If you want to carry children under the age of 7 in your car you will need an approved child seat as they reduce the chance of your child being injured in a crash. As your child grows you will need to change the seat to suit their height and weight at least once.
Approved car seats will carry this sticker to say that it meets AS/NZS 1754 Child Restraint Systems for Use in Motor Vehicles standard, or Australia 5-Tick. No other standard is accepted in Australia therefore you must not import a child seat from overseas if it doesn’t comply. It’s also an offence to sell non-compliant child car seats.It’s an offence to remove the sticker. The standard ensures that the construction, materials, design, performance and testing meet certain criteria.
Age brackets for child car seat use
The age brackets are:
0-6 months – approved rear-facing child car seat
6 months – 4 years – approved rear- or forward-facing child car seat with an inbuilt harness
4-7 years – approved forward-facing child car seat with an inbuilt harness or booster seat
145cm or taller is the recommended height where using an adult seat belt (lap/sash) is safe. Up to that height, for children 7-16, it is recommended that an approved booster seat is used.
Children under four years old must not travel in the front seat of a vehicle with two or more rows of seats.
Children aged four to seven years old must not travel in the front seat of a vehicle with two or more rows of seats unless all the other back seats are occupied by children younger than seven years in an approved child restraint or booster seat. The child in the front seat must be in a forward-facing child car seat or booster seat.
When using a booster seat, children must be restrained by a suitable lap/sash-type approved seat belt, properly adjusted for their size, or by an approved child safety harness that’s properly adjusted or fastened.
Once your child outgrows a child restraint, you must move them up to a bigger size.
The driver is responsible to ensure that any passenger under 16 years old is properly restrained, unless they are driving a bus or motorbike. There are fines and demerit points for non-compliance.
To find a child car seat, visit this website.
1973 saw the introduction of the Australian Standard for child restraints. Each seat is crash tested to prove that it meets a predefined strength in a front impact, side impact and oblique impact.
Impacts are tested using crash test dummies at the upper limit of weight and size for each type of car seat as the forces exerted are greater in these circumstances.
This simulates a head-on crash with another vehicle of a similar mass travelling at the same speed (56kph) resulting in a deceleration force of 34g. The seat is evaluated in its ability to retain the dummy’s head and torso, minimise the forward and upwards motions of the dummy’s head, diffuse the crash energy, maintain its structural integrity and retain the use of the harness buckle after impact.
This simulates an impact at 90 degrees by another vehicle of similar mass at 32kph, resulting in 20g of force. The seat is tested in its ability to retain the dummy’s head and torso, and retain its structural integrity.
This simulates another vehicle of similar mass hitting the car at 66 degrees at 32kph, resulting in 20g of force. The seat is tested in its ability to retain the dummy’s head and torso, and retain its structural integrity.
Testing ease of use
The Child Restraint Evaluation Program also evaluates how easy it is for a user to follow the instructions and use the car seat correctly. These are based on the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) guidelines, but are expanded using additional assessments of features relating to the product packaging and any feature modified from the base model.
The five assessed categories are:
- Securing/releasing the child
- Securing/releasing the car seat within the vehicle (not used for booster seat ratings)
Testing and rating methods were improved in 2012 so it is difficult to compare ratings between a 2014 model and a 2011 model. The main improvements were:
- Adjusting the seat belt geometry to represent the most common family car in Australia
- Improving the measurement of the dummy’s head and knee movement in a frontal crash
- Change the dummy’s clothing to better see submarining
- Use a smaller dummy for booster seats to make it harder for them to pass the test
- Use a second 90-degree test with reversed seat belt geometry to test impacts from the opposite direction.
Each seat is given a purple star rating for impact protection. The more stars, the better the seat performed in the test. The following criteria are used:
- Retaining the dummy’s head in frontal and side impacts
- Retaining the dummy’s torso in frontal and side impacts (critical feature)
- Minimising upward and/or rotational movements during rebound stage of frontal impact
- Maintaining structural integrity in frontal and side impacts (critical feature)
- Distributing loads to the dummy’s torso in frontal impact
- Managing impact energy to the dummy’s head in frontal impact
- Managing impact energy to the dummy’s head in side impacts
- Managing impact energy to the dummy’s torso in frontal impact
- Minimising slip on the shoulder harness adjuster during front and side impacts (critical feature)
Each seat is also given blue stars for ease-of-use.
Buying a seat
You must consider the age and size of your child, and whether the seat will fit in your vehicle.
If you are purchasing a booster seat look for ones with sash guides or locators that make the sash belt comfortable on your child’s shoulder, and features that prevent submarining (where the child slips under the lap belt during a crash).
If you are purchasing a second hand child car seat, check any connections for damage. If any straps or harnesses are frayed, do not purchase the seat. If there are any cracks in the frame or plastic components of the seat, do not buy it. Check that the AS/NZS 1754 sticker is present which means it complies with Australian standards.
Research the seat to see what its ratings are.