Two young children in child restraint seats

How to improve car safety for your child

A new report has found that almost half of child passenger deaths on NSW roads could have been prevented if the child was wearing their child restraint properly.

The report tabled by the NSW Ombudsman in the NSW Parliament on 5 June has found 35 of the 66 children in fatal crashes from 2007-16 were either not wearing a restraint or did not have a properly fitted restraint.

Julie Brown, an Associate Professor at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), conducted the report for the NSW Government.

Associate Professor Brown has some tips for parents to improve child safety while in the car.

  1. Always wear a restraint

The simplest way to increase safety is to make sure children are always restrained.

“Parents might be reluctant to fiddle with child seat restraints for short trips,” said Associate Professor Brown.  “But it is vital that parents always ensure restraints are being used regardless of how long your child will be in the car.”

  1. Properly fitted straps

Restraints should properly fit a child with no loose or twisted straps.

“A common mistake is to let children put the harness or seat belt under their arms.  This can significantly decrease the effectiveness of restraints during a car crash,” said Associate Professor Brown.

  1. Children must remain upright

Children and young people need to remain upright to be properly protected by a seat belt.

“Children should never lay across the back seat to sleep.  While it might be challenging, children should be encouraged to sleep while seated so that they remain protected by their restraint,” said Associate Professor Brown.

  1. Children aged over seven may still need a booster

In some cars, children older than seven and up to 12 years old may still need a booster seat to achieve optimal seat belt fit.

“A lot of parents move their children out of the booster seats as soon as possible.  But it’s important to not move your child to a seat belt until they can achieve a good seat belt fit,” said Associate Professor Brown.

“This will depend on the size of your child and the car in which they are travelling. The simplest way to check is to use the 5-step test.”

You can help improve road safety

If you live within a two-hour drive of Sydney, you can be part of NeuRA’s study that will give you $100 off a new child seat and a free safety check.

For more information visit www.neura.edu.au/car-seat-study, or text “car seat study” to 0488 824611 and NeuRA will call you.