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Share: 10 steps to finding the safest car seat possible.

There are a few things you may not know about car seats.

It’s bizarre really. We choose to go to professionals to consult on so many aspects of our lives, but when it comes to the most precious thing – the best fitting and safest car seat – we seem to be happy to wing it.

In my experience, the first baby is the one that gets the car seats scrutinised; the consumer comparison websites visited over and over, the professional fitter consulted.

The second child is often thrust into the capsule the first one has outgrown and the third child is squeezed into the only seat that fits in between the other two.

Well, that’s the way I did things anyway. (You brave folk with 4 kids or more catch the bus right?)

Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is sponsored by Nissan. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in her own words.

It wasn’t till I happened to drive past a free council seat check one day, that I found out I had done it all very wrong and that my car restraints were possibly about as safe as the last lifeboat on the titanic.

But it seems I’m not alone. Studies show that two thirds of car seats are fitted incorrectly.

So here’s a quick guide to the best way to fit a car seat and a few things you may not know about your car, discovered via the great folk at Kidsafe and Neuroscience Australia.

1.   The top tether.

Always use a top tether strap for all rear facing child restraints, forward facing child restraints and booster seats that are equipped with them.

2.   The belt.

Always use the correct belt path for the restraint. Be sure there is no slack or looseness in any of the belts anchoring the restraint to the car and avoid twists when possible.

Kidsafe recommend you check the seat belt buckle hasn’t been unbuckled accidentally before every trip.

3.   The buckle.

Kidsafe recommend you check the seat belt buckle hasn’t been unbuckled accidentally before every trip. It’s possibly a bit unrealistic to do this for every trip, but try and have a quick look whenever you can.

4.   Excess straps.

Excess webbing from restraint tether straps should be secured and stored where it cannot fall out a car door or be reached by a child.

5.   Where to position the shoulder straps.

This is actually new to me in writing this post, I always thought you needed to have the straps quite far below the child’s shoulders. In fact it turns out I am wrong and for rearward and forward facing restraints, you should use the shoulder harness slot nearest to the child’s shoulders (but not below them for rearward facing restraints, and not more than 2.5cm below for forward facing restraints).

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6.   Lap-sash seat belts.

When using lap-sash seatbelts (with or without a booster seat), the sash belt should be positioned over the middle of the shoulder, and not be worn under the arm or behind the back.

7.   Test it first.

When buying a restraint, take your car in and try them out. Before buying. Different restraints fit better in different cars.

8.   The tick.

When purchasing a car seat it is important to remember that all child restraints that meet the Australian Standard have the ‘five tick’ standards mark that confirms compliance.

9.   Booster cushions.

Ditch ‘em.  These are the type that really appeal to kids as they look like a grown up’s seat. Did you know that they actually aren’t recommended? Booster cushions have been deleted from the 2010 version of the Australian Standard for child restraints because they provide no side impact protection in a crash. 

Although booster cushions are no longer manufactured in Australia, they are still legal to use. But Neuroscience Research Australia and Kidsafe just recommend you get rid of them and use a proper booster.

10.   Keep the under 12s in the back.

Of course they are begging you to sit in the front seat, but according to the woman who knows her stuff, Lynne Bilston from Neuroscience Australia, you would be crazy to put them in the front before the age of twelve unless you really had to. She also recommends that you keep kids in a booster as long as possible.

The Baby-safe ISOFIX car seat has a base which is fixed to the vehicles connection points. The seat simply clicks or unclicks onto the base as you need it.

The other big news in car restraints is that the ISOFIX system is finally coming to Australia.  ISOFIX is an international standard of anchoring restraints into a vehicle, using built in anchorage points in a car.

Big car seat manufacturers such as Britax say that ISOFIX seats will be available in the Aussie market soon.

Of course the top tether strap will continue to be a requirement for all child restraints except Booster Seats weighing less than 2kgs. Australian drivers who use a European ISOFIX restraint are not obeying the road rules and are at risk of receiving a fine.

For more information on fitting your car seat correctly you can take a look at the Neuroscience Research Australia web site  or visit the Kidsafe web site.

They have a wealth of free information that actually really helps.

Safe driving this summer.

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