Getting the right child car restraint and correctly installing it can keep your child safe. These tips will help you get it right.

It can be confusing to know the right car seat or restraint children need as they grow.

Getting the right car seat or restraint for your child’s development stage can make a huge difference to their safety in a crash. In 2017 the Road Safety Commission said that on average 16% of crashes where children were killed or injured, the child was not restrained correctly.

As well as the safety considerations, there are also the legal ones - if your child is not restrained in the right type of car restraint, you risk being fined.

In WA, the penalty is a $550 fine and the loss of four demerit points.

We’ve pulled together some easy tips to cut through the confusion and put you on the path to finding a the right car seat.

A newborn in a child car restraint
Newborns require rear-facing child car restraints

The right child car restraint for your child

There are several different types of restraints that are suitable according to a child's weight, size and age. Remember, it's safer to calculate your child's needs by height and weight than by actual age.

According to WA legislation, children younger than six months must be placed in a rearward facing child car seat, baby capsule or convertible child car seat that is property fastened and adjusted.

Rearward facing child car seats provide children with the best protection in the event of a crash, and its best to place infants in rearward facing seats for as long as possible, particularly if your child fits within the shoulder height markers. 

In WA, all children over the age of six months must be restrained in a properly fastened and adjusted child restraint (with an inbuilt harness if it's forward facing until the age of seven. 

From the age of four, children can transition to a booster seat with a properly fastened and adjusted seat belt or child harness. Remember, keep your child in a booster seat until they've reached the maximum height for the seat.

From the age of seven, children can legally remain in a booster seat or move into a regular seat with an adult seat belt, which is designed to safely restrain occupants with a minimum height of 145cm. The child must be tall enough to sit comfortably with their knees bent over the edge of the seat, the lap belt must lie across the top of their thighs and the sash must sit over their shoulder, in order for them to safely use an adult seat belt.

The best place to confirm the latest government requires and recommendations is the Road Safety Commission

A six month old in a child car restraint
Once your child can sit, they can transition to a front-facing child car restraint

Which one to buy?

The next consideration is which one to buy – and there are many to choose from.

Be wary of buying a second-hand child car restraint. Even if it doesn't look damaged, the seat might have structural damage and may no longer be safe to use. The restraint should not look worn and do not buy a restraint that is more than 10 years old.

Consider safety ratings over the price. Just because a seat or restrain is expensive doesn't mean it ranks well on the safety guides. At a minimum, all restraints must meet the Australian Standard AS/NZS1754 so do your research and compare ratings before you buy.

Another thing to consider is that not all child car restraints are equal in size. Measure the seat up to check whether the restraint you're looking at will fit in your vehicle, especially if you need more than one.

Installation

Assuming that you have the correct anchorage points, it’s a great idea for a professional to fit the child car seat properly into your car.

The fitter will take you through the process, so you can watch and learn how to make sure yours is properly placed and attached. 

If you don’t have the correct anchorage points, or need extra points installed, which sometimes happens with older cars, you will need to visit a specialist fitter.

Always follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully when fitting and using your child car seat. 

A  four year old girl in a booster seat
Make sure you read the manufacturer's instructions on how to use the restraint correctly

Using the child car restraint

Two in three child car restraints aren’t used correctly, according to the Child Restraint Evaluation Program.

When you use the child car restraint, it is recommended that you:

  • Fit the straps so they’re straight and in flat contact with the child. Check to make sure the harness straps are not twisted or caught.
  • Firmly fasten the straps for a comfortable but firm fit with no slack.
  • Always adjust the strap length to fit changes of clothing and growth.
  • In booster seats, the sash belt should cross your child's should and be in contact with their chest. The sash belt should sit low across their pelvis.

If you need to take a taxi or rideshare vehicle, ask for one with the appropriate child car restraint.Although children under the age of one year can now legally be held in the lap of their parent or caregiver, children between the ages of one and seven years can be restrained in full adult seatbelts if they are seated in the back row of seats. It is always safest to place a child in a child car seat.

Get more info...

Child car restraints significantly reduce the risk of death or serious injury to a child in a crash.

If you need help, you can call the Child Restraint Information Line on 1300 780 713 between 9am and 2pm Monday to Friday.

You can also visit the Road Wise website or Kidsafe WA for more information.

Enjoy peace of mind with RAC Comprehensive Car Insurance

If your car is involved in a collision, we’ll replace your child car restraint with a new one to make sure your little one is safe – even if there’s no apparent damage. Plus, you can save $100 when you buy it online*.  

Get a quote 

 *Benefits are subject to policy conditions and PED Guide. Before you make a decision, please check the PDS to see if the policy is right for you. $100 discount applies on first year of insurance only. Discount subject to minimum premiums.

Last updated July 2018