Yes, on the internet a list of rated Safety Seats for Australian use can be found. ACRI does not refer to this list. There are many reasons for that, but in short it has not proven is worth to our members. There are too many inconsistencies within the ‘Ease of use’ category alone: These are reported to us by our members, who work in the field with these products. Certainly the report may be of some assistance, for people narrowing their choices, but ease of use is a priority factor. ACRI has a ‘Purchasing a Safety Seat Guideline’ that we distribute on request.

The road rule, in general terms asks that all children must travel in an approved child restraint suitable for the child’s size. Unfortunately, the breakdown of the road rules for the different ages of children is what everyone is reading and basing their beliefs on. The child restraint road rules are not about limiting the upper use of any restraint type at all, they’re about enforcing a minimum use. Rear facing, like other stages does not have an upper limit other than the Safety Seats stated limit.

We’ve had Safety Seat product in Australian that could handle children rear facing up to two years old or more for well over 15 years. In another respect, seven years old is allowed by the road rule as a minimum to move to using a seat belt only. ie; No s product used at all. In other words the rules allow children to travel at a minimum safety starting point. If anyone doubts this, you only need to look at the front seat rules for child passengers. Seven years old, or under some circumstances from four years old, are both a long way short of what vehicle manufactures and road safety specialists would prefer and often recommend for front seat use.

A common road rule relates to the speed we should travel. With speed, there are maximum speeds allowable for safe road use and it appears to me that this interpretation has incorrectly and inadvertently been applied by many to the child restraint road rules. Child restraint road rules are about the minimum safety not best practice. The design and stated use limitations of any particular Safety Seat product are what limits the maximum use, not the road rules.

An additional complication is that the Australian Standards (1754) of recent versions has ‘required’ manufacturers to ‘promote / market’ their product to comply within the road rule guideline. So they have ‘Birth to 6mths’, ‘6mths to 4 years’ and ‘4 Years to 7 Years’ printed on their boxes reiterating the false belief, that the use of these products is limited to the upper age. Well, no it’s not, but it’s no wonder people get confused is it.

Why, when you have a Safety Seat capable of offering superior protection for a child up to a certain ‘size’, as they all state, would you remove that child from it because of a perceived age limit? It’s not part of the equation and never has been. Those professionally involved with child Safety Seat safety know that these safe travel principles haven’t changed in 30 years. “Stay rear facing as long as possible. Use each Safety Seat type up to its maximum use limitations. Always keep children in the rear seats and use the Safety Seat in accordance with the instructions”.

It’s safest to travel rearward facing for all passengers. This is especially so for our fragile developing infants and young children. On that basis alone we should keep our youngest children travelling rearward facing as long as we can, based on each personal circumstance. Eg: How large a child can your Safety Seat product cater for rear facing (There are several different types). There are often additional limiting factors such as vehicle design and other family passenger demands that restrict particular and / or preferred practices.

For many decades the minimum, legal requirement, to allow a child to travel forward facing was from 8Kgs. With earlier products manufactured to Pre 2010 Standard products this is now over-ruled by the updated Road Rule that requires 6 months of age minimum for forward facing. NB: The child’s size is all important in using any safety equipment and keeping a child rear facing as long as possible is obviously best, but REMEMBER your child can only stay rear facing up to the maximum that your Safety Seat is rated for.  Best and safest practices are always related to size (or weight if applicable to your Safety Seat product) choosing and adjustment, not age. With the new Road Rule amendments, choosing by age is only a general guide. Your specific product will have its own minimum ‘Stop’ using criteria.

As well as the new road rules you should also abide by the instructions of the Safety Seat you are using in respect to it’s maximum use guidelines. If your child is heavier than the Safety Seat guidelines allow, you are permitted as stated in the Road rules (Use a restraint suitable to the child’s size) to move the child to the next Safety Seat type available. You will be operating outside of the stated parameters if you do not consider the child’s size.

Refer to the 5 step test below:

  1. Can the child sit with their back against the vehicles seat backrest?
  2. Do the child’s knees reach the front edge of the seat allowing them to bend their legs comfortably?
  3. Does the sash (shoulder) belt sit across the middle of the shoulder, not on the neck or off the shoulder over the arm?
  4. Is the lap belt sitting low across the hips ie; across the lap, possibly touching the thighs?
  5. Can the child stay seated comfortably like this for the whole trip?

If you answered a “Yes” to all 5 Questions, then your child is ready to move out of a Booster seat, into an Adult Lap/sash seatbelt (ie: Three point or across shoulder seatbelt).

If you answered “No” to one or more, then they may still benefit from using a booster seat.

NB: WARNING!  A 145cm height is often mentioned as ‘safe to move out’ of a booster seat. This advice is misleading and offers no guarantee of a safer environment.

Passenger size has everything to do with appropriate restraint in relation to the specific Safety Seat device in use. If the seat belt sash in any particular vehicle cuts across your neck, then it’s unsafe. This happens to adults, so children are obviously at risk as well.

A large number of Booster products are not designed to cope with a child of anywhere near a 145cm in height.

  1. Take time: In preparing for your trip and whilst you’re driving.
  2. Ensure you keep a safe distance from the car in front.
  3. Always travel at a speed which will allow you to avoid a collision.
  4. Look as far up the road as possible – plan ahead.
  5. Use a Safety Seat suitable to the passenger, this means:
    1. In the case of an infant or young child, a rearward facing Safety Seat is necessary for as long as the product limits allows you to. This may mean up to two years or more with some Australian products.
    2. The placement of the straps or seat belt must be correct in relation to the passengers body ie; low and tight across the hips and providing upper body restraint across shoulder/s away from vulnerable part of their body. Eg: head or neck.
    3. Consider head protection factors, use the centre seat position of the vehicle if possible and or ensure head protection factors of any child Safety Seat are positioned correctly
    4. Check that the Safety Seat and/or vehicle is providing ‘whiplash’ protection ie; has the passenger some restraint behind their head to avoid the extension rearward of their neck. Head restraints (headrests) must be suitably positioned.
    5. With Child Safety Seats always be mindful of their limitations (read the labels).
  6. If you’re using a Child Safety Seat ensure that it complies with the AS/NZS 1754 standard. (It’s best if the Safety Seat is less than 10 years old: Check the build date on the product)
  7. If you’re using any Child Safety Seat or restraint accessory ensure you install and use it correctly every trip.
  8. Never rely alone, on someone else having installed it at some time.

These safe travel principles have been pertinent for over thirty years and are still where the focus for safe travel of all passengers should start.

Ideally No. For a more satisfactory fitment and one, which is less likely to cause unnecessary injury to all passengers, we suggest a firm fitment.

If you’ve followed the manufacturers’ instructions accurately, some movement may be present. Despite a common opinion, pushing on a Safety Seat is not a valid test and may only loosen the seat belts relationship with the Safety Seat.

If you want a firmer fitment, then there are many ways that can be achieved. Your particular Safety Seat may have a device that can contribute to that, otherwise a ‘Gated buckle’ or deploying the ALR seatbelt (if available) may be useful for this purpose.

If you’re unsure of your interpretation of the manufacturer’s instructions, Query any movement. You may need to consult with an experienced Child Safety Seat service provider.

Going by the Australian Standards, engineering and testing processes a restraint does not have to be ‘rock solid’ to be safe.  Be mindful that even mild tension on the vehicle seat cushion may damage the vehicles trim, especially leather trim. Safety Seats can also be damaged by over-tensioning.

Many vehicle seat shapes and angles are not suitable for a baby’s safe and comfortable travel needs. The angle of an infant Safety Seat is very important and towels are a versatile and safe way to modify a vehicle seat shape for this purpose.

Although there may be a mechanical reason for this; such as one strap end being caught on or over something or installed incorrectly to the seat frame, chassis or to the splitter plate or adjuster. The most common cause is that the baby or child is sitting slightly to the left or right side of their seat. Ie: Off centre.  Even only 1 cm off centre can make quite a difference in this respect. An easy way to check this is this:  Remove the child, connect the harness tongues into the buckle and tighten the harness to remove all the looseness. The crotch buckle should be aligned to the centre of the seat. If this is not the case then further investigation is required. Regardless of the finding, it’s always prudent to check that the attachment and routing of harness straps is in compliance with the Safety Seats instructions.

A Child Safety Seat is not considered ‘approved’ for road rule compliance if it becomes too old.  A specific dated version of the Australian Child Restraint Standard is used for this. This changes over time as the rule is periodically updated.

(Check with your own local road authority to confirm this aspect).

Historically, child safety stakeholders have suggested that Child Safety Seat products are best removed from service after ten (10) years of age.

Additionally, any Child Safety Seat ‘expires’ as soon as an issue is identified that would make safe use suspect. This can and does occur for even near new Safety Seats.

Some products have a warning printed into them when manufactured. Such as:  “Do not use this restraint after DD/MM/YYYY”.   This may only suggest approximately 6 years use after purchase? Australian manufacturers however, generally honor the ‘ten year’ guideline stated below.

NB: As mentioned above, a Safety Seat may be unsafe to use at any age, so do not rely on any age factor alone.

The forces acted on us are enormous under collision conditions. Have you hurt your hand because of a plastic shopping bag cutting into you – why? Because the surface area against your hand is thin.  It would damage to your hand less if the surface area was wider across your hand, wouldn’t it? The same principles apply to being safely restrained with a harness or seat belt. Keep straps flat and untwisted.

It’s not that difficult if you know what ‘not to do’.

DON’T start by placing the harness over junior from the shoulder or top end. Even though it’s easier to access.

DON’T start at reaching for the buckle tongue and pulling it out from below, behind or underneath junior.  Both of these actions create twists in most modern Safety Seats

WHAT TO DO?   See ‘How do I remove twists?’

The techniques vary across different products, so watch this ACRI video for a full explanation

NB: These tips do not apply to ‘Additional needs’ children:

Firstly, check that the harness shoulder height is correct (As close as possible to top of their shoulders is the best for this challenge) and then check that the harness is tight enough.

Your child needs to learn that car travel without correct harness use is not an option.

In extreme cases, as a last resort and only if you have exhausted the tips below, you may find relief in using a product such as the ‘Houdini Stop’.   NB: Children may still escape such products if they have mind to.

Here are some tips to try:

  • If your child has wiggled out of their shoulder straps while driving, it’s recommended that you calmly pull your car over as soon and as safe as possible to do so. refit the harness and check the child is comfortable (discomfort may be due to ‘bunched’ fabric encouraging a child to escape). Highlight to your child the importance of knowing that they can feel the straps over their chest every time they travel.
  • Ensure that the harness straps are in the proper level slots (as close to the shoulder height as possible) and that they are adjusted so that there is no slack / looseness in them.
  • Set a positive audible and visual example by making a commentary when buckling yourself in. eg: “Daddies getting his seat belt, i’ll tighten it around my body, do i feel it against my chest? no i’ll move it to here… etc:
  • Have some activities in the car for distracting the child. (Ensure they aren’t heavy items or have any other unsafe aspects to them that could inflict an injury in a collision)
  • Make sure the child doesn’t become bored by being in the vehicle for too long and they’ve had plenty of exercise before a long trip.
  • Involve your child in securing ‘teddy’ or their favorite doll in a toy car seat to assist in growing their awareness.

If necessary, a natural consequence scenario can be set up to encourage compliance. Eg:  They will never arrive at their favorite destination.  “We will never get to where you want to go unless we are wearing our seat belt / harness. “No harness, no travel, no play centre”.

Ideally, the cover should remain in place for luggage retention. However, the tether strap needs to be in a straight a line as possible. Cutting a small access hole in the cover for the tether may be the best solution.

Always make sure that any luggage, including a pram is forward against the seat back and the tether takes a straight a line as possible from tether anchor to the top of the Safety Seat.

Check the owner’s handbook of your vehicle and follow the index carefully being sure that you are reading ‘Australian child restraint advice’ and not international information.

Failing the availability of an owner’s handbook, call the vehicle manufacturers distributor.

Always confirm the information in writing.

The centre, second row position (middle, rear row of a normal 5 seater vehicle) is often reported as the statistically safest position, but there are many limitations on using any vehicle seat position:

Ask yourself if the position you wish to use will affect:

  • Your safe driving position?
  • Your well-being? Are you capable of such a difficult lift without hurting your back or stomach muscles?
  • Other passenger’s safe access? Can your older child still get in and out safely?
  • Functionality; does the seating position allow installation? Is there enough space or has the vehicle the correct equipment to do the job correctly?

NB: When you have more than one Safety Seat or passenger to consider, the above items still apply. There is no reason to consider an infant’s location is any more important than any other passenger, other than considering the rear facing aspect:

Of course babies do not pose a run away into traffic risk, whereas toddlers may.

Consider other passengers. Will they interfere and or annoy each other. A peaceful car is a safer car.

When trying to find a new vehicle compatible with multiple Safety Seat use consider these criteria.

One common perception is that a larger car will solve the problem, which is not necessarily true. Many small cars are more accommodating.

Check these four points on any prospective vehicle:

  1. Check for the most internal width at the maximum Safety Seat height (Measure with doors closed). Many vehicles get narrower toward the roof and this will be influenced by the widths of the head protection section of modern child car safety seats
  2. The vehicle seat must have the least amount of contouring in both the base and squab. (ie: At straight as possible)
  3. The seat belt buckles are best with ‘left to right’ flexibility and not be stiffly mounted or trimmed into the seat cushion. (This is becoming increasingly rare)
  4. Ensure you have enough approved tether anchor locations. If you ask sales staff the question of ‘How many anchors does this vehicle have?’ ensure that they have obtained the answers from the vehicle owners handbook and that you have also confirmed it for yourself. (Many people buy vehicles based on the wrong information such as counting in invalid cargo tie down attachments.)
  5. Also check that the rear vehicle seat space in the forward direction is sufficient for your infant or rearward facing Safety Seat to be placed at the correct recline angle. This may seriously affect front seat passenger safety or driver from having a safe driving position.

Checkout this ACRI members list

‘ISOFIX’ is an alternative attaching system, relying on the compatibility of vehicle equipment (ie: the provision of two lower attachment points and a specially made Safety Seat which incorporates a pair of latching systems to ‘marry’ together wth the vehicle.

This attaches the lower part of the Safety Seat chassis directly to the vehicle chassis eliminating the need to use the seating positions seat belt.

NB: The upper tether strap must still be used for Australian compliance.

To make the lower installation aspects easier.

This contribution however, only relates to seat belt misuse aspects.

Safety Seat misuse is not limited to seat belt issues alone. In fact, Seat belt misuse aspects are in the smaller percentage.  Other common factors all rate highly in Safety Seat misuse surveys.

These include:

  • Safety Seat suitability, choice.
  • Head protection factors, misaligned and or maladjusted.
  • Harness strap shoulder height and
  • Correct harness tension adjustments
  • Using the harness with twisted straps
  • Incorrect tether anchorage and adjustment.

Always check ease of use in respect to all Safety Seat functionalities before purchasing.

There are stakeholders who will say categorically Yes, and those who’ll say – Maybe. There have been studies of this issue that have been contradictory and therefore inconclusive.

A few perspectives to consider:

  1. If it is easier to achieve a correct connection, then that contributes to Safe use.
  2. This feature only applies itself to one of at least eight factors that need to be carried out correctly and checked every trip
  3. Speaking definitively on a topic which is completely generic is not particularly helpful. The lower attachment aspect may be easier for most people to perform in most But not in every case – vehicle compatibility plays a big part with Safety Seat attachment.

ISOFIX products can be easily over tightened, excessive pre-tensioning and product damage should be avoided.

Air bags are designed for an adult’s mass and may provide a dangerous / lethal impact environment for children.

Here are some basic guidelines.

  • Rear facing Safety Seats should never be used where there is a forward mounted air bag. (This is usually applicable to Utility type and other commercial vehicles.)
  • Where there are side Air bags or side Air Curtains fitted, no passenger should sleep with their head against the side of the car.
  • Keep children away from air bag systems if you have any doubt.
  • If you must use a front seat position where there is a forward mounted air bag installed, ensure that the front seat is moved all the way back, that the child is using a suitable Safety Seat, correctly installed or the seat belt properly positioned and adjusted,. Also ensure that they do not lean forward.

Check with the vehicle manufacturers’ agent in regard to deactivation of an Air bag system if necessary. (NB: This is often not possible in Australian delivered vehicles.)

Refer to the vehicle manufacturers’ handbook in respect to the suitable transporting of children and or use of Child Safety Seats near air bags and heed their advice.  Be aware that you are reading advice pertinent to Australia in regard to vehicles imported from overseas.

No. You must only connect to the designated anchor location. Hooking up anything else maybe unsafe. It may also create loadings on other vehicle components that have not been tested under collision conditions.

Generally No. This type of modification can only be done if it can be SURE that the seat frame and recliner mechanism will not collapse under the increased collision loadings. (Engineering approval is required).

In many cases, yes. But, not all. Always check with your relevant road safety authority in your State or Territory to find out who could provide such modification services. ACRI has many service provider members who carry out this work. Search from our ‘Find a Professional Service provider’.

For a full Road rule overview go to your State Road authority

The Road Rules are often misinterpreted, which adds to confusion. Be careful how you interpret them.

Complying with the Safety Seat – Road Rules is a minimum aim when it comes to safe practices.

NB: The rules relate to the size of the child and suitability of the Safety Seat, referencing age is of little help in this respect. See ‘Best practice’ FAQ

The main areas that the road rules focus on are:-

  • An Australian Approved Child Restraint must be used
  • Infants must use a rear facing Safety Seat up until 6 month of age, minimum.
  • Toddlers must use a Safety Seat with an integral harness (built in) up to 4 years of age, minimum.
  • Older children must use a booster seat using a Lap Sash (# point) seat belt, up to 7 Years of age minimum.
  • Front seat should not be used for a child under 7 Years of age. NB: Exceptions occur.

See ‘Best practice’ FAQ

Children should always travel in the rear seats if possible. Keep children away from air bag positions whenever possible. The road rules mentions 7 years of age as a minimum guide. It also allows for a passenger of less than 7 years of age in the front seat under certain circumstances, but the passengers’ level of safety is what matters most.

The ‘safest’ answers are generally:

  • Don’t put children in a front seat unless there is no other choice.
  • Always put the largest child to the front as a last position available.
  • Always consider Safety Seat products and practices, such as boosters and sash guide devices to ensure a safe seat belt environment.

Always adjust the seat belt properly.

In short these are:

  • Buy – use the largest capacity Safety Seats.
  • Leave infants and small children to travel rear facing as long as the Safety Seat you are using allows you to.
  • Leave toddlers in their forward facing Safety Seat (ie: has an in-built harness) up until they have grown to their Safety Seats
  • Don’t move a child out of a booster seat until they pass the ‘5 step test’. See FAQ – “When is it appropriate to move my child out of a Booster seat?”
  • Resist putting a child to a front seat position until it is the last available seat.
  • Observe the vehicle manufacturers guidelines on front seat use in respect to children and air bags.

Always have all of the looseness removed from all straps or belts.