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How safe is your child in the car?

How safe is your child in the car?

Despite high levels of child car restraint use in Australia and one of the most stringent child car restraint design standards in the world, approximately 40-70 children are killed on Australian roads each year, while thousands more are injured.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that over 70% of child car restraints are incorrectly fitted or used. This poses a serious safety risk to children travelling in those restraints. Do you know how to choose the correct restraint for your child’s size, install it correctly and ensure it is adjusted to fit them properly on every trip? The good news is that there are some updated guidelines to help Australian parents and carers through this process.

Updated best practice guidelines for the safe restraint of children travelling in motor vehicles

In March this year, Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and Kidsafe Australia released the updated Best Practice Guidelines on how to keep children safe while travelling on our roads.

The updated Guidelines provide advice and recommendations on how to choose and use child car restraints, when to transition to adult seat belts, and on keeping children safe during alternative means of travel such as in ride share services and on public transport.

What is the difference between the 'best practice guidelines' and the laws?

While there are laws in Australia regarding the use of child car restraints, these outline the minimum requirements. Evidence shows that there is more that can be done above and beyond these minimum requirements to minimise injuries to children.

The Best Practice Guidelines – approved by the National Health and Medical Research Council – are based on the best scientific evidence to provide parents, carers, and road safety practitioners with advice on the optimal use of child restraints and seat belts, to minimise the risk of injury for children in the event of a crash.

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The steps below from the Best Practice Guidelines provide a summary of the top ten steps for safer travel that parents, carers and those responsible for transporting children can follow, to help ensure their optimal safety.

1. Always buckle up

The use of any restraint is preferable to not using a restraint

2. Rear-facing as long as they fit

Infants are safest if they remain in their rear-facing restraint as long as they still fit in it.

3. Inbuilt harness as long as they fit

Once a child is too tall for their rear-facing child restraint (as indicated by the shoulder height markers), they should use a forward-facing child restraint with an inbuilt harness as long as they still fit in it.

4. Booster seat as long as they fit

Once a child is too tall for a forward-facing child restraint (as indicated by the shoulder height markers), they should use a booster seat with a lap-sash seat belt for as long as they still fit, until they can fit properly into an adult seat belt.

5. Seat belt? Check 5 Take the 5 step test. Your child will fit the seat belt in different cars at different ages - if your child doesn’t meet the 5 step test, they should remain in their booster seat.

6. Correctly fitted and adjusted

All child restraints and booster seats must be installed correctly and the child buckled incorrectly, according to the manufacturer’s instructions

7. Safest in the back seat

Children 12 years of age and under are safest in the rear seat

8. Is your car right for the job?

Use a motor vehicle that allows each child to be in the appropriate restraint for their size.

9. Accessorize correctly

Never add accessories that were not provided by the manufacturer.

10. Regular car seat check-ups

Check your restraint regularly to ensure it is still installed correctly and adjusted for the child – an accredited restraint installer can help with this.

These are just some of the key ways to ensure the child/children you are transporting are optimally restrained on every trip. To read more about the best practice guidelines, please visit Kidsafe Australia