New study reveals children are being taken out of their car seats too early

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Safety experts are urging parents to keep their children in car seats and boosters for as long as possible, as a new survey has revealed that kids are being taken out of their booster seats too early.

It seems there’s a lot of confusion about exactly when kids should be able to travel without a booster seat or be facing forwards…

New study reveals children are being taken out of their booster seats too early

Car seat confusion may be putting children at risk

A poll of 1639 parents was conducted by the Royal Children’s Hospital. They found that 63 per cent of kids aged between seven and 10 sit in the car WITHOUT a booster seat, even if they are below the recommended height.

It seems there is a lot of confusion about what the rules are when it comes to kids and car seats, with 39 per cent of parents believing their child was old enough to use an adult seatbelt without a booster, regardless of their height.

New study reveals children are being taken out of their booster seats too early

While legislation states kids can sit with just an adult seatbelt and no booster seat from the age of seven, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends only children over the height of 145cm are safe enough to travel without a booster seat.

What’s more, the poll found that 50 per cent of children between the ages of seven and 12 were sitting in the front passenger seat of the car. This can double their risk of being injured in a crash.

The survey also discovered that two third of toddlers are sat in a front-facing booster seat by the age of 18 months. Experts recommended youngsters should be facing backwards until at least two years old.

“Parents are following the law, but unfortunately the law does not reflect safest practice and this means many parents are unknowingly putting their children at risk of serious injury or death every day,” says RCH National Child Health Poll Director Dr Anthea Rhodes.

“Children aged seven to 12-years-old are being left vulnerable to life-threatening injuries from car crashes due to inadequate use of car restraints and travelling in the front seat of the car.

“A review of Australian laws relating to child car restraints and front seat travel is warranted to address this situation in which current laws may permit, or even encourage, unsafe practices.”

New study reveals children are being taken out of their booster seats too early

Worryingly, many parents are unknowingly putting their child at risk as they feel unsure about the car seat guidelines.

“This study shows that parents are unaware of best practice recommendations when it comes to car seats and kids,” Dr Rhodes said.

“It’s critical to measure your child before transitioning them out of a booster seat into an adult seatbelt.

“Booster seats protect children less than 145 cm in height by lifting them up so that the seatbelt fits better cross the chest and hips. Most children don’t reach 145 cm tall until around 11 years of age.”

New study reveals children are being taken out of their booster seats too early

What safety experts recommend when it comes to travelling in a car:

Children under 6 months: Rear-facing ONLY in an approved infant capsule or convertible car seats designed for babies. They must never sit in the front passenger seat.

6 months to 2 years old: Rear facing for as long as possible in a seat with an inbuilt harness. Your child can also be turned forward facing when they pass the labelled upper shoulder marks at around the age 2. They must never sit in the front passenger seat.

4 to 7 years: Forward facing with inbuilt harness or booster seat. Children should be in a booster until they are 145cm tall, regardless of their age. They must never sit in the front passenger seat.

12 years plus: They can move to the front passenger seat.

New study reveals children are being taken out of their booster seats too early

The five step test to decide whether your child is too big for their booster seat:

  1. Their back is against the seat
  2. Their knees bend over the edge of the chair
  3. The seatbelt sits in the middle of their shoulder
  4. The lap belt sits across their hips
  5. They stay seated like this the whole trip

Do the laws need to be changed in Australia?

Kelly Lowndes – a Type 1 Accredited Fitter and Child Restraint Educator at Child Restraints Installations Australia – has been petitioning for the laws in Australia to change over the last few years.

New study reveals children are being taken out of their booster seats too early

“Australian laws are built to what is the absolute bare minimum that will keep our babies and children safe. The minimum being six months that a baby has to stay in a rear-facing car seat,” she previously told The Healthy Mummy.

“These laws absolutely need changing. Australia is at the forefront of child restraint development but when it comes to Australian Law we are so far behind the rest of the world.

“I would like to see the laws changed that children must remain rear facing until two years as a minimum. Australian law is quite shocking, especially as research has shown, conclusively, that keeping your baby and child rear-facing until the age of four is 500 times safer in the event of a collision.”

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