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Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By EMMA WHITTAKER

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.

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