Changes with real restraint
NEW child restraint laws coming into effect next week will have parents carefully checking their back seats.
However, RACQ technical services officer Steve Spalding rejects claims the new requirements will cause confusion.
‘‘We’ve had some inquiries, but I think the information out there in the public domain is fairly clear and consistent,’’ he says.
‘‘For those parents that have been using correct restraints, this will involve little change.
‘‘However, it will affect those that haven’t used them properly or fitted them properly and our past research shows that could be about 45 per cent.’’
From Thursday, all states will enforce new Australian Standards guidelines for child restraints that classifies them by height and age ranges rather than the child’s weight.
It also introduces new requirements for a booster seat for children up to 138cm and calls for restraints to use markings to indicate the shoulder height of a child it is intended to fit.
The RACQ and other motoring clubs were involved in the consultation process leading to the new child restraint rules.
Spalding says each state previously had different standards, but will now all come into line.
‘‘There are some slight variations in the dollar amount of the penalty, but the requirements are all the same,’’ he says.
‘‘The penalty in Queensland is three demerit points and $300, but the deterrent should be the real risk of death or serious injury to the child in a crash due to not using a correctly fitted appropriate restraint.’’
According to an Australian Transport Council report, 500 children up to the age of 10 are killed or seriously injured every year in car accidents, with 2300 sustaining minor injuries.
‘‘Parents should not underestimate the safety benefits of a correctly restrained child in a crash,’’ Spalding says.
An online survey has re- vealed one in three parents is confused about the new child restraint laws.
FamilyCar.com.au founder Melissa Pye says they conducted the survey in response to the large number of queries on their website.
‘‘Parents are clearly concerned about the safety of their children while driving them to school, day care and after school activities and are desperate for some clarity in this area,’’ she says.
Pye says areas of confusion include where to place an adult seatbelt and use of restraints in vehicles such as taxis and buses.
The RACQ’s Spalding says if that parents are not clear on any point, they should obtain advice from a reputable restraint fitter.
‘‘Although there are exemptions with a taxi, the priority of the parent would be to make the necessary arrangements when booking to ensure a restraint is available for use rather than travel without one,’’ he says.
‘‘From an injury perspective, there is no difference in a crash outcome whether the child is unrestrained in the back of a private motor vehicle or a taxi.’’
Expectant mum Renae Harris-Hughes says she isn’t confused because she sought professional advice.
‘‘There are a lot of options, so it’s hard to know which seat is best,’’ she says.
‘‘I suggest people do their research and make sure they are comfortable with the differences between the seats.’’
Under the new rules, children aged 0-6 months must be secured in an approved rearward-facing baby capsule or infant restraint that is properly fastened and adjusted.
From the ages of six months to four years, they must be secured in either a rearward or forward-facing child restraint with built-in harness.
From four to seven years, they must use an approved booster seat with a H-harness or with an adult seatbelt.
Parents are advised not to move children up to the next level until they are big enough. Visit: transport.qld.gov.au/Home/ Safety/Road/Motor—vehicle/
Child—restraints/ www.standards.org.au www.designawards.com.au www.australiandesign.org
SEATING CAPACITY: Mum-to-be Renae Harris-Hughes with RACQ car seat expert Mark Connor at the RACQ’s Spring Hill centre.