitoring of child restraint practices across the nation. So, to help you make the safest choice when it comes to your child’s car seat, we’ve listed a few of the considerations to take into account when buckling your youngster into a vehicle.
Australian child restraint laws
Children up to the age of six months must be secured in an approved rear-facing restraint.
Children aged between six months to four-years-old must be secured in either a rear or forward-facing approved child restraint with an inbuilt harness.
Children under four-years-old cannot travel in the front seat of a vehicle with two or more rows.
Children aged between four to seven-years-old must be secured in a forward-facing approved child restraint with an inbuilt harness or an approved booster seat.
Children aged between four to seven-years-old cannot travel in the front seat of a vehicle with two or more rows, unless all other back seats are occupied by children younger than seven-years-old in an approved child restraint or booster seat.
Children aged over seven-years-old who are too small to be restrained by a seatbelt properly adjusted and fastened are strongly recommended to use an approved booster seat.
Children in booster seats must be restrained by a suitable lap and sash type approved seatbelt or child safety harness that is properly adjusted and fastened.
A national guide to child car restraints
With hundreds of forward-facing, rear-facing and booster seats on the market, it can be difficult to know which is best suited for your child. By law, all children up to the ages of seven-years-old must be safely fastened into a child car restraint. Below is an age appropriate guide for child car seats.
0 to 6 months:Approved rear-facing child car seat.
6 months to 4-years-old:Approved rear or forward-facing child car seat.
4 to 7-years-old:Approved forward-facing child car seat with an inbuilt harness, or an approved booster seat with a properly fastened and adjusted seatbelt or child safety harness.
7-years-old and up: 145cm or taller is the suggested minimum height to use an adult lap-sash seatbelt.
Bear in mind if your child is too small for the child restraint specified for their age, they should be kept in their current restraint until it’s safe for them to fit and move to the next level.
When to move your child to the next type of car seat
Although child car seats are recommended by age, it’s vital for your child to travel in a restraint that fits right and is matched to their height. Every child is different and should only be moved when they no longer fit in their current child seat. Below are some guidelines to help you recognise when it’s time to move your child to the next type of car seat.
Moving to a forward-facing car seat
Your child can be moved between the age of six to 12 months when he/she is able to hold their head up. If your child car seat has shoulder marks printed or sewn on the cover, you can move your baby to a forward-facing car seat when his/her shoulders have outgrown the marked area.
Moving to a booster seat
Your child should be moved when they’ve outgrown the seat. You’ll be able to tell if they’re ready for a booster seat when:
Their eye-level is higher than the back of the seat.
Their shoulders no longer fit comfortably within the child car seat.
The top insertion slots for the shoulder straps are below the level of your child’s shoulders.
Your child’s shoulders have passed the shoulder marks on the child car seat.
Moving to a seatbelt
If your child is 145cm or over, they’ll be ready to move to an adult seat when:
Their shoulders no longer fit comfortably when seated in the booster seat.
When sitting, their knees can bend comfortably over the front of the seat cushion.
They can sit securely in the back seat with their back flush against the seat.
They can sit in the back seat with the belt sash across their mid shoulder to the side of their hip.
They can sit with the lap portion of the seatbelt across the top of their thighs.
They can remain seated comfortably in this position for the entire trip.
For the safety of your child, it’s highly recommended that children up to 12-years-old should always be seated in the rear seat of a vehicle.
Unsure of how to install your child’s car seat? We’re here to help
Child restraint installation can be a difficult job for parents. That's why at NRMA we offer an accredited child restraints serviceto both NRMA members and non-members.
Our car servicing team are nationally accredited under the Australian Qualification Framework to install, inspect and adjust child car seats, retrofit lap and lap-sash seatbelts, and give parents advice on the correct way to use their child car seat.
To book a child restraint installation or get advice on child car restraint best practice, call 13 11 22.