10 things parents should know about child car safety

IIHS Hyundai Tucson crash test 10 things parents should know about child car safety

One of our most important roles as a parent is to keep our children safe. But what does that mean when transporting them in the family car? Babyology recently organised a live Q&A with Infasecure’s Chief Car Safety Advocate Tom Hubbard  to find out what parents can do to keep their most precious cargo – their kids – safe on car trips. Here are our parents’ top ten questions – and the expert’s top ten tips – for car safety and proper use of child restraints.

1. Where is the safest place for baby to sit in a car?

The safest place for baby to sit is in any correctly fitted child restraint in any spot in the back seat of a passenger car. Of course, collision experts also agree that the middle of the back seat is best in the case of a side collision because it is furtherest from the doors. But parents of multiple children don’t need to wrestle with their consciences about which child to slot where, just make sure all children are correctly restrained in properly fitted child seats because most reputable seats have good in-built side protection.

2. Are parents legally required to have child car seats fitted and installed professionally?

The simple answer is no. Child car seat makers, like Infasecure, provide detailed instructions with all their child restraints and try to design seats that are easy for adults to install themselves. Of course, parents who aren’t confident should find a car seat technician or fitter to help walk them through the process.

3. When should a baby change from a rear-facing car seat to a forward-facing seat?

Legally, babies must be in a rear facing restraint until at least six months, but parents should keep them in rear-facing seats for as long as possible because this protects their fragile necks and torsos from the force of a crash in the event of an accident. Once the child reaches the shoulder height marker on the seat, it’s safe to turn them around.

4. I want to use my car seat for my next baby. When should a child car seat be retired?

Most child car seats should be retired once they reach ten years from the date of manufacture, which is generally stamped on the bottom of the seat. It’s also a good idea to check with the manufacturer to be sure.

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5. When will ISOFIX seats go on sale in Australia?

Child car seat manufacturers are still waiting for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to mandate the 2013 Standards before ISOFIX seats can be legally sold in this country. That should happen some time this year.

6. Is it safe to use a neck pillow or accessory to prop up a child who falls asleep in their car seat?

No. Safety experts never recommend using these accessories to stop a child’s head falling forward, as this may interfere with the way the restraint works in an accident and may even cause serious injury to the child. It’s best to use the recline settings or buy a booster seat that fits the child correctly, with appropriate support.

7. Should I use an add-on harness or the car seatbelt for my child’s booster seat?

The experts agree – and studies show –  that once children move from a seat with a built-in harness to a booster seat, it’s safer to use the car seatbelt rather than a harness accessory because of the potential for misuse. A good booster seat will have guides to keep the seatbelt in the right place.

8. How tight should the straps and buckles of a child car restraint fit on my child?

The straps should be firm but not so tight that they make your child uncomfortable. Children who remove their harnesses themselves pose a tricky problem, but need to be taught how important it is for their safety to keep them on. Try distraction techniques or even stopping the car and refusing to start again the child is wearing the restraint correctly.

9. Are small booster seats without a back still legal in Australia?

Yes, these seats are still legal to use and buy, but companies are no longer allowed to manufacture them in Australia and they will be phased out over the next several years. Experts recommend using a booster with a full back because it offers side impact protection to children that booster cushions don’t.

10. When can children legally stop using a booster seat and sit in a standard car seat?

Children can legally give up their booster seats – and sit in the front seat of a car – at age seven, but it’s recommended that parents make a decision based on the child’s seated shoulder height rather than their age. There is a five step test at Kidsafe to help parents work out whether their child is ready to give up their car booster seat.

Thanks to Tom Hubbard, Chief Car Safety Advocate at Infasecure and a dad to three boys, for answering all our questions about car safety for babies and children. Check our archives for more posts about child safety and car restraints. You can see the original live session on the Babyology Facebook page.

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10 Comments

  1. Very handy to know as I have been told many different variations of the ‘safest’ place in the car to put the seat – not that I have a choice anymore as I have three children… Might have to try some of the tips for kids who get out of their harnesses, my three year old always manages to get out and I am constantly pulling over to put his arms back through the straps or clip him back in. He even worked out how to undo the houndini strap that was supposed to stop this happening!

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  2. Can you please post the 5 points to check before getting kids out of boosters.

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  3. My son is 6 years old and is useing a booster seat but still using the 5point harnes he only weighs 14kg and 104cm tall am I doing the right thing to keep him safe?

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  4. My son is 4 months old and is 70cm long his capsule states that he can only use it until he reaches 700mm i don’t have a car seat other than his capsule and a 5 point harness booster seat he has great head control and can sit up with a small amount of assistance is it safe to leave him in his capsule even though he is longer than the recommended max length?

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  5. It is hard for children to get their arms out if the straps are adjusted correctly.

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  6. It is a good idea to leave your child in the 5 point harness as it holds your child a lot more securely and cannot rub against your child’s neck. A lot of car harnesses do that until your child is fairly tall.
    Ther older (28 years ago) top quality booster seats had an attachent that fitted to your car seat at shoulder height and prevent any injury to your child’s shoulder and neck. We know people who had one for their 2 children. Their Grandma had one in her car too. They were Safe-n-Sound which are manufactured by Britax.

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  7. I have yet to see a good quality booster seat that prevents a child from tilting his/her head when asleep. Many sleep on their sides in their cot at that age. Stapped in corrctly will not stop a heads from tilting his/her head. The seat my cousin is using was recommended by experts but it hasn’t prevented from her head tilting sideways and slightly forward when sound asleep.
    She is a heavy sleeper. You can sit her up on her bed and not wake her up.

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  8. Click on the Kidsafe link above for the 5 step test as to whether your kid is ready to give up the booster seat.

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  9. Patricia Darlington – (probably contact the manufacturer of your capsule to double check this) I am fairly sure that your son is still ok to stay in his capsule even though he is at the technical length limit.
    Whatever you do, definitely do not put him in the booster! Booster seats even with five point harnesses are for ages 4 and up.
    As to his neck control, the reason it is law to keep babies rear facing to at least 6 months and preferably for longer, is that although in ordinary circumstances they may have good head and neck stability, in the occurrence of an accident, the physics of the energy involved in the accident are just too much for their little spines to bear up under.
    Just think how easily even adults get whiplash injuries in sometimes relatively low speed accidents and you start to realise how much force is exerted upon the human body in car crashes!

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  10. Very glad to know these tips, as my daughter is only 4 years old and I didn’t know many of the things that you have told. You helped me a lot because we often go for trips and neither my husband nor I know these tips. Thanks for sharing such adorable information here.

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