health

The laws threatening our children's safety.

So, why aren’t we questioning them?

When you have children you have a major decision to make before you even come home from the hospital – what car seat will you buy?

Even before I’d had my first son, I tried to keep up-to-date with the latest guidelines and the Child Restraint Evaluation Program (CREP) results for each year.

Each time I checked Australian car seat safety articles, I couldn’t help but wonder why we seemed so far behind the rest of the world, particularly with rear facing child restraint laws.

It was back in 2011 when the American Academy of Paediatrics recommended children stay rear-facing until age two.

Similarly, the European Parliament released a ‘Report on European Road Safety’ in 2011 recommending children remain rear-facing until aged three. They noted “Several studies have demonstrated that rearward-facing restraints offer a higher level of safety over forward-facing restraints to children at least up to the age of four years and would have prevented many fatalities had their use been more widespread all over Europe.”

Yes, you read those dates right. This all happened back in 2011.

Forward facing vs rear facing.Via: Pinterest

We are now in 2015 and Australians are only legally required to have their child rear-facing until six months of age.

Transport NSW Centre for Road Safety lists the following as the current National Child Restraint Laws

Up to 6 months - approved rear facing child seat.

6 months to 4 years - approved rear or forward facing car seats.

4 years and over - approved forward facing car seat or booster.

145cm or taller - suggested minimum height for use of adult sash seat belt.

I agree with most of these laws - except number two.

“Approved rear OR forward facing.” The use of ‘or’ leaves our laws a little ambiguous.

Yes, you can keep your child rear-facing, if you want to, but you aren’t legally obliged to.

Some parents will even openly admit to moving the child forward facing simply because the child doesn’t like rear facing. At no point does their safety seem of any concern.

Though, our lack of available rear facing seats with higher weight and height range does not make it easy to keep your child in the, safer, rear facing position for longer periods.

In 2014 CREP gave results for 14 new seats, only one of which was specifically rear-facing until 12 months. There were 4 that were convertible seats up to 4 years but again, the rear-facing setting only recommended until 12 months.

Older kids can sit rear facing, you just need the right seat. Via: iStock
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Countries such as Sweden have had extended rear facing seats for years, and have a notably low rate of infant and child injuries and fatalities in vehicle collisions. They also have sites such as this one that sell only rear facing seats.

All of their rear-facing car seats have 25kg weight limits, which is much higher than the 9kg or 12kg weight limits on the rear facing Australia seats. My 5-year-old still isn’t at 25kg.

But even if we did update laws would parents stick to them?

Parenting.com published an article staying that after an updated study by the American Paediatrics they found 75% of parents turned their children to forward facing too early.

“Parents with children between the ages of 1 and 4 were polled in 2011 for the "Academic Pediatrics" study. Thirty-three percent switched their kid from a rear-facing to a forward-facing seat before or at the 12-month mark. In 2013, the number was 24 percent.

Meanwhile, only 16 percent of parents polled in 2011 turned their children on or after their second birthdays. In 2013, the number was 23 percent.”

When it is our children’s safety we are talking about I don’t know how parents seems so relaxed on the issue and how Australian laws still seem years behind our overseas counterparts.

After all, we are transporting the most precious cargo there is.

What age did you move your child to forward facing?

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