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Car Seat Safety: When is your child ready for a new car seat?

Keeping your child safe while driving is a top priority for any parent or guardian.

But with so many different car seats and laws, it can be tough to keep up and know if your child is the safest they can be.

Well don’t stress, because we have broken it down for you so you know exactly when your child is ready for their next car seat.

Rearward-Facing Child Restraints

Rearward facing child restraints are the safest type of restraint for infants. 

These are for children from birth and have a 5 or 6 point harness, to make sure your baby is secure.

In Australia, Type A is the standard for rearward-facing child restraints.

How do I know when my child has grown out of a rearward-facing restraint?

There are a few different Type A restraints that cater to infants. These include:

  • Type A1 for children up to 70cm tall (6-9 months).
  • Type A2 for children up to 80cm tall (12 months). 
  • Type A4, a new category, for children up to 2-3 years.

What does the law say?

According to the law, children must be in a rearward-facing restraint until they are 6 months old. Then they can use a forward-facing restraint. 

Experts recommend keeping children in these restraints for as long as they fit. Rearward-facing restraints are the safest for children.

Forward-Facing Child Restraints

This restraint is for children who have outgrown their rearward-facing restraint. Use the forward-facing restraint until they are approximately 4 years of age. 

These restraints have a built-in 6 point harness, securing children.

In Australia, Type B is the standard for forward-facing child restraints.

How do I know when my child has grown out of a forward-facing restraint?

Newer restraints have shoulder height markers, to show when your child has grown out.

If your restraint doesn’t have this, they need to be at least 4 years old.

What does the law say?

According to the law, children must stay in a forward-facing restraint until they are 4 years old. 

But, experts recommend that they remain in this restraint until they have grown out of it. 

Booster Seat

Booster seats are for children who have grown out of their forward-facing restraint. They can use a booster seat until they are big enough to use the lap-sash seatbelt. 

Extra harnesses are not recommended as the seats make use of the cars existing seatbelt.

In Australia, Type E and F are the standards for booster seats. 

How do I know when my child has grown out of a booster seat?

There is a very simple 5 step test you can do with your child to see if they are big enough to use the seatbelt by themselves. 

  • Step 1: Get your child to sit with their back against the vehicle seatback.
  • Step 2: See if their knees bend in front of the edge of the seat while their back remains against the seatback. 
  • Step 3: When strapped in, see if the sash belt sits across the middle of the shoulder.
  • Step 4: See if the lap belt is sitting low across the hips and touching the thigh. 
  • Step 5: See if your child can stay seated for a whole trip like this. 

If they are unable to do one or more of these things, it means that they should remain in a booster seat for their safety. 

What does the law say?

According to the law, children must stay in a booster seat until they are at least 7 years old. 

But, it is preferable to keep them in a booster seat until they have passed the 5 step test (see above).

Car seat installation

Car seats can be notoriously challenging to install in a car. 

But, they are vital to get right to ensure your child is safe. 

  • Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Always use a top tether strap for all restraints and booster seats that have them. 
  • Always thread the seat belt through the correct path.
  • Ensure there is no slack or looseness in any part of the restraint.
  • Check that the seat belt is secure before each trip.

For more information on car seat safety, please visit the Kidsafe website or RAA’s Recommended Child Restraints page.