YOUR TODDLER THINKS THEY’RE READY FOR A BOOSTER WHILE YOUR PRESCHOOLER IS CALLING ‘SHOTGUN’ FOR THE FRONT SEAT, YOU DO YOU REALLY KNOW WHAT TYPE OF CAR SEAT IS RIGHT FOR YOUR CHILD? HERE’S OUR HANDY GUIDE TO BUCKLING UP YOUR BABIES… FEEL FREE TO SHOW IT TO YOUR KIDS TO PUT A STOP TO THE ARGUMENTS!
As a private transfer car service, the passenger safety is of paramount importance to us at Byron Bay Luxury Transfers, so we like to ensure our professional drivers as well as our customers are aware of the latest laws around child car seat safety and restraints.
What’s the magic number?
In Australia, it is legal for seven-year-olds to move from a booster seat to an adult seat belt but many road safety and medical experts warn this is actually too soon. So if seven is NOT the magic number, what is?
Early Learning Association Australia’s (ELAA) road safety education project manager Zora Marko says the message for parents is that seven is no longer the magic number to take a child out of a child restraint. “The new number is 145,” according to Marko.
She says research shows adult seat belts only start to fit correctly when a person reaches a height of 145cm – that’s when a lap-sash seatbelt will sit across their body’s strongest bones, protecting vital organs during a crash – and that most children don’t reach this height until they are aged 10-12!
“Parents should use the height – not the age – of their child as the guide and
keep them in restraints until they reach about 145cm.”
Here’s our easy guide to the who, what and where of seats for kids of all ages and stages:
Up to six months:
- Children up to the age of six months must use an approved rear-facing car restraint with an in-built five-point harness system, secured to the vehicle using the seat’s lap-sash seatbelt AND tether strap attached to an anchor point.
- Positioning in the back seat is law. If the car has only one row of seats (like a ute), the infant restraint can only be used if the passenger airbag is disengaged and there is an anchor point for the tether strap.
Up to four years:
- After the age of six months, children may use either a rear-facing or forward-facing car seat incorporating a harness and held in place by a seatbelt and top tether strap.
- While it’s legal to have your six-month-old bubs facing forward, most safety groups (such as Kidsafe) recommend keeping them rear-facing as long as possible and until they physically outgrow the seat, as it’s the safest
- Children in this age bracket must not travel in the front. If the vehicle only has one seat row, the same rules apply as for the ‘Up to Six Months’ category.
Up to seven years:
- Either a forward-facing child seat with inbuilt harness or a high-back booster seat with a lap-sash seatbelt.
- Seat-cushion boosters (those with no head or side protection) are no longer manufactured in Australia and were removed from our Safety Standards in 2010. However, they are legal to use and if you do so, it’s best to put them in the middle position of the back seat as this offers less risk of side impact during an accident.
- May only sit in the front row of a vehicle if all other back seats are filled with children of lesser ages.
Seven years and over:
- May legally use either a booster seat or a lap-sash belt, but experts say parents should not move kids out of their booster until they’re at least 145cm.
- Regardless of age, if a child still fits into a booster seat, it’s best they stay put until they’ve physically outgrown it.
“According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia research team,
booster seats reduce injury risk by 45% compared to seat belts alone.”
- Check readiness to move out of a booster with the Kidsafe five-step test.
- Children aged 12 years and under are always safest in the rear seats of the vehicle.
- Seat belts should never be used with the sash section under the child’s arm or behind their back, whether used alone or with a booster seat.
Choosing a restraint
There is a great resource called The Child Restraint Evaluation Program (CREP), which is a consortium of government agencies and motoring organisations that provides guidance and support about how to choose the safest restraint for your child.
Visit the CREP website site to see how various child restraints and booster seats have been rated in their crashlab for protection and ease of use.