Buying a child restraint

How to choose the safest restraint

Follow the guidelines below to ensure that you are choosing the safest restraint for your child and using it correctly.

  • All child restraints sold and used in Australia must comply with Australian/New Zealand Standard 1754 Child Restraints for Use in Motor Vehicles and are marked accordingly. This Standard is one of the most stringent child restraint standards in the world, so child restraints meeting this standard offer good protection in a crash.

  • Child restraints are designed to match a child's age and size. When you buy a restraint you need to consider:

    • The age and size of your child.
    • If the restraint will fit in your vehicle.

  • Consider the crash protection and ease-of-use ratings listed in this website. A restraint that is easier to use is more likely to be used correctly. A correctly fitted restraint offers better protection.

  • In booster seats, look for ones with:

    • Sash guides or locators that will position the sash belt comfortably at your child's shoulder level.
    • Features to prevent 'submarining', which occurs when a child slips under the lap section of the seatbelt during a crash, with the potential for serious or fatal injury.

Types of restraints

Rearward-facing restraints are for babies up to approximately 6 month or 12 months (depending on the model of child restraint). The restraint is held in place by the seatbelt and the top tether strap. The seat faces rearward and all have an inbuilt harness system.

Convertible forward-facing restraints combine the features of rearward facing and forward facing restraints in one child restraint. They accommodate babies from birth up to approximately 6 months or 12 months in rearward-facing mode. They can then be converted to forward facing for young children approximately 6 months to 4 years old. All have an inbuilt harness system.

Forward-facing restraints are designed for young children approximately 6 months to 4 years old. The restraint is held in place by the seatbelt and the top tether strap. The seat faces forward and incorporates an inbuilt harness system.

Convertible booster seats combine the features of forward facing restraints for young children and booster seats for older children. These restraints come with an inbuilt harness and a top tether strap. The inbuilt harness is used until the harness straps are too tight over the shoulders.

Booster seats are suitable for older children approximately 4 to 7 years. They are used with an adult lap/sash seatbelt. Booster seats with high backs and sides provide protection for children in side impact crashes as well as providing support when sleeping.

Seatbelts It is strongly recommended that children aged 7 years and over stay in their booster seats until they are too big for them. Adult lap-sash seatbelts are designed for people with a minimum height of 145 cm. To fit correctly the lap belt is positioned low over the hip and the sash belt sits in the middle of the shoulder and does not touch the neck. Lap-sash seatbelts offer greater protection to passengers than lap-only seatbelts.

Fitting a restraint in a vehicle

  • Always follow the restraint manufacturer's instructions when installing a restraint and placing your child in it. Incorrectly using a restraint or using a restraint that is not suitable for your child's age and size puts your child at a higher risk of serious injury or death.
  • Use an authorised restraint fitter if you are unsure about fitting the child restraint.
  • Regularly check the fit of the restraint. Ensure clips and seatbelts are done up and are correctly adjusted. Check that harness straps are not twisted or caught.

Putting your child in a restraint

Keep your child in the most appropriate restraint suitable for their age and size and only move them to the next category of restraint when he or she no longer physically fits.

  • In rearward facing and forward facing restraints, ensure the inbuilt harness is adjusted for a comfortable but firm fit with no slack so that the harness straps are straight and in flat contact with the child.
  • In booster seats, make sure the sash belt crosses the shoulder and is in contact with the child's chest. Make sure the lap belt sits low across the pelvis.
  • Always follow the restraint manufacturer's instructions when installing a restraint and placing your child in it.

Are you considering a second hand child restraint?

A second hand restraint can be an economical way to protect your child when travelling in a vehicle, however, some precautions need to be taken.

  • Unless you are getting the restraint from someone you know, it may be difficult to check its history. Verify from the previous owner that it has not been involved in a crash. Never use it if it has been involved in a crash or if there are obvious signs of wear or deterioration on any part of the restraint.
  • Child restraints that are more than 10 years old should not be used. You can check the age by checking the date of manufacture. This can be found on a printed label or stamped into the plastic shell somewhere on the restraint.
  • Only use restraints that carry the Australian Standards mark and ensure they still have the instruction manual.
  • In NSW, an authorised fitting station will also be able to check a restraint to confirm it is in working order.
  • Find out if the restraint has been recalled. You will need the name of the restraint manufacturer, model number or serial number and the date that it was manufactured. Then go to http://www.recalls.gov.au/ under Recall Categories: Kids, Kids' equipment.

If you are not sure about the safety of the used child restraint, don't use it. Don't risk your child's life.