Focus on car seat safety

ORANGE parents are putting their children’s lives in danger and risking heavy fines and criminal charges by not correctly installing child car seats, according to council’s road safety officer. 

Recent tests revealed only one child seat of 17 inspected had the maximum five-star safety rating for Australian standards.

However, Orange and Cabonne road safety officer Andrea Hamilton-Vaughan said parents could buy the best seat on the market, but it was useless if it was not fitted correctly.

To be awarded a five-star safety rating under the child restraint evaluation program (CREP), restraints must demonstrate good performance in all aspects including its ability to prevent the child’s head and body from contacting the vehicle’s structure directly and absorbing the contact  force in the event of a crash, a Transport for NSW spokesperson said.

Ms Hamilton-Vaughan said new parents should drop in to Opposite Lock to  have their child seat fitted by an authorised restraint fitter. 

Council also offers free child restraint checks during March at childcare centre across Orange to help parents learn how to correctly install the seats. 

“We’ve seen some cases where a three or four-year-old has been sitting in a seat that was not installed [correctly]. [The car seat] just sits there on the back seat, not strapped in with just the seatbelt on,” she said.

“We’re there to help parents, we’re there to show parents what to look for.”

Orange mum Elle Beattie said buying a car seat was one of the most difficult decisions she had to make when preparing for the birth of her daughter Macey Shirvington. 

She did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions, because she wanted to be sure she was doing the right thing by her daughter. 

“I was nervous when we put it in ... my partner did it and showed me how,” she said.

Ms Beattie said all new mums should do their research before settling on a car seat. 

Mother-of-two Catherine Gander had her car seat fitted by Opposite Lock’s authorised restraint fitter when she had both her children.

She said it was one of the smartest things she had done.

“He showed me exactly how to do it ... I showed my sister in law and I check my mum’s car,” she said. 

“It was extremely helpful.”

Is your child restraint fitted correctly?

* All children under seven years of age must be secured in a child restraint or booster seat when travelling in a vehicle. 

* Babies up to six months of age must be restrained in a rear-facing restraint.

* Children under four years of age must not be in the front row of a vehicle with two or more rows.

* Teach your child to always keep both arms within the harness system of the child seat or the seatbelt of the booster seat.

* When using a seatbelt with a booster seat, ensure the seatbelt is correctly fitted over the child’s mid-shoulder.

* Move your child into a forward-facing restraint only when they no longer fit into a rearward-facing restraint.

* Move your child into a booster seat only when they no longer fit into a forward-facing restraint.

* Placing a child under seven years of age in a normal car seat and using a standard seatbelt is not safe because a normal vehicle seat is too big and a child’s bone structure is not sufficiently developed to keep the seat belt in the proper place during a crash.

* A child does not need a car seat when they are 145 centimetres or taller.

nicole.kuter@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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