Child Safety Advice & News

Child Safety FAQ's

Child Safety

What are the different child restraints that are available?
 

The law requires that children are correctly restrained in approved, size-appropriate restraints until they can wear a seatbelt correctly fastened and adjusted. As children grow, they require different sorts of approved child restraints:

  • Dedicated Infant Restraint - A dedicated infant restraint is a rearward facing restraint for infants up to approximately 6 months of age. It has its own inbuilt harness system. This type of restraint is also known as a rearward facing child restraint.
  • Child Safety Seat - A child safety seat is a forward facing seat for children approximately six months to four years of age. It has its own inbuilt harness system. This type of restraint is also known as a forward facing child restraint.
  • Convertible Seat - A convertible seat is one that can be used in more than one mode. This means that it can be used as a rearward facing restraint until 6 or 12 months, depending on the seat, and then turned forward facing until approximately four years of age.
  • Booster Seat - A booster seat increases the child's seated height so they can wear the seatbelt correctly. A full booster also provides head protection in a crash. Suitable for children that have outgrown their safety seat, they generally accommodate children from approximately four years of age upwards. A booster seat without sides, known as a booster cushion, provides good seatbelt fit but no head protection. This type of booster cannot be used in the seating positions on the side of a vehicle. A booster seat must be used with either a lap/sash seatbelt or child safety harness.
  • Combination Seat - A combination seat is one that can be used in more than one mode. This means that it can be used as a forward facing child safety seat with inbuilt harness to approximately four years of age and then converted to a booster seat.
  • Child Safety Harness - A child safety harness can be used in conjunction with a booster seat or without. Child safety harnesses are recommended for use for seating positions that are only fitted with a lap belt.
How can I find out which restraint is right for my child?
 

Click here to find out what RAA recommends for your child.

Can I buy a second-hand child restraint?
 

While it isn’t possible to guarantee that a used restraint is completely safe, it is ok to purchase a second-hand restraint.

Use the following checklist when purchasing a second-hand restraint:

  • Make sure the restraint is approved to Australian Standard 1754. It is best to stay clear of the earlier Australian Standard E46 restraints. They are usually very old and are likely to be unsuitable in some way.
  • Only consider restraints that are less than 10 years of age. Manufacturers warn against using restraints older than this as the plastic and fittings may have started to deteriorate. Restraints made to newer standards will afford the child better protection.
  • Check for signs of wear – i.e. cracks, faded or frayed straps, or a buckle that doesn’t work.
  • If you can, check the history of the restraint. Don’t use one which has been involved in a crash. It is likely to have been stressed and may no longer provide adequate protection.
  • As a general rule, only consider a restraint owned by someone you know.
When should I turn my child to the forward facing position?
 

The law requires that children must be rearward facing until at least 6 months of age. Restraints made to the new standard will have a shoulder height marker that will determine when the child is able to be turned around. These markers must be followed.

As children grow, the proportions between their head and the rest of their body changes considerably. As the head of a child is proportionally larger and heavier, a child’s centre of gravity will be located higher up on the body, in comparison to the centre of gravity of an adult. This means that a child involved in a crash is more vulnerable to head injuries than an adult.

In a crash, a child in a rearward facing restraint experiences forces spread over their back, head and neck. A child in a forward facing seat with their body restrained by the harness, thrusts forward violently with nothing to restrain their head. This puts an enormous strain on their spinal cord, so much so that it can stretch the spinal cord. If it stretches too far it can tear, resulting in paralysis or death. Young children have poorly developed ligaments and muscles and the vertebrae are not strong enough to protect the spinal cord.

Research conducted by Kathleen Weber at the University of Michigan showed that at around 12 months of age, the injuries seem to lessen from severe consequences to moderate consequences. Her recommendation is to keep children rearward facing until at least 12 months of age.

In Australia, there isn’t a high incidence of neck injuries in children restrained in forward facing seats due to the Australian Standard requiring that all child safety seats be fitted with a top tether strap. These top tethers on forward facing child restraints reduce the amount of head excursion in a crash and minimise the risk of neck injury to forward facing children.

To be on the safe side, RAA recommends using a restraint rear facing until the child reaches the maximum weight (for older seats) or the shoulder height marker (for newer seats). All convertible child safety seats recommended by RAA will see children remain rearward facing until approximately 12 months of age.

To find out more, download RAA’s factsheet about rear vs forward facing child restraints.

How do the new shoulder height markers work?
 

Shoulder height markers are now featured on all child restraints made to the 2010 Standard and onwards. The shoulder height markers make it easier for parents and carers to determine if a child restraint is suitable for their child and when the child needs to move to the next type of restraint.

On the Safe-n-Sound Hiliner, shown here, the lower height marker indicates the minimum shoulder height for a child in the restraint. If the child’s shoulder is below the marker they are too small for the restraint.

The upper height marker indicates the maximum shoulder height for a child in the restraint. When the child’s shoulder is at the top marker they are ready to move to the next type of restraint.

On some restraints it will determine when the restraint needs to be changed to the next mode. For example, on a convertible child safety seat there will be an additional shoulder height marker that will determine the minimum shoulder height for the child before they can be turned forward facing.

This new system, along with approximate ages, replaces the old system of using weight to determine the right restraint and the right mode of use.

Click here to download the ’Shoulder Height Marker’ fact sheet.

What are ISOFIX compatible restraints?
 

The Australian/New Zealand Standard for child restraints (AS/NZS 1754) has been amended to allow child restraint manufacturers to include (ISOFIX compatible) lower attachment connectors to rearward and forward facing child restraints.

The lower attachment connectors on the child restraint can either be a pair of rigid or flexible connectors. The lower attachment connectors are incorporated into the child restraint design at the time of manufacture and connect to the vehicle’s ISOFIX low anchorages. Note: Not all vehicles are fitted with ISOFIX anchorages.

Australian Standards approved ISOFIX compatible restraints will also be suitable for use in seating positions not fitted with the ISOFIX low anchorages by using the seatbelt and upper tether system already in use.

The Australian Standard for child restraints is one of the highest Standards in the world. For example, AS/NZS 1754 child restraints are required to:

  • have a top tether strap (on all infant restraints, safety seats and booster seats over 2kg in weight)
  • have a rebound prevention feature to keep a rearward facing child restraint in position (e.g. stabilising bar)
  • be tested in a side impact with a door (high level of side impact protection in crashes)
  • be tested in an inverted position to test for occupant ejection (i.e. rollover crashes)

It will continue to be illegal to use an ISOFIX compatible child restraint from overseas.

 

For more information on ISOFIX click here.

Click here to download the RAA fact sheet.

Is one brand of child restraint safer than another?
 

All child restraints sold in Australia must meet the same Australian Standard AS/NZS 1754. However, independent testing (Child restraint evaluation program – CREP) has shown that some restraints provide more protection and are easier to use than others. When purchasing a restraint consider the following:

  • Suitability for your child in relation to their age, weight and size;
  • Size of the seat and vehicle;
  • The restraint’s features, materials and ease of fitting; and
  • Warranty and after sales service and advice.

Find out the child restraints RAA recommends as the safest for children at every stage of their growth.

What should I consider when looking for a car that best accommodates child restraints?
 

If you are installing child restraints into your vehicle, it’s important to consider a few factors when deciding what type of car to purchase. Here are a few pointers:

  • Consider a car with a centre lap/sash seat belt. If your car doesn’t have one, it is possible in some cars to have the back seat lap-only belt replaced with a lap/sash belt. But if you want to use that position for a restraint, it’s best to make sure there's a centre rear anchorage point.
  • Ensure the anchorage points aren't too close to the seat back for the tether strap to be adjusted properly. Some cars have this problem.
  • Check your seat belts are long enough to use with your child restraint when it's in the recline position and when using a child safety harness with a booster.
  • Make sure you choose a car that will carry the number of restraints you need. Not all cars have wide enough back seats to carry three restraints at once.
  • Restraints come in many different shapes and sizes so always try the restraint in the vehicle before purchasing. RAA offers this free service to members. To make an appointment call 08 8202492 or email.

Here are some considerations for various types of cars:

Station wagons

  • Make sure you fit a cargo barrier that complies with Australian Standards. Ensure that the cargo barrier has the required opening for the upper tether strap to pass through to the anchorage point.

Hatchbacks

  • Check there's a clear path between the back seat and the rear anchorage point so the parcel shelf doesn't interfere with adjustment of the tether strap.
  • Luggage and some large items carried in the back often obstruct top tether straps.
  • Some hatchbacks can also be fitted with cargo barriers or cargo nets.

People Movers

  • Child restraints may reduce the seating capacity in some people movers, so make sure the restraint won't interfere with your requirements.
  • People movers don't always have anchorages for every rear seating position. Check this first, especially if you are going to carry a number of children in restraints.

Two-door cars

  • It’s often difficult to fit and use restraints in two-door cars. You may also hurt your back getting children in and out.

Small cars

  • A small car may not have enough room to comfortably fit a convertible restraint and a front passenger at the same time. You may only be able to fit a restraint on either side of the vehicle.

RAA has an extensive database of car reviews that have been written and compiled by industry experts. To see our full list of reviews, click here

What do I do if my vehicle does not have anchorage points?
 

All new vehicles sold in Australia must meet certain safety requirements called Australian Design Rules. For child restraints the most important design rule is the provision of child restraint anchorage points.

If your car is one of the following types and was built after the dates below it will have anchorage points:

  • Sedans manufactured after July 1976
  • Station wagons manufactured after January 1977
  • Hatchbacks manufactured after January 1977
  • Light passenger vans (up to 12 seats) manufactured after January 1986
  • Four wheel drives manufactured after July 1990

Vehicles classified as commercial vehicles (e.g. Utilities, vans, etc.) are not required to have anchorage points. However, some manufacturers of later model commercial vehicles have opted to supply them nevertheless.

If your vehicle is an older or commercial vehicle that does not have anchorage points, it may be possible to have them fitted.

Below is a list of businesses that offer this service:

Les Brazier Special Vehicles
8 Barfield Crescent
Elizabeth West
(08) 8255 1947

Willshire Motor Trimmers
4 Deacon Ave
Richmond
(08) 8292 2500

Access Seating
9 Bremen Drive Salisbury South 5106
Phone: (08) 8182 6699
Email: info@accessseating.com.au

Do I need to wear a seatbelt when pregnant?
 

No matter what the stage of your pregnancy, it is vital that you always wear a seatbelt. By wearing a seatbelt you are protecting yourself and your unborn baby in the event of a crash.

Remember, it is illegal not to wear a seat belt unless you have a current certificate signed by a medical practitioner exempting you due to medical reasons.

Wear your seat belt comfortably and correctly with the lap part of your seat belt worn as low as possible, positioned below your baby. It should be over the upper thighs and across the pelvis. The sash part of your seat belt should pass above the stomach and between the breasts.

Does my child restraint need to be replaced if we are involved in a crash?
 

All child restraints sold in Australia are required to be manufactured to the Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 1754 which require us to advise parents and carers to "Destroy the entire restraint if it has been involved in a severe crash even if no damage is obvious".

This applies to all restraints whether the child was in the child restraint or not at time of the crash.

A severe crash is considered to be where the main body structure of the vehicle is distorted in any way. if this is the case then the child restraint needs to be destroyed.

Child Restraint Laws

What are the laws regarding child restraints?
 

Click here to find out what is required by law when it comes to restraining your children safely in the car.

What is an 'Approved Child Restraint'?
 

Approved child restraints comply with Australian Standard AS/NZS 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/NZS 1754 covering the materials, design, construction, performance, testing and labelling of child restraints. A person must not sell, for use in a motor vehicle a child restraint or part that is not approved by Australian Standard 1754.

Restraints bought in other countries will not meet the Australian Standard. It is illegal to use them in Australia.

Restraints approved to an earlier Australian Standard, E46, may also be used but they are not recommended as they are very old and may have deteriorated to the point where they are no longer safe.

A recent review of the standard saw the removal of weight guidelines and the introduction of shoulder height markers.

Click here to find out more about shoulder height markers.

In addition, integrated booster seats are considered an approved booster seat and are legal for use by children 4 years and over when travelling in a motor vehicle in South Australia. An integrated booster seat is one which is built into the seat of the car when it is manufactured. The seat can be adjusted to allow a child 4 years and over to travel in that seat.

Although the integrated booster is now legal for use and helps the child wear the seatbelt correctly, it does not provide the head protection that is afforded by using a current Standards Approved booster seat.

Click here for more information on the Australian Standard.

What if the required restraint isn't suitable for my child?
 

While the law aims to cater for the majority of children, a provision has been included to ensure a child is not required to use a restraint unsuitable for their size (for example, a child who is too tall or heavy for the required restraint can then use a restraint for the next age category). Likewise, the law also allows a child that is small for their age to remain in their current seat until they have outgrown it.

In 2010, Standards Australia reviewed the standard to include boosters that will accommodate larger children. The Standards review also introduced new shoulder height markers and removed all reference to weight. No longer will children that weigh 26kg be forced to come out of a booster well before they have the height to wear a seatbelt correctly.

These changes provide parents with boosters that will now accommodate their children until they are able to wear an adult seatbelt correctly. If your child has outgrown their current booster but is still unable to wear the seatbelt correctly it may be possible to buy a larger booster without the weight restrictions.

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:

  • It’s not possible to guarantee a restraint that’s older than 10 years will perform as it was originally intended to do so; and
  • The Australian Standards have been improved significantly in the past ten years with updates occurring in 2000, 2004, 2010 and 2013. Older restraints will not meet new improved design features.
Can children ride in the front seat?
 

In any vehicle with two or more rows of seats, the following restrictions must be adhered to, by law:

  • Children under the age of four must be seated in the rear of the vehicle (where the vehicle has two or more rows of seats).
  • Children from the age of four to seven years are permitted to sit in the front of the vehicle, but only if all rear seats are already occupied by children up to the same age (where the vehicle has two or more rows of seats).

In a vehicle with only one row of seats it is allowable for children to travel in this row providing they are correctly restrained in a size appropriate, approved child restraint. The restraint must be fitted to the manufacturer's instructions; including attaching the upper tether to an anchorage point (excludes restraints such as foam boosters that do not feature an upper tether).
Commercial vehicles with only one row of seats, such as vans and utilities, are not required to have anchorage points. It may be possible to have one fitted. If your vehicle is not fitted with anchor points, contact RAA to find the location of your nearest anchorage installer.

Rearward facing restraints must not be used in a position fitted with an airbag. Child restraint manufacturers warn against using restraints in positions fitted with airbags and most vehicle manufacturers warn against placing children under the age of 12 in these positions. As airbags are designed for the safety of adults, these warnings should be followed.

Can my child travel in an old car without seatbelts?
 

Children under the age of seven years will no longer be able to travel in a vehicle that is not fitted with seatbelts.

An exemption to this rule exists for drivers of vehicles conditionally registered as a Historic Vehicle under section 25 of the Motor Vehicles Act. A child travelling in a historic vehicle with no seatbelts is required to travel in the rear row of seats in a vehicle with two or more rows of seats.

It is recommended that if the vehicle is used for regular transportation that seatbelts be fitted to the vehicle.

Can my child use the "dikki" seat?
 

When using the retro fitted “dikki” seats in the back of a station wagon, it is important to check the height and weight limitations of that particular seat. Most dikki seats are not suitable for child safety seats and booster seats cannot be used as they raise the child too close to the roof of the vehicle. Most are not fitted with anchorage points either. Check with the manufacturer of the dikki seat for its suitability with restraints.

Although the law requires that children 4-7 years use a booster seat, it is allowable for these children to travel on dikki seats without a booster seat. Dikki seats may provide a better seatbelt fit than those of normal vehicle seats; however they do not provide side impact protection. It is recommended that wherever possible use a booster seat on a normal vehicle seat in preference to the dikki seat, as this provides both good seatbelt fit and side impact protection.

A child using a dikki seat must be restrained by a lap/sash seatbelt and not a lap only belt. If there is only a lap belt fitted on the dikki seat then a child safety harness must be used. The dikki seat will need to have an anchorage point for the harness to be used so if no anchorage point is available then that position cannot be used.

When my child turns seven, does that mean he/she no longer needs to use a booster seat?
 

Click here to find out what RAA recommends for children aged seven and older.

Can I use a booster cushion (half booster) rather than a full-booster?
 

Any child restraint that meets AS/NZS 1754 Standard at the time of manufacture is an approved restraint in South Australia.

Although this type of booster does not comply with the latest Standards and will no longer be manufactured, they are still legal for use.

Booster cushions do not offer side impact protection and, as a result, must only be used in the centre position of the back seat. This can only be done if a lap/sash seatbelt is available rather than a lap only seatbelt.

It is recommended that booster seats with high back and sides be used wherever possible as they provide a higher level of safety.

Who is responsible for ensuring children are appropriately restrained when travelling in a vehicle?
 

Bus drivers

Bus drivers will continue to be exempt from ensuring passengers under 16 years of age are restrained.
Under the Australian Road Rules, a bus is defined as ‘a motor vehicle designed to carry over 12 adults (including the driver)’. If the vehicle involved is designed to carry 12 adults or less (including the driver) it is not a bus and the driver is not exempt from ensuring all passengers are appropriately restrained.

Taxi drivers

The driver of a taxi is exempt from the provisions if there is no suitable approved child restraint available. However, the taxi driver will need to ensure that a child between 1 and 7 years is at the very least wearing a seatbelt to the best extent that is possible and that all passengers under seven are seated in the rear row in a vehicle that has two or more rows of seats. Taxi drivers will continue to be responsible for ensuring passengers between the ages of 7 and 16 are appropriately restrained.

Note: Child restraints considerably reduce the risk of injury sustained by children in crashes. Seatbelts are designed for the restraint of adults and are not suitable as standalone restraints for young children. If you are using a service that does not provide child restraints it is highly recommended to provide your own restraints.