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Get Ahead Kids® Feature Article
Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 3, No. 6 - November/December 2011

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Kids in Car Seats

Are Your Children Restrained Correctly in the Car?

Laws in NSW now require all children up to the age of seven years to use a child restraint.

However many children, because of their size, will need to remain in their child restraint until much older than seven to ensure they are properly protected in the event of a crash.

Birth - 6 Months


For parents of a newborn it is much easier to know which child restraint is appropriate for their baby - a rearward facing restraint or capsule is used to carry babies in the car.

Knowing when to graduate to a forward facing child restraint or booster seat is what parents often find the most challenging.

The new laws use a child's age to determine which restraint a child should use.

6 Months - 4 Years

Between six and twelve months of age a baby can be moved into a forward facing child restraint. This will be when they outgrow the rearward facing restraint and they have developed strong head control. They will then use a forward facing internally harnessed restraint until at least their fourth birthday.

Although a child is able to use a booster seat once they turn four, they should only use a booster if they are tall enough. Many children will still fit into their forward facing child restraint with built in harness, until after their fifth birthday.

Between 4 - 7 Years

When they have outgrown their forward facing restraint and have passed their fourth birthday, the child can use a booster seat. They are called 'boosters' as they boost the child's height to enable the adult seat belt to fit the child correctly. There are two styles of booster seats:

  • Lighter foam booster seats are placed on the vehicle seat with the adult seat belt holding the child and the seat in position;
  • Heavier moulded booster seats use a tether strap to attach the seat to a car's anchor point. These seats often incorporate an extendable head rest which can be adjusted to accommodate a child as they grow taller. They also use the adult seat belt.

The main things to check are that the booster sits properly on the car seat and that the adult seat belt crosses your child's body correctly when sitting in the booster.

This means that the lap part of the belt sits across the upper thighs and the sash part of the belt crosses the middle of your child's shoulder and does not touch the neck. The booster seat should incorporate seat belt guides to ensure correct fit, and you must use them.

Over 7 Years

A child can sit on the car seat using an adult seat belt after the age of seven, but to ensure they travel safely they should only move out of their booster seat once they are tall enough to be protected from injury by the adult seat belt.

Your child is tall enough to move into an adult seat belt when:
Sash part of seat belt crosses over the middle of the shoulder & does not touch the neck

  • Lap part of seat belt sits across the upper thighs not the abdomen
  • Child's knees sit comfortably over the edge of the seat & in some cases the child's feet will be able to touch the car floor
  • In most vehicles this is when they are approximately 145 cms tall

Getting to & from School

Children over four may sit in the front seat in an approved restraint if all the rear seats are occupied by younger children.

If using a booster seat with a tether strap, it must be attached to an anchor point. The front seat should be pushed back so that it is away from the airbag but does not contact the legs of children seated in the back seats.

Most vehicle manufacturers include recommendations on the age that a child should sit in the front seat.

These are usually located on the visor or in the owner's manual. For safety reasons it is important that these recommendations are followed.

Safety Around Schools Issues

  • Always restrain children correctly in your car
  • Teach your children to use the safety door (the one closest to the kerb) to get out of the car
  • Hold their hands to cross the road or around traffic & always use crossings or lights if available
  • Never call a child across the road
  • Make sure you follow parking and speed signs around school areas as these are for your children's safety
  • Always be a good role model-one day your children will be drivers

More Information

Seat Me Safely
Kidsafe NSW
P: 02 9845 0890
kidsafe@chw.edu.au
www.kidsafensw.org


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