There are seven different types of child restraints under the latest mandatory standard (Australian and New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 1754). This new standard came into effect on 19 September 2014.
The seven types are:
Type A: Rearward-facing restraint with an inbuilt harness (Type A generally includes baby capsules and reward facing carseats).
Type B: Forward-facing only with rigid ISOfix compatible connectors
Type C: Forward-facing accessory harness (used with no restraint just the carseat).
Type E: A booster seat used in conjunction with a lap-sash seatbelt suitable for children approximately 4 to 10 years of age.
Type F: A restraint that consists of either:
- a booster seat used in conjunction with a Type C child restraint and a seatbelt, or with a lap-sash seatbelt, suitable for children approximately 4 to 10 years of age, or
- a converter used in conjunction with a seatbelt, suitable for children approximately 8 to 10 years of age.
Type G: Forward-facing only up to approximately 8 years.
Type AB: Can be installed rearward or forward facing
Type BE: Booster mode with adult seatbelt or inbuilt harness
What is the law relating to baby/child seats?
The laws in Australia relating to kids and cars are now age rather than height or weight based.
- Children from newborn up to the age of six months must be secured in an Australian standards approved rearward facing restraint
- Children aged from six months old to four years must ride in either a rear or forward facing approved child restraint with an inbuilt harness (that is an inbuilt seatbelt constructed as part of the restraint not the car seatbelt)
- Children aged from four to seven must ride in either a forward facing approved child restraint with an inbuilt harness or an approved booster seat
- Children under four years of age cannot legally travel in the front seat of a vehicle with two or more rows
- Children aged from four to seven cannot travel in the front seat of a vehicle with two or more rows unless all other back seats are occupied by children younger than seven (all of whom are in approved carseats or boosters)
- Children aged from seven but under 16 who are too small to be restrained by a seatbelt properly adjusted and fastened (see below) are strongly recommended to use an approved booster seat
- Children in booster seats must be restrained by a suitable lap and sash type approved seatbelt that is properly adjusted and fastened, or by a suitable approved child safety harness that is properly adjusted and fastened.
- If your child is too small for the child restraint specified for their age they should remain in their current restraint until it is safe for them to move to the next stage.
- If your child is too large for the child restraint specified for their age, they may move to the next level of child restraint.
We strongly recommend that parents continue to use each restraint until their child outgrows it. So if your 13 month old baby still fits comfortably in their baby capsule then by all means continue to use that until she has outgrown it. While the law specifies the minimum, it’s safest to only move your child to the next type of restraint only once they outgrow their current restraint.
Why have rearward and forward facing restraints?
Rearward facing restraints are safest for infants under 4 years of age. In fact, even as adults in even minor accidents, major damage can be inflicted on our spines and neck. However, having adults driving rearward facing is just not possible. The head of an infant makes up 25% of their body weight, compared to the head of an adult which is only 6% of our body weight. In a full frontal collision, everything is forced forward so in a forward facing restraint, although the child’s torso and legs are held back by the harness in their car restraint, their head will hit their chest and then fly back again leaving them at significant risk of neck and spinal injury or in the worst case scenario, internal decapitation. In a rear facing restraint, a child will slide back up into their restraint quite safely with their head, neck, back and torso all moving together in a straight line completely avoiding the whiplash motion that occurs when a child faces forward. Rear facing beyond 6 months (sometimes called extended rear facing) is practised in many countries with undeniably positive safety results. In Sweden children have been remaining rear facing until 4 years for nearly 50 years and they have a nearly zero fatality rate each year.
When should a child move out of a backward facing seat? I strongly recommend you keep your child rear facing until they reach the rear-facing limits of their convertible seat. With most modern seats that will happen from around 18 months old to 2 years plus. Turning from rear or forward facing is not a milestone that you should be rushing to meet. Forward facing is far more dangerous full stop. Once your child outgrows their baby capsule or baby carseat (which are always rear facing) then you’re ready to move them to a convertible carseat. There are plenty of seats on the market that allow extended rear facing.