Transport Options – Car Restraints

SAFER JOURNEYS FOR CHILDREN

On 1 November 2013, child restraint laws will be changing to improve the safety of children travelling on our roads. Parents and caregivers should start thinking now about how they’ll meet the new requirements and make the most effective choices for their family.

From 1 November the mandatory use of child restraints in vehicles will be extended by two years. This means that all children will be required to be correctly secured in an ‘approved’ restraint until their seventh birthday – currently it’s until their fifth. At that time parents must continue to secure any children aged seven in an approved child restraint if one is available in the vehicle, and if not, in any child restraint or safety belt that is available. This particular rule currently applies for children aged five, six and seven.

These changes are being made by the government to help reduce preventable deaths and serious injuries to child passengers travelling in vehicles on our roads. Seats and safety belts installed in vehicles are designed and manufactured to most effectively protect an average sized adult in the event of a crash. Children, because they are smaller and have a different body shape to adults, need additional seating equipment to keep them as safe as adults in a car.

When children’s calves and thighs are too short for the depth of the adult car seat they intuitively slide their hips forward for greater comfort. This causes the lap portion of safety belt to ride up over the soft tissues of their abdomen, rather than being positioned over the rigid pelvic bones, as they are designed to do for adults. This can cause serious abdominal injuries in a crash.

The shoulder portion of the safety belt can also cut across a child’s neck and face and can cause severe upper neck and spinal trauma in the event of a crash. Because it can be uncomfortable a child may place the shoulder portion of the safety belt under their arm or behind their back rather than off their shoulder as it’s intended to be worn.

Using a booster seat lifts a child to the correct height/dimensions to best fit the adult safety belt, which reduces the potential trauma suffered by a child in the event of a crash.

What is an ‘approved’ restraint?

Approved child restraints are ones that meets approved standards so parents and caregivers can be sure their design and construction is laboratory tested under crash conditions.

Look for a child restraint that shows one of the following:

Tick Mark a tick mark (indicates the restraint meets the joint New Zealand/Australian Standard AS/NZ 1754)
E3 an 'E' mark (indicates the restraint meets the European Standard ECE 44). The number on the circle will vary depending on the country of certification.
US Standard Or, look for a restraint that complies with the United States Standard FMVSS 213. The restraint must also show the New Zealand Standard 'S' mark indicating it is certified for use here.

Approved child restraints include:

  • infant restraints for young babies (often called baby capsules)
  • restraints for older babies, toddlers and preschool children (often called car seats)
  • booster seats for preschool and school-aged children. These position children in the seat so they can safely use the adult safety belt
  • child safety harnesses (used with or without a booster seat) for preschool and school-aged children.

How do I know what child restraint is right for my child?

The most suitable type of child restraint required to keep a child safe will vary depending on the child’s size. Also if families have multiple children and child restraints, it’s important to find out the best combination for their children and their vehicle. So it’s important to seek expert advice and ideally have the restraints fitted to your vehicle.

What is changing?

The law says you must: Until 31 October 2013 From 1 November 2013
Correctly secure your child in an approved child restraint Until their 5th birthday Until their 7th birthday
The law says you must: Until 31 October 2013 From 1 November 2013
Correctly secure your child in an approved child restraint if one is available in the vehicle (and if not, in any child restraint or safety belt that is available) From their 5th birthday until their 8th birthday From their 7th birthday until their 8th birthday

Brought to you by Kelly Good – Registered Child Restraint Technician, Wanaka