Our kids are the most precious cargo we are ever likely to carry and ongoing technology and development have ensured that the baby capsules and child seats we fit to our cars are as safe as they can be.
The problem is though that a lot of parents – particularly first-time mums and dads – either choose the wrong equipment or do not fit it properly. Evidence from child safety agencies and motoring bodies suggest that
Around 70 percent of child restraints are not fitted properly, making them fairly useless regarding functionality and safety.
Some even suggest that first-time parents should have their restraints fitted by an expert and use the experience as a learning process, asking as many questions as they think necessary and especially handy if the seats or capsules might be moved between cars.
The big tip here is to have the installation instructions on hand for easy reference at the time of fitting and helpful instructions are even available online with the manufacturer and general video clips available.
Child restraint systems sold in Australia, whether they are the capsule type or seat style, must comply with the appropriate national safety standards and equipment bought from any reputable retailer will have the appropriate compliance sticker.
The simple rule of thumb is: ‘no sticker, no purchase'
This holds true particularly for people considering buying bargain seats online. Saving $100 might seem pretty good right now, but it might not seem like a great deal when a child is seriously injured (or worse) in a car crash.
Prospective parents will soon discover, once the hunt for the baby capsule is underway, that while all seats meet the national safety standards, some meet them better than others and some offer different features to others.
To streamline the shopping process go to childcarseats.com.au, a website which gives a safety and ease of use star rating to all child restraints sold in Australia.
What happens if I have an Accident?
Finally, if you do have a major crash, safety authorities recommend you write-off your child restraint because while it may look perfectly fine on the outside, it could be badly damaged on the inside.
Hairline cracks will at best become a stress point in a future crash and potentially life-threatening at worst. And any stress put on straps and buckles by a significant crash could weaken those as well.
Should bub need a second restraint - such as for the grandparents' car or the second family car?
It is generally accepted that using secondhand child restraints isn't a good idea. If you are going to consider a secondhand restraint you must be absolutely sure of the history of the seat and its condition - has it been in an accident, is it less than 10 years old (regulations are updated regularly)?, but even then secondhand is always a consideration if parents remember a few basic rules.
If you are going to consider a secondhand child restraint there are a few basic rules.
The first is to buy modern because seat components such as mounts, webbing restraints and buckles, start to degrade. The second consideration is that, unless you know the seller well, you do not know the restraint's history and it could have been in a crash. If you do not know the history of the seat, do not use it.
And if you do opt for a secondhand seat, make sure it comes with all its fittings and fixtures as well as the installation and instruction booklet.
If you possibly can, always buy new seats. It's a small price to pay to keep your child safe.
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