Rear-Facing Down Under

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Legal does not always equal safe

Posted on January 2, 2014 at 7:25 PM


Legal does not always equal safe.


Just because your child is considered old enough by law to travel without a booster seat, does not mean they will be safe to travel without a booster seat. Children grow at different rates. Reaching a certain age will not guarantee their safety in a crash. An adult seatbelt can cause serious injuries to a child whose body is too small to fit into it properly.


Crash Test. Adult belt is not enough.


Crash Test. Lap only belt with child dummy.


Many countries have legal minimum ages when a child is permitted to travel in the car using just the adult seatbelt alone. In Australia, the legal minimum age for a child to travel in a car without a booster seat is 7 years old. However, many 7 year olds are not yet tall enough to fit into an adult seatbelt alone. The child pictured above is 7.5 years old. Take your child’s individual size into account before taking them out of their booster seat.


Seatbelts are designed for adults over 145cm tall. This is the height of an average 12 year old. The seatbelt is designed to sit on the strong bones of the shoulder and hips. The body of a child is too small to fit correctly into an adult seatbelt alone. The lap belt will cut into their soft abdomen and the shoulder belt will cut across their neck. A young child can “submarine” under the lap belt. The child will often place the shoulder belt under their arm or behind their back. This puts the child at risk of sustaining serious, head, neck, spinal and internal injuries in the event of a collision. Children are safest using a child restraint or booster seat suited to their age and size until they can pass the Five Step Test to safely use an adult seatbelt alone. Do not move your child out of their booster seat until they can pass all five steps:


Five Step Test.


1. Can the child sit up straight with their back flat against the vehicle seat?

2. Do the child’s knees bend at the edge of the vehicle seat?

3. Does the lap belt sit low on the hips and thighs?

4. Does the shoulder belt sit between the shoulder and neck?

5. Can the child sit up properly, wearing the seatbelt properly for the entire trip?


Booster seats lift the child up to the correct level so that the vehicle seatbelt sits properly on the strong bony parts of their body. Booster seats also provide side impact protection in the event of a side collision.


Apart from the obvious safety benefits, booster seats give children a better view out the side windows, they provide head support when the child sleeps, and they help to keep the child sitting in the correct position. Booster seats are for big kids. Keep them in a booster seat for as long as they still fit, and until they are tall enough to safely fit the adult seatbelt correctly.


Booster seats are designed for children over the age of 4, who have completely outgrown child restraints with an in-built harness. The legal minimum in Australia for a child to use a booster seat with the adult seatbelt is 4 years old. Children under the age of 4 must use a child restraint with an in-built harness (not an add-on H-Harness). If a child outgrows a 0-4 years seat before the age of 4, a convertible booster seat with an in-built (not add-on) harness is recommended to be used for as long as the child still fits. Keep your child in each stage of seat for as long as they fit. Early graduation to the next stage of seat is a step down in safety and puts the child at higher risk of sustaining injuries in a crash.


And remember, keep children in the back seat of the car for as long as possible, preferably up to the age of 12. The front airbags are deployed at a speed of around 200km/hr. Small children sitting in the front seat are at risk of sustaining serious injuries in a motor vehicle crash when an airbag is deployed directly at their face and head. Children are safest sitting in the back seat until they are at least 12 years old and over 145cm tall. If a child over the age of 4 needs to use the front seat because all back seats are occupied by younger children in child restraints, it is recommended that they use an un-tethered booster seat with the front seat moved back away from the airbags.


Video: When Can Kids Sit in the Front Seat?


According to Kidsafe Australia, more children die from injury in Australia than from cancer and diseases of the nervous system combined.  The MAIN cause of child deaths from unintentional injury in Australia are CAR CRASHES and DRIVEWAY RUNOVERS. Most children who die or are injured in car crashes in Australia, were not properly restrained in the car.


Crash Test. Danger of placing shoulder belt under the arm.


Crash Test. Booster lap only belt.


Video: Proper fit for regular seatbelt.


Video: Seatbelts are designed for adults.


Video: How a seatbelt can injure a child.


For MAXIMUM safety, go beyond the legal minimums.


Video: Australian Road Rules Child Restraints.


Kidsafe Child Restraint Guidelines.



Categories: Educational Info