Car restraints for motor vehicle occupants are compulsory. Child car restraints greatly reduce the risk of a child being injured or killed in a car accident. Make sure you buy a restraint that is suitable for your child and your car, and that meets mandatory safety requirements.
About children's car restraints
Choosing the correct car restraint for your child and installing it correctly is important to ensure a proper level of safety.
Child car restraints are fitted in the car, either with existing adult seatbelts or with a lower anchorage attachment system instead of the seatbelt. They are generally suitable for children from birth up to around 10 years of age or with a shoulder height up to 530mm.
Choosing the correct style of restraint
Child car restraints were previously related to the mass (weight) of the child. However the size and mass of a child can vary significantly. The size of the child along with an approximate age recommendation is now used to inform consumer decisions on child car restraint purchase. In addition restraints that are attached by a low vehicle anchorage system (commonly known as ISOFIX) are now able to be used for certain types (A, B and D and combinations).
The style of restraint you should use is dependent on your child’s size, specifically their height at the shoulder. Shoulder height markings are provided on most types of restraints. A child’s age is also used as a guide to select and use the right restraint. There are up to nine categories or Types of child car restraint that can be used:
- Type A- rearward facing restraints: for infants with a supine length up to 70cm and 6 months of age; for infants with a supine length up to 80cm and 12 months of age; for infants up to 30 months of age; transverse restraints for infants with a supine length up to 70cm and 6 months of age.
- Type B- forward facing chair for children from approximately 6 months to 4 years of age.
- Type C- forward facing harness used in conjunction with a booster seat for children approximately 4 to 10 years of age; forward facing harness without chair for children approximately 7 to 10 years of age used just with the vehicle seat.
- Type D- rearward facing chair suitable for children approximately 6 months to 4 years of age.
- Type E- a booster seat used in conjunction with a lap-sash seat belt suitable for children approximately 4 to 8 years of age whose height is less than 128cm.
- Type F- a booster seat used in conjunction with a lap-sash seat belt suitable for children approximately 4 to 10 years of age whose height is less than 138cm.
- Type G- forward facing chair suitable for children approximately 6 months to 8 years of age.
- Type H- a converter used with a booster seat suitable for children approximately 4 to 7 years of age and/or used with a seatbelt without a booster seat for children approximately 7 to 10 years of age.
- Combination types of the above.
It is recommended that infants should be kept in their age and size appropriate restraint and generally advised that they should be kept in rearward facing restraints for as long as practical.
Risks and injuries
Child car restraints greatly reduce the risk of injury and death in a car accident.
When children are not properly restrained they are more likely to suffer serious injuries or die in car accidents. Using adult seatbelts too early, incorrectly and using lap-only seatbelts increase a child’s risk of injury or death.
- Be careful when buying online, especially from individual sellers or suppliers based overseas. You should check that your child car restraints and booster cushions:
- meet mandatory Australian safety requirements
- are allowed to be used under the road rules in your state or territory. Each state and territory has rules for the types of child car restraints that are allowed to be used in motor vehicles – check with your local road authority for more information.
- Look for a label or information that says the child car restraint complies with either the 2004, 2010 or 2013 version of the Australian Standard AS/NZS 1754. If there isn’t one, or you are not sure, do not buy it.
- Make sure the restraint is suitable for your type of car and your child's size or age.
- If the child car restraint is second-hand, check that it is in good condition. Do not buy or use a second-hand restraint if it is showing signs of wear such as cracks, frayed straps or broken buckles, or if it has been in an accident, even if it looks fine.
- Do not use restraints that are more than 10 years old as they lose their reliability and may not give a child enough protection in an accident.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If you don’t have fitting instructions or they are hard to understand, contact the manufacturer or an authorised safety restraint fitting station. Some specialist retailers offer an installation service and organisations that hire out restraints normally provide a fitting and/or adjustment service.
- Make sure the child car restraint is properly fitted and adjusted. The restraint or harness should fit snugly with no slack and should not be twisted.
- Install the restraint in the rear seat of the car. Booster seats can be used in the front passenger seat only under certain circumstances.
- If you decide to install a rearward facing restraint in a position where an airbag is fitted, first check with the car manufacturer that it is safe to do so.
- Use the restraint properly for every trip, even when driving at low speeds or on short trips, or when the car is stationary. Car accidents can happen at any time.
- Do not wrap your child in blankets or other swaddling before putting them in the restraint. This could reduce the restraint's ability to save your child in an accident.
- Avoid adding accessories and attachments, like head supports or restraints, to your baby's car seat as they can become dangerous.
- Check the fit of the restraint at frequent intervals. It may have become loose during frequent use.