Safety Feature – Child Car Seats, Explained and Made Easy
Let’s uncomplicate the complicated.
If you are securing your own children in the car, of course you would be concerned with their safety. You have sacrificed peace and quiet, money, and countless hours sleep, raising your little hellions. You’ve even grown to become emotionally attached to the little goo machines, you may even love them. Or, perhaps you are an aunt/uncle, extended relation, or friend that needs to be able transport a young’un in their car safely on occasion – it wouldn’t be the best for your relationship if their mini-me comes to any harm.
You’ll notice that child car seats have become a fair bit more complicated since you have ridden in one yourself – but it’s not too complicated once you get through the marketing hype, and we’re going to help you on that.
Child seat requirements change with age, through four stages:
- Rear facing up to 6 months
- Rear or forward facing from 6 months to 4 years
- Forward facing car seat or booster seat at 4+ years until 145cm
- At 145cm or taller they can move to the adult lap-sash seatbelt.
All child car seats should meet the Australian Standard AS/NZS 1754. Make sure that when you purchase a child car seat that you can see it meets this standard, especially if purchasing online. We go into this in more detail later on, but there are unique standards to Australia (the requirement of a top tether being one), and there are differences between models offered internationally and locally.
Expense doesn’t always equate to increased safety.
When it’s hard to pick what is the best, it’s easy to fall into the trap that the highest price equates to the highest quality. It often doesn’t, and there several high end brands in the market that are rebadged versions of the same seat available at a lower price range. There may be some small cosmetic changes, or difference in fabric, but when it comes to safety, price often doesn’t mean safer.
That is why comparative websites are so helpful. We recommend using the Child Car Seats website, it’s an initiative of the Child Restraint Evaluation Program (CREP). On the website you can quickly compare brands, and save a lot on price without compromising on safety.
You should take a look at ISOFIX compatible seats
It’s a new standard, at first it was available internationally, and finally it was approved for Australia in 2014. Demand for ISOFIX was so high that the Holden VF Commodore launched in 2013 with compatible ISOFIX points, even before it was legal. That’s because according to the stats available, about 70% of child car seats were incorrectly installed, before the ISOFIX ban was lifted in 2014.
ISOFIX is a universal standard. If your car has ISOFIX connectors, then there are ports on your car seat that align with the compatible child car seats. As a universal standard it means your seat/capsule can be transferred between compatible cars easily. It’s a set standard making installation easier, and simpler. In Australia we have an additional standard, requiring a top tether in addition to the normal ISOFIX connections. It increases safety, it’s just one extra step that simply connects to ports already in the car.
As ISOFIX has a slightly different standard in Australia, as we said earlier, always look for AS/NZS 1754 compliance on the packaging/website. If you can’t see it, don’t buy it, as there are different ISOFIX standards internationally.
To ISOFIX or not to ISOFIX…
You don’t need to use it, often the right decision is the most stress-free decision. Though ISOFIX is found to be a safer option, it replaces your seatbelt, and you may find your seatbelt + child car seat is an easier option for you.
The options are:
- Child seat + ISOFIX + top tether
- Child seat + seat belt + top tether
Both options are perfectly safe and suitable; it’s up to you what is the right choice. The benefit of ISOFIX is it is slightly safer and is easier to fit than other restraint systems, it reduces the likelihood of incorrectly restraining the child, which can lead to injuries that could have been avoided. Though, not using ISOFIX is also considered perfectly safe, and when it comes to the child’s comfort may be the better option for you. This leads us to child comfort…
What about child comfort? Doesn’t the child get angry/bored/irritated in a rear-facing seat?
How safe is a child seat if it’s uncomfortable for the child, and they are distracting the driver with constant screaming? There are some unworthy parents who won the lottery (we may be a little bit jealous, or more than a little bit jealous), and were blessed with little peaceful bundles of joy that love car rides and sleep through no matter what.
For the rest of us, some babies hate rear-facing seats as they can’t see anyone. Some babies get acclimatised to the rear-facing seats and then throw purple-faced tantrums at the indignity of being shifted into a forward-facing seat. Some hate them all. Some parents have to feed their child directly before driving so they will sleep through the drive. Other parents must have learned how to cancel out the screaming. From distractions, to toys, to feeding/sleep schedules, the list goes on. Having a calm baby in your car can sometimes be a challenge. Or sometimes just impossible.
So, as trying to be helpful, we understand each baby/child is a unique challenge. So for versatility, you may want to consider the convertibles.
You may have given up dreams in the near future of a sporty convertible, but you can get one for your baby.
Once you have found that miracle routine that somehow makes your baby nice and quiet on a drive, the last thing you want to do is break up that routine and start all over again! That’s why we often look at the convertible seats that support both rear and front-facing configurations. Some seats allow for the baby to be rear-facing for a longer period of time, up to 1 year, or you may want to move your child to front-facing as soon as you can (6 months). With a convertible you avoid the added expense of buying an additional seat when shifting from rear-facing to front-facing, and you also don’t have to change the seat that your child is already used to.
In the end, a lot of your choices in seats comes down to what you think will work for you in regards to the comfort of the driver and the child. What we have covered is the important standards, where you can compare the options on the market, as well as hopefully given you information that can save you money.