You might be surprised to learn that over 70% of child car restraints are incorrectly installed or used. If a crash was to happen, the risk that it would be life-threatening to a child is a massive four to six times greater.
Even if you have your little one’s child car restraint or capsule professionally fitted, there can be problems with the way it’s used. These errors can be easy to make, especially if we’re sleep deprived or we dread car rides because bub hates the car. We’ve all been there. We rush to get them into the car, quickly strapping them in without paying too much attention to the child car restraint itself.
Of course it’s never intentional, which is why being informed and aware is key. We spoke with Kathy Taylor from Kidsafe an expert on this subject, to find out all the advice you need. We hope that you’ll keep the following information in mind before you head out on your next car journey with your baby.
While some mistakes may seem small, it can mean the difference between life and death. To help keep babies safe, here are the most common misuses with child car restraints and tips on how to avoid them, according to Kidsafe:
1. Top tether straps are twisted, connected to the wrong point or not connected to an anchor point at all
The top tether strap is an important safety feature – in the event of a crash, it reduces the forward movement of a child and their child car restraint, helping to keep them safe.
It’s important that the top tether strap is used and connected correctly to the proper anchorage point in your vehicle. If you’re not sure where the anchorage points are in your vehicle, you can check your vehicle owner’s manual. You can also check your child car restraint manual for advice on how to correctly connect your top tether strap.
To be completely sure it’s used and fitted correctly, have it professionally checked.
Kidsafe Victoria currently offers free professional fitting and checking services through the Safe Seats Safe Kids program, and for other states and territories, contact your local Kidsafe office to find out more information about your nearest service.
2. Harness straps are twisted or at the incorrect height
Twisted harness straps can impair their performance in an accident. Even if it’s only half twisted, it’s important to straighten it each time you use it. Check each and every time before you put your baby in the car.
To ensure the straps are at the correct height, you need to make sure they are coming from level or slightly above your baby’s shoulders for rear-facing child car restraints. How you change the height of the harness straps will depend on the make and model of child car restraint that you have – some have an easy adjust headrest while others require you to manually rethread the harness straps. You can refer to your child car restraint manual for specific instructions on how to do this.
3. Seatbelts threaded through the incorrect path, or are loose
All child car restraints manufactured from 2013 onwards have colour coded seatbelt paths to help you make sure that the seatbelt is threaded through correctly. The blue marking indicates the rear facing path, yellow indicates forward facing and red indicates the booster seat path.
As well as ensuring the seatbelt is threaded through the correct path, it’s also important to ensure it is clicked into the receiver and fastened correctly.
4. ISOFIX attachments not secured correctly
If you’re using an ISOFIX child car restraint, which involves clipping the ISOFIX attachments into ISOFIX anchorage points manufactured into cars (check your manual as these are not in all vehicles), it’s important to regularly check that the attachments are secured and adjusted (indicators are green) correctly.
While it may seem ‘safer’ to use the seatbelt and ISOFIX attachments at the same time when installing your child car restraint, this isn’t the case. It’s important that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions and only use one installation method – the seatbelt with the top tether strap or ISOFIX with the top tether strap. If in doubt about how yours is installed, refer to your child car restraint manual, or visit an authorised restraint fitter.
5. Children graduated to the next stage of car restraint before they are the right size
It might be tempting to move your child to the next stage of child car restraint, either because you’ve got another baby on the way and you want to free up the child car restraint, or your little one gets upset in their current child car restraint, but the safest option is to keep them in their restraint until they’re the right size (not age) for the next one.
All child car restraints from 2010 onwards have shoulder height markers – these provide a visual reference for when your child can start using the child car restraint when it can be converted to the next mode, and when your child has outgrown it.
Rear facing child car restraints provide the required head and neck support that an infant needs in the event of a crash, so it’s important to leave your baby rear facing until they outgrow the maximum size limit.
There are extended rear facing options available on the Australian market which allow you to keep your child rear facing up until approximately 2-3 years of age, depending on their size.
If you’re considering moving your little one forward-facing, please read When can I move my baby from a rear-facing car seat?
For peace of mind…
It’s not worth taking any chances on your precious baby’s safety in the car. Thankfully, Kidsafe Victoria has launched a new free online e-learning tool to help parents make their child car restraints safe. The e-learning tool offers information and advice on choosing, installing, adjusting, and using child car restraints and booster seats.
Help save lives. Do the course and spread the word to other parents. Head to the Kidsafe Victoria Free Child Car Restraint E-Learning Tool.