When it comes to buying a car seat for your little one, the choices can feel endless. Just taking a stroll through the car seat section at your local baby shop is enough to leave most mums feeling overwhelmed and completely confused! What compounds these feelings is your desire to make the right choice as your little cherub’s safety could rely on it. It is little surprise that road accidents are the leading cause of death in Australia for children under 14 years of age. A sobering statistic is that approximately 28 children under 10 are killed and 2773 injured every year in car crashes*. Even sadder is that some of these deaths and injuries could have been avoided with the correctly chosen and installed car seat. So with this in mind, where to begin?
Firstly, all child car seats that are sold and used within Australia must comply with the Australian/New Zealand Standard 1754 Child Restraints for Use in Motor Vehicles. These standards ensure that all seats abide by stringent guidelines to protect your child in the event of a car crash. All car seats must have this adherence noted so you can easily make sure that this very important box is ticked.
www.childcarseats.com.au also have valuable information on car seat safety, requirements and regular updated information for parents and car seat owners. It displays car seats that have been specifically tested for crash safety and provides star ratings on ease of uses and safety. It also has a list of Authorised Fitting Stations in your area and has tips on how to fit and use car seats effectively.
The NSW Centre for Road Safety have also issued guidelines for parents to follow in regularly checking their child’s car seat. Once a seat if fitted, it can become unsafe through general car movement and/or removing and replacing the seat from car to car. The guidelines include:
- Is this car seat still appropriate for my baby? (age, weight, height, etc)
- Is it fitted correctly?
- Check belts aren’t twisted, straps are tight enough, padding is secure and comfortable
- Tether point still attached
Picking the right type of seat
For most, this is where the confusion starts! There are a few different types of seats to choose from; here is a quick guide:
|Child size||Approximate age range|
|Rearward Facing Seat||up to 9kg or 70cm in length||birth to 6-12 months|
|Forward Facing Seat||8-18kg||6 months – 4yrs|
Rear facing child car seats have an inbuilt harness system, usually in a H shape that secures across the chest and the waist. The seat itself is held in place by a seatbelt and a top tether strap, with the baby facing the rear of the vehicle.
Forward facing child car seats are used with an adult lap/sash seatbelt that secures through the back of the seat to keep it in place. The harness has a top tether strap and a high back and sides to provide protection for children in side impact crashes. Check to see if the sides provide enough support for your baby’s head whilst sleeping upright.
Booster seats use the adult lap/sash seatbelt to restrain and sit firmly across the collar bone and chest, with the lap portion fitted to the hips/pelvic bones. Booster seats may also have a device that prevents the child from sliding beneath the lap seat belt in a crash.
All child restraints that are compliant with this new Standard (AS/NZS1754:2010) are measured by height and the seats will have shoulder heights marked on the seat. As your child grows you can see where the straps should be and can move them up as needed. Always check with your individual state road and traffic authority for specific laws pertaining to their state.
In addition to these options there are also convertible seat choices:
- Convertible Forward Facing Restraints – can be both rearward and forward facing seats
- Convertible Booster seats – combines the forward facing and booster seat options
Something to remember – it is the law in Australia that all children under 7 years of age must use an approved child restraint or booster seat when travelling in the car.
Second hand car seats
There are many children’s products that can be bought second hand however caution should be used with car seats. Whilst pre-loved products are certainly cheaper than brand new, before you buy, proceed with caution and consider these factors:
- If there appears to be any wear and tear or damage to the car seat it is best you don’t buy it
- Never use a car seat that has been in a car crash, it is not safe for your child. Damage is not always visible so even if it looks ok, steer clear.
- If the car seat is more than 10 years old it should not be used. All car seats should have their year of manufacture printed or stamped onto the shell of the seat so double check this before buying.
As you can see there is more than just price and aesthetics to consider when it comes to picking a car seat. Price does not always mean quality so take your time and do your research. Happy Shopping!
Transport for NSW