Nothing is more important than safety when it comes to cars – and the safety of any children travelling in the car is the most important thing of all. So what do you have to know about child safety in cars? As well as making sure you have a suitable child car seat, there are some important considerations to keep in mind.
Here’s a detailed guide to child safety on the road so you can keep your smallest passengers safe.
Which Child Car Seat to Use
Motor vehicle accidents can be incredibly serious for anyone involved. But they can be especially serious for children. In Western Australia, as in many other places in the world, there are guidelines about carrying children as passengers in your car, so you should make sure you always follow these.
The first and most important thing to remember is that children should always travel in a suitable child car seat. But there are different types of seats for different age groups and sizes.
Under 6 Months
Babies under 6 months should always sit in a dedicated child safety seat that is suitable for their age. It should be properly fitted and adjusted to the size of your child.
You should also ensure that it is in the second row of seats and facing backwards. Rearward-facing restraints are the safest way for them to travel, and you should secure your child into their seat and travel in this way until they have grown out of it. The size and weight guide should be clearly explained in the manufacturer’s guide.
Between 6 months and 4 years
Once your baby is too large to travel in the smallest type of child car seat, you should use an approved child restraint that is suitable for their age. Seats will come with instructions about the size and weight that they are suitable for.
They are often rearward facing, but forward-facing seats with harnesses built-in are also suitable. Again, keep your child in this seat until they reach the maximum age or size limit.
Between 4 and 7
The next set of child safety seats are suitable for children between about four and seven years old. Check the manufacturer’s description to make sure it is suitable for your child.
These are often forward-facing seats with harnesses built-in. However, you could also use a suitable booster seat with a seatbelt that is securely fastened and adjusted.
Children over 7
Children over seven years of age should use an approved child car seat that is forward-facing and has a harness built-in. Alternatively, they can use a booster seat with a lap sash seat belt.
When can a child be out of a car seat? After your child has turned seven, they may be able to use an adult seatbelt without the need for a seat. However, you will need to check how safe this is before moving them away from their child restraint or booster seat.
You can find more details at the Western Australia Department of Transport website.
How Can I Make My Car Safe for a Child?
Whatever child car seat you use, it must meet Australian Standards AS/NZS 1754. Carefully read and follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer, and always ensure that children are safely strapped in.
As well as using the right car seat for your child, you should also follow other general safety advice to make your car safe for children:
- Never carry your child in your lap, even if you have a seatbelt on.
- Make sure you also wear your own seatbelt to set a good example.
- Never leave children on their own in the car.
- Only start driving when all the seatbelts are done up properly.
- Use the child lock to prevent children from opening the door.
You may want to consider window tinting as well. This is where you apply dark film to the car window to reduce the light’s penetration. This can help to keep your children more comfortable on sunny days as well as reduce overheating. And because it reduces direct sunlight, it can help to make driving safer.
Where Should Children Sit?
What is the safest seat in a car for a child? It’s always best for children to travel in the back. Children under six months must always go in the back, and children under four must not travel in the front where the vehicle has two or more rows.
When they are aged between four and seven, children can sit in the front row in a suitable child car seat, but only if the seats in the other rows are occupied by other children under seven.
When they are seven and older, they can sit in the front row using a suitable booster seat or child restraint, but it’s still safer for them in the back.
Buying a Second-Hand Car Seat
If you are buying a used car seat, make sure you buy from someone you know. That way, you will know the history of the seat. This is important because you don’t want to buy a seat that has been involved in an accident.
It’s best to buy a seat from a trusted brand, and only use one that is under 10 years old. It is also a good idea to research the model online first.
Keep Children Safe in the Car
Make sure you keep your youngest passengers safe when travelling in the car. First, this means using the right child car seat, so always make sure you find the right one for their age or size. But don’t forget to focus on general safer driving strategies as outlined above to keep everyone safe on the road.