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Australian parents are being encouraged to take their time before removing their child’s car seat restraints as new research shows nearly one in five parents (18 per cent) would leave their child strapped-in longer than the legal age of seven.
The independent research commissioned by Slater and Gordon also shows mums (20 per cent) were more likely than dads (17 per cent) to use safety restraints beyond seven years of age.
Motor vehicle accident lawyer Genevieve Henderson said one of the leading causes of child death and acquired disability in Australia were motor vehicle crashes.
“Up to 80 children are killed and thousands more injured in road crashes each year, and research shows a child in a car restraint is less likely to be harmed than one who is not,” she said.
“According to Australian road safety laws, all children up to the age of seven years must be safely restrained when travelling in a vehicle.
“Over the years, I’ve talked to many parents who look forward to the day their child reaches the age of seven when they can legally take them out of a seat restraint.
“Some say their child has outgrown any available booster seat; others say they want to free-up some space on their backseat; and some parents are keen for their little one to grow-up and sit like an adult.
“But one thing to remember is that the law sets out a minimum requirement only. That means there’s no reason why you can’t keep them in their restraints for longer, if they still fit that is.”
Ms Henderson said importantly, it was not just about the child’s age or convenience for the parent, it was also about the right fit for their child’s body size.
“If a child is sitting in an adult seat, the shoulder belt should lie across the middle of the chest, and the lap belt should be low across the hips and pelvis,”
“The child should be tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with their knees bent," she said
“Any restraint is better than not using a restraint at all, so I encourage parents to take their time before removing those car seats and help keep their most precious cargo safe.”
The National Road Safety Laws for child restraint and booster seats require:
- From birth up to the age of six months a child should be restrained in a rearward facing child car restraint (e.g. infant capsule);
- From six months up to the age of four years a child should be restrained in either a rearward or forward facing child car restraint with in-built harness;
- From four years up to the age of seven years a child should be restrained in either a forward facing child car restraint or booster seat restrained by a correctly adjusted and fastened seat belt or child safety harness.
- Children seven years and over can be restrained in an adult seat belt or in a booster seat.