Child safety group Kidsafe says too many children are unsafe in their family cars and is warning parents to get their car seats checked.
The non-profit organization’s mission is to support parents and caregivers to prevent unintentional injuries to children.
“It’s 85 to 90 per cent,” Kidsafe NSW Executive Officer Christine Erskine said.
This data comes from research conducted by Neuroscience Australia.
‘Children don’t travel as safely as they should’
Kidsafe NSW regularly holds orientation days for hundreds of parents and carers.
“We had one in June where we got something like 350 seats checked and 90 percent had one or more problems,” Erskine said.
Adaptation days happen all over the country with comparable numbers.
“It’s a high proportion of improperly installed seats or improperly installed children, and therefore children are not traveling as safely as they should,” she said.
“Car seats are complicated – people move them around a lot, parents can put them in and take them out, grandparents can put them in and take them out.”
People tend not to read the instructions or are in a hurry and fail to check the child or the car seat is installed correctly, she added.
“They also don’t realize you can go on YouTube and see how to put them in,” Ms Erskine said.
“Most people don’t actually go to a licensed fitter.”
Safety standards for car seats
There are safety standards for both the design of the child seat and the installation of the seats.
Under the Australian Consumer Law, there is a mandatory safety standard for child restraints for use in motor vehicles.
The safety standard covers a number of key requirements, including installation instructions, labeling and packaging.
Parents and carers are required by law to ensure that they meet these standards.
“The ACCC advises consumers to purchase child seats from reputable suppliers who can demonstrate that the product meets the Australian mandatory safety standard,” an ACCC spokesman said.
“Consumers should be particularly careful when purchasing car supports from overseas suppliers online.”
The use of child restraints is regulated by state and territory road transport authorities, while user requirements and are enforced by the police.
There are significant fines for families who incorrectly install child seats.
The main problem is that there is nothing to prevent a parent or carer from incorrectly installing a child seat on their own.
How to install a car seat correctly
Baby safe is one of a number of authorized restraint fitting stations in Sydney.
Babysafe owner Rob Mesite said he spends much of his week readjusting unsafe child seats that have been improperly installed by owners or unauthorized companies.
“[Frequently] the vehicle seat belt that secures the child restraint to the vehicle is unbuckled,” he said.
“This is a very common occurrence – I’ve seen four since Saturday.”
Another common problem is that people don’t know how to loosen and tighten the seat belt.
“Harnesses have to be loosened and tightened every time we take the child in and out of the high chair,” he explained.
“We have a lot of people who come in and ask to adjust the seat because the child ‘doesn’t fit’ anymore, when in reality they just have to loosen the seat belt to be able to get the child in.”
Christine Erskine wants to send the message that far too many Australian children are currently not traveling safely in their family motor vehicles.
“This is quite a comprehensive product, it has big consequences if not installed correctly, so how can we help you?” she said.
“It’s very difficult to actually legislate compliance because then you have to have control.”
The next best option, she said, is to get the word out that parents and caregivers need to make sure their child seats are installed correctly.