Please be seated
Is a change to car seat rules going to catch you out?
Parents have until Friday to make sure they’re prepared for new rules that require children under seven to travel in an approved car seat.
Those between the ages of seven and eight will still need to sit in a booster seat if one is available in the vehicle.
Currently children only need to be in a car seat until they are five and continue to use one if it’s available until they’re eight.
The changes announced last year are business as usual for Waterview mother of three Sasha Watson.
Her oldest daughter Milla turned five in March and still uses a seat.
It was never an option for Milla to stop using one as a matter of course when she reached five years old.
‘‘Car seats are designed for adult sized bodies,’’ Sasha says.
‘‘When she’s seven, if she’s not tall enough she’ll stay in one.’’
Sasha says many of the families she knows have also chosen to keep their kids in seats longer.
Mother of two and Albert-Eden Local Board member Margi Watson is in the same situation.
Her children didn’t stop using booster seats until their height reached 148 centimetres – the time when research says a standard seat belt will fit them correctly.
One of her children was eight and the other was nine by the time they were tall enough.
‘‘And they were tall kids,’’ Margi says.
‘‘The law is always the minimum standard but you can still do more to protect your kids,’’ she says.
Margi says peer pressure wasn’t an issue for her children. ‘‘It was just a family rule. ‘‘It was an expectation that if they went somewhere else they took the booster seat with them and we just had to explain it to people.
‘‘It didn’t become much of an issue until they were about eight,’’ Margi says.
Organisations like Plunket and SafeKids New Zealand lobbied unsuccessfully for the 148cm height limit to become law instead of the age restriction and are asking that parents voluntarily abide by the standard.
Sixteen children aged under 14 are killed in car crashes each year in New Zealand and five are hospitalised every week.
The death rate in this country is one of the highest in the OECD.
Booster seats work by lifting children up so that the shoulder belt fits properly across their chests and the lap belt sits correctly across the strong bones of the pelvis that can absorb crash forces.
‘‘Seven is not a magic number,’’ leading paediatric intensive care specialist Liz Segedin says.
‘‘Some children grow faster than others, but the majority of children who turn seven are still too small to use an adult belt.
‘‘By using a booster seat, in the same kind of crash, the difference could mean an uninjured child instead of a severely injured or even paralysed child.’’
Buckle up: Five-year-old Milla Reekie, left, is prepared for Friday’s law change which means she now needs to stay in a car seat until she is seven along with her sisters Holly, one, and Greta, three.