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Top tips for child car seats

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    Past studies have found around half the children aged between four and 11 are not in the correct kind of restraint.

IT'S CRUCIAL to use the right child restraint system and ensure it is fitted properly.

Despite an increasing focus on safety, children are still needlessly dying or being seriously injured in car crashes because they are not properly restrained. Crashes last year claimed the lives of 72 children under age 16 across Australia and about 850 children are seriously injured every year on our roads.

Past studies have found around half the children aged between four and 11 are not in the correct kind of restraint, and children from the older age group were often being put into adult seatbelts prematurely, rather than into the safety of booster seats and harnesses suited to their size.

As children grow, the kind of restraint used should change to properly protect them. Age is just a rough indication, you should also consider the child's height and weight. But there are several kinds of restraints, including ones that convert to cross categories, and it is easy to get confused by the choices.

In crash testing, organisations such as the RACV found that dedicated restraints perform better than convertible ones. But for some parents it's hard to budget the extra expense of buying the series of proper units as your child grows, so many retailers rent them with the assurance that they have been properly checked and meet all the safety standards.

Tips for choosing and using child seats

The Car

• If you're buying a car, check that it has enough space for the number of restraints you will need over the years you have it. While people movers may seem to be a solution for a large family, some of them have limited anchorage points.

• Make sure hatchback parcel shelves won't obstruct a tether strap and that station wagons have a cargo barrier, or obtain an extension strap or adaptor kit to suit.

• Check that the contours of the car seat won't unbalance the restraint and that seatbelts are long enough to thread through child and booster seats.

• Rules that apply no matter what type of vehicle and restraint you use are that the back seat is safer than the front, and the middle position is safest if it has a lap-sash belt.

• It is legal to have an infant restraint in the front seat if you drive a van or ute and have proper anchorage points.

The Safety Firsts

• Don't imagine you can protect a child by holding on to them. The force of even an urban-speed crash will increase their weight 20-fold. That means in a split-second a 10kg infant becomes 200kg, so even Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn't save them.

• Don't skip using a restraint if you're "just popping down to the shop" -- most crashes happen within 10km of home.

• Always destroy old restraints or ones that has been in a crash. Don't buy a secondhand restraint unless you know it has not been in a crash and is in good condition.

• Taxis must all provide an anchor point, but the legal onus is on you to provide the restraint.

This reporter is on Twitter: @KarlaPincott
 

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