RACT answer some common questions our families have regarding child restraints. Please find below a selection of fact sheets designed to assist and inform parents on how best to use a child restraint.
What types of child restraints are available?
As children grow, they require different sorts of approved child restraints. You will need to check each individual seat's minimum and maximum requirements to determine which seat best suits your child.
Infant capsule - a rearward facing restraint for infants from birth to approximately six months old. It has its own inbuilt harness system. These restraints are also known as rearward facing child restraints. They all use a top tether.
Convertible child restraint - one that can be used in rearward facing and forward facing mode from birth to approximately four years of age. It has its own inbuilt harness system and uses a top tether.
Convertible booster Seat - a forward facing seat for children aged approximately between six months to seven years of age. It has its own inbuilt harness system to a certain height or weight. It then converts in to a booster seat. These restraints are also known as forward facing child restraints and all use a top tether.
Booster seat - a device that increases the child's seated height when using a seatbelt. The standard defines booster seats as being suitable for children aged approximately between four and seven years of age.
Older style boosters were just a cushion. Recent designs have a seat back and some have side wings that support and protect the head. A booster seat is restrained by a properly adjusted seatbelt or child safety harness. Most boosters use a top tether but some do not. If a booster has been manufactured with a top tether, it is a requirement that it is fitted with the top tether.
Child safety harness - a device that can be used in conjunction with a booster seat. Once the child has grown out of the booster seat, a child safety harness can be used without a booster if the child is unable to wear the seatbelt correctly. This is only recommended if the vehicle possses a lap sash seatbelt where the child is seated.
What is an 'Approved Child Restraint'?
Approved child restraints comply with Australian Standard (AS) 1754 and must be correctly anchored to the vehicle using an Australian Standard's approved anchorage system.
The child restraint must be correctly fitted and properly adjusted for the child using the restraint at all times.
All child restraints sold in Australia must meet the strict requirements of the AS 1754 covering the materials, design, construction, performance, testing and labelling of child restraints.
Restraints bought in other countries will not meet the Australian Standard - it is illegal to use them in Australia.
If any restraint does not possess a small badge indicating it has met the required standards, it is highly likely it is illegal and unsafe.
Is it safe to buy a second-hand child restraint?
It may be cheaper to buy a second-hand restraint, but you'll need to check its safety history.
Check for obvious signs of wear - harnesses that are frayed or faded or if the plastic shell or buckle is cracked or broken. Only use restraints which carry the Australian Standards 1754 mark. Restraints that don't carry this mark do not comply with the Australian Road Rules and may compromise the child's safety in the event of a crash.
Test the buckle and adjusters to make sure they work properly and ask for the instruction manual. If it's missing, get the manufacturer to send you a copy.
It's important to note that restraints that use velcro bindings can no longer be sold, hired, donated or given away.
Never use a restraint which has been involved in a crash.
If you are uncertain about the safety history of a second-hand restraint, it is recommended that you look for other alternatives where the safety history is known.
I have a restraint that is 10 years old - can I use it?
It is not recommended that a child restraint be used after ten years of age because:
- Restraints older than ten years cannot be guaranteed to perform as they were originally intended; and
- The Australian Standards have been improved significantly and were updated in 1995, 2000, 2004, 2010 and 2013
- Older restraints will not meet new, improved design features.
RACT can check the age of seats for anyone that is unsure where to find this information on the restraint.
To find out the age of your seat, look for a sticker with the date of manufacture. If it doesn’t have one, a series of three or four raised plastic dials either behind or under the seat will tell you the day, month and year it was manufactured. Hint – the dials can be hard to find but all child restraints sold in Australia have them.
Is it possible to fit three child restraints across the back seat of my car?
There is considerable variation in the types of child restraints and brands available for purchase. It will depend on the restraints used, including the combination of restraints required to appropriately restrain your children, and the make and model of your car to know whether this is possible.
Don't forget - you will also need to find out whether there are enough anchor points in your vehicle with which to fit the restraints. If you're unsure where the anchorage points are located in your vehicle, refer to the vehicle owner's manual under the section of 'Child Restraints' or 'Child Restraint Anchorage Systems'.
Why do the new rules refer to age instead of size or height and weight?
Research conducted by the Centre for Automotive Safety Research indicates that regulations specifying child restraint usage by age (rather than by height or weight) will result in the smallest number of children being inappropriately restrained. Guidelines are also easier for parents and carers to understand and follow if given in terms of age.
However, the RACT recommendations are slightly different to the legal ages for restraint use. The child's shoulder height is often a more important indicator of the suitability of the seat, as indicated by minimum and maximum height markers present on the vast majority of new restraints.
What is ISOFIX?
ISOFIX is a child restraining system developed under the International Standards Organisation (ISO) for child restraints which does not require the adult seat belt to be used. The system is mainly used in Europe, with US & Canada using a similar system called LATCH. The system provides metal loops in the bight of the rear seat (where the cushion and back of the seat meet). ISOFIX child restraints have metal latches which fit over metal hoops. Vehicle models using this restraining system are clearly labelled with the ISOFIX symbol in the seat cushion.
In June 2013 the Australian/New Zealand standard for child restraints AS/NZS 1754 was amended to include ISOFIX as an alternative restraint system.
RACT sell a number of seats that are ISOFIX compatible.
You can find further information on child safety, including advice on using child restraints, on the Kidsafe Tasmania website.
*Fact sheets were provided by RAA