BABY STEPS IN SAFETY PROGRESS

Herald Sun - Motoring - - COVER STORY -

SAFETY guru Lau­rie Sparke (right) cites three ma­jor mile­stones in child safety.

“The first step was when seat belts were put into the rear seats of cars. The next step was the in­tro­duc­tion of child seats. Then it’s the new gen­er­a­tion of seats with head sup­port,” he says.

“Any sort of seat belt in the back meant the kids’ chances of sur­vival were pretty good.

“Once the lit­tle bug­gers were strapped into a seat with a har­ness they were pretty much in­vin­ci­ble. We started see­ing crashes where the peo­ple in front were killed but the chil­dren in the back sur­vived.

“To­day, the real risk of oc­cu­pant in­juries is from side im­pact. So it’s a good em­bel­lish­ment to have the head pro­tec­tion for kids.”

In the greater con­text, Sparke re­gards the shift to Isofix as triv­ial — “There are some ben­e­fits but it’s pretty small” — and says par­ents are more crit­i­cal than tech­nol­ogy when it comes to mak­ing chil­dren safer.

“The chal­lenge comes from con­vinc­ing par­ents to put kids into seats, then in ad­just­ing the har­nesses cor­rectly. You still see kids un­re­strained.

“The big­gest con­cern for me to­day is the tran­si­tion from a booster seat to an adult seat belt. A lot of par­ents think they can fit their child into an adult belt, or the front seat, far too early.

“A child’s pelvic area has to be fully de­vel­oped to hold the adult seat belt in place. It’s too easy for it to ride up.”

NRMA’s Dimitra Vla­homitros adds: “Don’t grad­u­ate your kids too early. We’re find­ing par­ents are rel­a­tively good in get­ting the mes­sage in hav­ing their first baby in a cap­sule. But when the sec­ond or third comes along they need to make sure ev­ery child is in the right re­straint for their age.

“It used to be based on height and weight but now it’s age. With the new stan­dard there are shoul­der mark­ers on the re­straints, which is a good way to know when the child has out­grown the seat.”

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