An Introduction to Baby Seat Safety

baby seat safety

An Introduction to Baby Seat Safety

If you are one of the many Australians getting ready to welcome a new arrival into your family, understanding the basics of baby seat safety is a must.

While starting a family is not a decision to be taken lightly, having a baby can be one of the most rewarding experiences that anyone can have. For many people, becoming a parent means that life isn’t about you anymore, as caring for this tiny human becomes priority number one.

The responsibility of caring for a child can mean anything and everything from feeding them, bathing them, clothing them, and ensuring that their environment is as safe as possible, at all times. For new Mums and Dads that are finally ready to leave their house with the newest addition, getting familiar with baby seat safety in cars is a non-negotiable consideration to be made.

 

The Role of a Baby Seat in Cars

In the event of a car crash at just 50 kilometres per hour, an unrestrained passenger is thrown forward with a force 30 to 60 times their body weight. While adults have a legal requirement to use a seatbelt, what if that unrestrained passenger was a small child?

As seatbelts are often fitted for adults, a baby seat or a child seat in a car is designed to protect the smaller passengers in a similar fashion. Generally, there are three different types of child safety restraints available in Australia.

 

  • Baby Capsule – Unlike other types of car seats, baby capsules can be easily transported in and out of the car. In addition, they don’t allow the infant to sit up, and rearward-facing restraints support the child’s head and neck in severe frontal crashes better than a forward-facing restraint. Often used as a carrier or attached to a pram, these types of baby seats are rearward facing with an in-built harness and often used until the child grows out of them.
  • Front-Facing Child Seats – Once your baby gets too big for their capsule, front-facing restraint is the next size up. These types of car seats have their own in-built, six-point harness for your child and are usually used once a child passes six months in age. In addition, they should be used until your child is at least four years old but can be used for longer. As the six-point harness offers a better fit for little bodies when compared to standard seatbelts, it’s safest for kids to stay in a harness for as long as they can fit in it.
  • Booster Seat – Although similar in nature to the front-facing car seats, booster seats are usually designed for kids aged between 4 and 10. Their primary point of difference is that once the child has outgrown the six-point harness, a booster seat still offers the same support and protection while using a car’s standard seatbelt. Although they can either sit on the standard seat or be clipped in with additional tethers, modern-day versions also have high backs and sides to provide side-impact protection and support for sleeping children.

 

While one option is to start your baby in a capsule and progress to a forward-facing seat then a booster seat, some may prefer to use a convertible car seat, which can change modes to allow for longer periods of use and save on forking out extra money on all the upgrades.

 

What the Law Says About Baby Car Seats

The Child Restraint Evaluation Program (CREP) is a program run by a combination of motorist organisations and Australian government agencies.

Because all child and baby seats sold in Australia are required to meet mandatory safety standards, they independently crash test car seats above and beyond these standards. There are a number of models listed on the Child Car Seats website which are considered safe and is a great way to find and compare child car seats. This will also help you choose the best car seat for your child.

Although the legal requirements can vary slightly depending on your state or territory, the laws for using baby seats and children’s seats in Australian vehicles are generally based on age:

 

  • Children under six months of age must use a rear-facing child car seat with an in-built harness.
  • Children aged between six months and up to four years must use a rear-facing or forward-facing child car seat with an in-built harness.
  • Children aged between four years and up to seven years must use a forward-facing child car seat with an in-built harness, or a booster seat with an adult lap-sash seatbelt or child safety harness.
  • Children aged seven years and older must use a booster seat with an adult lap-sash seatbelt or child safety harness, or a standard seat with an adult seatbelt.
  • Children who are too small for the car seat that’s specified for their age group can stay in their current seat until they grow into the seat for the next age group.
  • Children who are too big for the child car seat that’s specified for their age can move to the seat specified for the next age group.

 

The shoulder height markers on car seats indicate when a child is big enough to start using a particular car seat when you can convert the seat to the next use, and when your child is too big for the seat.

By law, children aged seven years and older can use adult seatbelts – but only if they’re physically big enough. In fact, if a police officer happens to pull you over and thinks that a child aged over seven years isn’t wearing an adult seatbelt correctly, the officer can issue an infringement notice.

Despite what the law says, it’s important to know that most seven-year-olds are often considered to be too small for an adult seatbelt. Many children aren’t big enough to safely wear an adult seatbelt until they’re 10 to 12 years of age, as adult seatbelts are designed for people who are at least 145cm tall.

For parents looking for advice on moving their child into a different car seat, it’s always a good idea to ask your child and family health nurse or another professional.

 

How to Install a Baby Seat

A recent survey showed that more than 70% of children’s car seats in Australia are not installed correctly. And the reality is that failing to do so can increase the risk of injury significantly.

If you’re new to the world of parenting and aren’t feeling all that confident with mastering how to install a baby seat, it’s worth consulting with the professionals. Authorised fitters usually cost anywhere between $30 to $75 for a new baby or child seat installation in a car, with some local councils even offering free safety checks.

Baby capsules and children’s car seats have almost opposite installation processes, so don’t be afraid to ask for assistance if you’re not confident in this area. However, if you’re an old hand at the baby seat safety game or are looking for tips when you’re getting familiar with the installation process, it’s worth noting the following:

 

  • Choose the correct anchorage points. Don’t be afraid to check your car manual to find out where they are. If you have a child car seat that’s compatible with ISOFIX latch systems, check whether your car also has ISOFIX low anchorage points.
  • Carefully read the instructions of your unique car seat or booster, before positioning the seat firmly in the desired position. When connecting the tethers, give it a wiggle or two to ensure it’s not going to move.
  • While it’s important to know how to position your child and tighten the harness, be sure to regularly check and adjust the seat’s harness and shoulder height markers as your child grows.

 

While the open road offers a whole new type of family-friendly adventure, ensuring the safety of your precious cargo on board before you get behind the wheel is a must.

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