Most people want to drive cars that get the full five stars for safety. So why would you want to put your child in a car capsule or seat that gets anything less? However only three of 115 child restraints tested on the Australian market get a full five-star rating, and many get just a single star.
The Child Restraint Evaluation Program (CREP) -- a consortium of government and public motoring and safety organisations – has just made tests tougher, with top ratings given to two models of the latest 15 tested. But even under the former softer standards, the number of top-rated restraints among the 100 previously tested was just one -- or one per cent.
How they rated
Across the three age categories for child restraints, only one five-star rating has been awarded among the 29 models tested for babies up to 12 months, and two have been given among the 46 booster seats for kids aged four to seven.
When it comes to forward-facing child seats designed for children 6 months to four years old, none of the 40 tested have ever earned the top rating. And price need not be a decider, with some high-rated seats costing the same – or less – than some lower-rated ones.
Moves to improve
Last year 28 children aged under seven were killed in car crashes on Australian roads, and an estimated 2773 were injured. So it’s no surprise CREP is keen to see manufacturers improve the safety of baby capsules, child seats and booster seats.
Spokesman Jack Haley from CREP partner NRMA Motoring and Services said the organisation aimed to get manufacturers to lift the standard of child restraints. “We will be happy only when the majority of restraints are scoring five stars,” Mr Haley said. “We’d like to see at least 50 per cent getting five stars within five years.”
“CREP testing is designed to be severe and encourage manufacturers to improve the standard of restraints on the Australian market. They monitor the CREP results very closely and also have input to the official Australian standards, so they have the opportunity to improve the performance of the restraints.
Mt Haley compared CREP to the well-known Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) that crash-tests cars sold here and rates them up to a top score of five stars. He said that like a one-star rated car, even a one-star child restraint complies with the Australian standard and “a minimum level of protection”.
What about the Australian standard?
The Australian standard is already one of the highest in the world, according to Marg Prendergast, general manager of the New South Wales government’s Centre for Road Safety – which is also a CREP partner, along with the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria, Transport Accident Commission, Royal Automobile Club of WA and VicRoads.
“A one-star restraint meets the Australian/New Zealand safety standard, one of the most stringent standards in the world,” Ms Prendergast said. “CREP is intended to raise the standard further. Transport for NSW is developing plans to further promote the standards system at point-of-sale and in targeted media and will continue to educate parents through the CREP website.
National child safety advocacy group Kidsafe believed CREP testing was already having results. Kidsafe spokesperson Dr Julie Brown said the program provided market pressure on manufacturers to “design the very best restraints they can”.
“The aim is to have all children as safe as they can possibly be -- to have all restraints offering optimum protection,” Dr Brown said. “Three with five stars is a good starting point and hopefully we’ll see that increase. We’re talking about pushing the level of protection higher than anywhere else in the world.”
Tips for choosing a restraint
Dr Brown said Kidsafe had some simple pointers for parents who wanted to buy the safest child restraints.
- Use the CREP ratings when buying new or secondhand.
- Always go for the highest possible ratings.
- If you want buy a convertible restraint, check the ratings in both modes.
- Make sure the restraint is correctly fitted.
The price of five star results
You don’t always get extra safety with a higher price. In some cases, you could get a five-star seat for the same price as a lower-rated one – or less. Forward-facing restraints for children approximately 6 months to 4 yrs: none have achieved five stars. The only four-star model, Babylove’s Ezy Combo, is priced from $192. The two-star Safe-N-Sound Maxi-Rider AHR for $339.
Booster seats for children aged four to seven years (tested under new standards): Hipod Boston Series 4200/A/2010 $149 and Safe-N-Sound Hi-Liner SG Series 4830/A/2010 $165. A two-star result in the category was given to the Compass/First Years Ultra, available for $149.
For babies up to approximately six months: One-Safe Infant Carrier by IGC Safety 1st (tested before the new standards). $296. A one-star result in the same category was given to the Hipod Milan, available for $124.
For more information or to check ratings on restraints, visit www.crep.com.au.