Buying the right baby seat.
Note: Before reading this article, it is recommended that you ring various businesses (see near the end of this article) that fit child booster seats. These companies are up to date with the current legislative requirements and can advise accordingly as each person’s vehicle and circumstances differ. A good page to check out is the VicRoads website on “child restraints” for readers in Victoria or check your states road authority website for state specific information.
The question of which baby car seat to buy is unlike any decision that you will need to make. The question becomes not whether to purchase one of the many brands of car seats for toddlers on the market, but which seat will keep your child comfortable and also safe in the event of a sudden stopping incident or accident.
This issue will become evident when you realise, that you will not be able to drive your baby home from the hospital without a car seat in the vehicle.
Australian child car seating laws.
Australia’s child car seat laws, while seemingly unforgiving, are responsible for a major decrease in serious injuries among our children. When shopping for a car seat, these rules must be kept in mind and adhered to. A few primary considerations will have you well on the way to ensuring the safest ride.
At the outset, any car seat that you purchase will need to bear the Australian Standard logo. If it does not carry this logo, the car seat is not legal to use in Australia. Australia’s laws are a lot stricter than the laws of other countries, so even if the vehicle seat came from the UK or the U.S., it could not be used in any Australian state unless it bears the Australian Standards logo. It doesn’t matter if you are looking for a car seat for a 2, 3, 4 or 5-year-old; the seat MUST carry the Australian Standards logo.
Australian Standard Symbol in relation to children’s car seats. You should look for the Australian Standards symbol on ALL car seats that you are looking to buy, this will ensure it’s been tested thoroughly. For this article we cannot recommend any particular seat as being the safest seat to buy on the market, but we plan to cover this topic in a future article.
Should you buy a second-hand child car seating?
As far as safety concerns go, it is not a good idea to buy a used car seat for your child to use and DEFINITELY, you should never buy one that has been in a vehicle crash, no matter how minor. Buying used child car seats presents a problem in that you do not know the seat’s history, you will not know how reliable it would be when it is needed most. The time to find out that the harness on your new car seat (new to you, anyway) won’t restrain your child during impact is not during a crash.
Apart from not buying a secondhand seat for sale, not buying any seat that is older than six years is a good rule of thumb. If nothing else, safety regulations may have changed in that period. It is always best to have the most current
You are probably familiar with the basic car seating laws, but they are worth repeating. This list is not intended to be all-encompassing; these are just the highlights.
Car seat laws in Australia
- Car seat for newborn to 6 months – child in the back seat in a rearward-facing chair24 with at least a five-point harness.Forward facing car seat age.
- Six months to 4 years – child still in the back, but can move to a forward-facing seat.
- Four years to 7 years – forward-facing car seat or a booster seat with a seatbelt.
- Seven years and above – booster seating with a seatbelt or just a seatbelt when the child is too big for the booster.
Again, keep in mind that the laws are more involved than this, but this is a good overview.
Child weight considerations when buying a toddlers car seat.
Though not specifically addressed in the law, a child’s weight should be considered when deciding whether
- Car seat.
- Booster seat.
- The seatbelt would provide the safest ride.
Weight ranges and what type of baby seat to buy?
• A child weighing up to 9 kg (or 70 cm tall) should use a rearward-facing car seat.
• A child weighing between 8 kg and to 18 kg could use a forward-facing car seat.
• A child weighs between 14 kg, and 26 kg could use a booster seat and seat belt (up to 32kgs).
When should your child make a move?
The commonly accepted criteria for determining whether your child is ready to totally leave the car seat behind and move to just a seatbelt are:
• Your child can press his/her back against the seat back.
• Your child’s knees are bending over the edge of the seat.
• The shoulder belt sits across the middle of the shoulder (i.e., not on the neck or near the arm).
• The lap belt sits low across or over the hips touching the thighs
• your child can stay in the seat for the entire trip.
While unpleasant to discuss, mention has to be made of the potential dangers surrounding a car seat. Perhaps you can take these as cautionary tales on choosing the safest car seat to buy.
The impact of a crash could cause the spine to stretch more than 5 cm. A stretch of a fourth of that is all that’s needed to rupture the vertebrae in a small child’s neck. Imagine the entire body being jerked forward with the limbs and the neck absorbing most of the impact. With a rearward-facing seat, the seat itself would absorb the impact. For this reason, it is recommended that small children stay in a rearward-facing seat for as long as practicable.
A fatality caused by a car seat would be even worse. It is recommended that a child never is put down for a nap in a car seat. There is too much chance that the child’s head would fall forward and restrict his/her airways. This is called positional asphyxiation.
The safest car seat ride for your child is the primary goal to keep in mind. The child car seat laws provide the minimum guidelines, but if you feel that greater protection is warranted, I am no expert, but I say to follow your best instincts in buying the right baby seat. If that means keeping your four-year-old in a rearward-facing car seat or keeping your seven-year-old in a car seat rather than a booster seat, to my mind, that should be done.
Choice magazine has some further reading on car seats for toddlers. There are services around for baby restraint fitting. For example, there is a Melbourne service that fits your baby booster or child car seat for around $45.00 for one seat and reduces in price for additional seats added. There was another service here also doing baby restraint fitting in Melbourne.
Warning: Australian readers, please note that the baby seats displayed below are from the US and do not carry an Australian standards logo. Baby seats are required by law to carry the Australian Standards logo. The table is intended for readers who are outside of Australia. The prices quoted are in USD currency.