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Comprehensive guide to safe child restraints

10 MARCH, 2011

Victorian parents can ensure their children have the best crash protection following the release of a guide that rates child restraints.

The 2011 buyer’s guide compiles the results of the Child Restraint Evaluation Program (CREP) that has tested and rated 83 child restraints for different ages. It gives each child restraint a star rating for protection and ease of use, with 5 stars being the highest rating attainable for each category.

The guide titled “Child restraint safety ratings” is supported by two Victorian road safety authorities, RACV and the Transport Accident Commission (TAC).

The guide makes it easier for parents to comply with new child restraint road rules that were implemented late last year and ensure they choose the most appropriate restraint for their child.

In 2010, four children aged under 7 years were killed in Victorian car accidents as passengers. Over the last five years, more than 350 child passengers have been seriously injured.

“Everyone recognises the vulnerability of children in cars and the need to provide them with the greatest protection,” said RACV’s Manager Vehicle Engineering, Michael Case.

"This is a very handy guide for parents who want to be informed about the quality of child restraints on the market. It means they can make informed buying choices based on protection features and ease of use,” Mr Case said.

“All of the restraints tested met Australian Standards but the evaluation program found some restraints performed better than others in simulated crash tests.

“The consequences of not choosing the right restraint for a child and not securing the child properly in the restraint can be catastrophic. It’s also important children stay in their restraint until they have outgrown it.

“Victoria introduced rules to mandate child restraints that are suited to children as they grow. There are three distinct types of restraints developed for different age groups of children and this new brochure advises parents on the best protection for their children.”

The child restraint rules are:
• New-born babies up to six months old to be secured in a rearward facing restraint;
• Toddlers from six months to four years to be fastened in either a rearward facing restraint or a forward facing child restraint with an inbuilt harness; and
• Children aged from four to seven to be secured in a forward facing child restraint with an inbuilt harness or a booster seat.

Research shows children aged 4 to 7 who are restrained in only an adult seatbelt are 60% more likely to be seriously injured in a crash, than children who are restrained in a correctly fitted child restraint or booster seat.

“The TAC is proud to be associated with this guide. We encourage all parents and carers to look for a restraint with the most safety stars and a high ease-of-use rating,” TAC Road Safety Manager, Samantha Cockfield said.

“Parents want to protect their child when travelling in a vehicle but can be overwhelmed by information. The guide makes it easier for them to understand what their child needs to give them the best protection.

Those unsure of how to fit a child restraint can visit one of RACV’s fitting stations across Victoria to have the restraint installed by an expert.

Parents and carers also need to be aware that while it is possible to purchase a restraint which can operate rear facing for younger children and forward facing for older children, the star rating can differ with the direction it is fitted. For example, the Compaq (Safe-N-Sound) Series 25/A/2004 model is rated 4 stars for protection when rear-ward facing, but drops to 2 stars when used in a forward-facing direction.

CREP is supported by the RTA, NRMA Motoring and Services, the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV), the Transport Accident Commission of Victoria (TAC), and the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia (RACWA).

The guide is available from RACV branches and is downloadable from here 

Media contacts:
RACV: Jo Robertson, Senior Communications Adviser - 0407 910 278
TAC: Amanda Bavin, Media and Communications Adviser - 0439 567 249

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