Which care seat to buy is unlike any decision that you will need to make. The question becomes whether purchase a car seat; the question is one, that is, which car seat keeps your child the safest. This issue will become evident at a time when you realise, that you will not be able to drive your baby home from the hospital without a car seat in the vehicle.
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 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.
Australian Standard Symbol. You should look for this symbol on ALL car seats that you buyAs far as safety concerns, it is not a good idea to buy a used car seat, and you should never buy one that has been through a crash. Buying used presents a problem only because if you do not know the seat’s history, you will not know how reliable it would be when needed. 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.
This same issue is of concern when purchasing a car seat that has been through a collision, with the difference being that you will know that it has seen its best days. 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 seat that incorporates the most current technology and follows the latest regulations.
You are probably reasonably familiar with the basic car seat laws, but they are worth repeating. This list is not intended to be all-encompassing; these are just the highlights.
• Newborn to 6 months – child in the back seat in a rearward-facing car seat with at least a five-point harness.
• 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 seat with a seatbelt or just a seatbelt when the child is too big for the booster.
Again, please keep in mind that the laws are more involved than this, but this is a good overview.
Though not specifically addressed in the law, a child’s weight should be considered when deciding whether rearward-facing, forward-facing, car seat, booster seat or seatbelt would provide the safest ride.
• 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).
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. Please forgive me. I may need to use descriptive terms.
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 ride for your child is the primary goal to keep in mind. The 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. 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.