BABY STEPS IN SAFETY PROGRESS
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.”