Before you leave, ask yourself: how many times have you taken the kids' car seats out after a trip to Bunnings or Ikea, so you can fill up the back seat with a pile of manure or new set of bookshelves? Are you absolutely certain you reinstalled the seats correctly? How about the spare seat in Grandma's car?
No one plans on having a car accident, but we can plan to get our seats checked by an expert and make sure we are doing the right thing.
The child restraint laws changed in October 2010 in response to the high number of children being killed or seriously injured every year on Australian roads. It seemed that many parents were graduating their kids to adult seat belts too early.
The new laws mean that children up until the age of 7 need to be restrained in a car seat or booster seat, and for each age group (less than 6 months, 6 months to four years, four years to seven years), there are specific restraints that must be used.
Not only that, many parents inadvertently have their child seats incorrectly fitted, which defeats the purpose of specialised car seats to keep our kids safe in the event of a crash. Studies from WA and Victoria indicate almost 70% of restraints are fitted incorrectly.
Ask yourself these questions:
Did you get your car seat second hand? If so, do you know how old your child's car seat is? You cannot use a car seat if it is more than ten years old.
Do you know how much your child weighs? Each type of car seat and restraint has maximum and minimum weight limits, and according to Kidsafe WA, 40% of children are in restraints that are inappropriate for their size and weight.
I, for example, discovered that I had been keeping my four and a half year old in a car restraint that was no longer safe for her.
Most seats with internal five-point harnesses are only designed for kids up to 18kg. My daughter weighed over 21kg before I noticed, meaning in an accident her restraint might not have kept her safe. She is now using a booster seat with an adult lap-sash belt.
Many local councils have free or subsidised car restraint installation or checking services, as well as the experts at Kidsafe.
If the Australian government really gave a damn about child safety they would promote isofix car seats in stead of the stupid strap version currently being used. Tests have shown isofix to be 99% safer not to mention 99% easier to fit and remove!!