Parents are making potentially fatal mistakes by incorrectly fitting children in vehicle restraints.
In Australia, transport-related injuries are the leading cause of death and the second most common cause of hospitalisation for children aged up to 14 years, according to child safety organisation Kidsafe.
Alarmingly, about 70 per cent of child car restraints are incorrectly installed or used, and incorrect use of restraints triples the risk of injury in a crash.
1. Using the wrong type of restraint
“The most common misuse issue is the child in the wrong type of restraint for their size,” Jason Chambers, General Manager of Kidsafe Victoria, tells Yahoo 7.
“It’s really important the restraint is the correct one for their size – that’s what’s going to keep them safest.”
Mr Chambers advised parents and caregivers to keep the child in their current restraint until they have outgrown the maximum size limits, before progressing to the next type, regardless of age or weight.
2. Graduating to an adult seat too early
Older children should only move on from a booster seat when they have reached 145cms tall – usually around the 10-11 year-old mark. Moving up too early is just as dangerous for an older child than a toddler, Mr Chambers warned, yahoo 7.
“Children should continue to use a booster seat as long as possible, until they can fit properly into an adult seat belt.”
“It is much safer for them to continue to use [the booster seat] until they have outgrown it,” he said.
“It is recommended that children who are the right size to use an adult seatbelt be seated in a position with a lap-sash seatbelt rather than lap-only seatbelt,” Mr Chambers advised.
3. Incorrectly fitting top tether strap
The common fitting issues usually lied in the top tether straps or seatbelts being incorrectly attached or clipped into the wrong places.
Top tether straps are sometimes not connected to the correct anchor point – they may be attached to a luggage strap instead of a child restraint anchor point, or sometimes the top tether strap isn’t connected at all, he revealed.
Parents should check with the vehicle’s manual to determine the location of its child restraint anchor points, Kidsafe advised. It is also a good idea to keep the restraint instruction manual handy, in a safe place like in the glove box, to enable ease of referral when going back to re-check the fitting later on.
4. Not checking the restraint between trips
While a seat could be installed correctly, its straps or positioning on the child could have become tangled or moved since the previous journey, particularly as the child grows.
Twisted, loose and incorrectly adjusted harness straps are a common problem, as are seatbelts that are threaded through the incorrect path, or ISOFIX attachments that aren’t connected or tightened properly.
“It is important that parents and carers regularly check their child car restraint to ensure that it is still fitted correctly, properly adjusted and fastened to fit their child correctly on every trip.
“Double-check everything is installed correctly especially if the restraint is being regularly moved [from vehicle to vehicle],” Mr Chambers urged, Yahoo 7.
5. Using a unsafe restraint
An approved child car restraint must meet the mandatory requirements of the Australian/ New Zealand Standard (AS/NZS 1754) for child restraints, and those meeting with this standard will carry an AS/NZS compliance sticker. Restraints purchased in other countries do not meet the Australian/New Zealand Standard and are illegal to use in Australia.
If fitting a child into a second-hand restraint, always check the age and history, Kidsafe advised.
They should be less than 10 years old and must never have been involved in a crash, as restrains involved in collisions will need to be replaced regardless of visible impact.
6. Failing to seek help
Parents are encouraged to have a go at fitting the child to their restraint themselves, however if in doubt Kidsafe encouraged seeking the advice of a professional child-fitting service.
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