How To Choose the Safest Restraint for your Child

Did you know that children restrained incorrectly in cars are up to seven times more likely to be seriously injured in a crash than children using the right car seat for their age and size?

It’s a frightening statistic, isn’t it?

Worry no more. Consult Child Car Seats, an independent website designed by the Child Restraint Evaluation Program (CREP) – made up of Government agencies and motoring groups to give consumers the wealth of information they need to make sensible and informed choices about keeping their children safe on the road.

And CREP helps keep car seat manufacturers honest.  Each car seat is rated for safety by the group after a rigorous program of crash testing. CREP then pressures manufacturers to constantly improve the standards of the seats they market, and feeds back to Government bodies the issues they’ve discovered.

ADAC child test seat
ADAC child test seat 2014.

Let’s look at the questions to ask when choosing a car seat.

Does it comply with Australian Standards?

Look for the sticker! All child car seats sold and used in Australia must comply with Australian/New Zealand Standard 1754 – one of the strictest in the world. Child seats bearing this marker offer better protection for your child in a crash.

Which is the right one for me?

Cross reference with Part 1 of our child seat guide – Playing It Safe – to check out the requirements. Then browse the Find and Compare section of the CREP website to bring up feature, safety and ease-of-use ratings for each of the relevant seats available in Australian stores today.

When buying a booster seat, choose one with sash guides or locators that position the sash belt comfortably at your child’s shoulder level.

Also look for special features to prevent ‘submarining’, which happens when a child slips under the lap section of the seatbelt during a crash, placing the force of the crash on the child’s abdomen rather than the pelvic bones. This can lead to serious abdominal, pelvic and spinal injuries.

Will the seat fit my vehicle?

Always check before buying. And, while most medium or large cars fit three restraints across the back seat, seat widths do vary so don’t leave it to chance.

How do I install the seat?

CREP illustration
Correctly anchoring the restraint.

It must be installed using a seatbelt and a top tether anchorage strap, designed to restrain the top portion of the child car seat. Top tether straps must be fitted to the correct anchorage point in the vehicle and tightened to remove any slack.

You must attach the strap to the correct anchorage point – not luggage tie-downs or other parts of the car. The location of child car seat anchorage points can be found in the vehicle’s user manual. Depending on the type of conveyance, top tether strap anchorage points can be located on the car’s ceiling, parcel shelf, floor or seat-backs. Your local fitting station is always available to help.

Is it safe to buy secondhand?

CREP recommend that a child car seat should not be used if it is more than 10 years old, has been in a crash, or if the seat has cracks, other damage or frayed straps. If buying secondhand, check its history and make sure it has all the correct fittings plus instruction book.

Can I use a car seat manufactured overseas?

No. Australian vehicles have a unique top-tether strap anchorage system, which is only compatible with Australian Standard child car seats.

And the Australian Standard is tougher. Unlike the EU, it requires all child car seats to be tested in side and rear impact tests. Some seats also include an inverted test for roll-over protection.

MORE: Playing it Safe: Child Restraint Laws in Australia

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