Driving in the car is something we do so often, we rarely reflect on the potential consequences if something goes wrong. But before you push it to the back of your mind, take a moment to stop and make sure each trip your child takes is as safe as possible. This starts with your car seat.
When Does My Child Need a Car Seat?
This is the easy one – buckle up every trip. It’s not worth the risk, even if you are taking a short trip or your child is kicking up a fuss.
Does It Matter What Type?
The main things are that the seat meets local protocols (Australian Standard AS/NZS 1754), is appropriate for your child’s age and is correctly installed and used. If you’re buying a new car seat you can use the website Child Car Seats which rates them for protection and ease of use. Legislation in NSW requires all babies to use rear-facing seats until at least 6 months of age. But you might want to hold off on switching them around immediately. Both front and rear-facing seats decrease the odds that your child will be seriously injured in an accident, but research suggests that rear-facing seats perform better. In fact, the American Academy of Paediatrics and the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommend rear-facing until the age of two. In Sweden, it’s four.
How Do I Know My Car Seat is Correctly Installed?
Follow the seat’s instruction manual when installing the seat. Pay attention to recommendations for things such as headrest height or seat belt straps positions. If you lose the instructions, get another copy online or from the manufacturer. An Authorised Restraint Fitting Station will install or inspect your seat for a small fee.
How Long Will My Child Use a Car Seat?
Ideally, as long as possible. The regulations specify the ages for certain types of seat, along with when they can travel in the front seat, or stop using a child seat altogether. But every child is different. It’s more important to consider your child’s height than age when deciding on the type of seat or restraint to use. One child may grow out of a certain seat before the age specified, another may stay in it for longer rather than move to the next stage of seat that won’t protect them adequately.
Can I Use A Secondhand Child Car Seat?
It’s OK to use secondhand seats, but with caveats. Seats that are over 10 years old are not likely to conform to current safety standards. Whatever seat you use needs to conform AS/NZS 1754, version 2004, 2010 and 2013. You can find this information on the restraint. Check that model hasn’t been recalled, and if that’s the case, make sure yours got fixed. You should have all the parts, including instructions. Check they should work and are in good condition. Crucially, you need to know the seat’s history, because if it was in an accident, the force of the crash may have damaged it. If the incident was minor, check with the manufacturer about whether the seat is still safe to use.
There are some areas in life where it’s not worth taking chances. Regularly check your child’s car seat for wear and tear, correct installation and that it’s appropriate for your child’s age.
If you have any questions about what Caring4Kids can do for your child, please contact us.