There has been a lot of talk about being able to use ISOFIX child car restraints in Australia. Short answer is... you cannot.
The revised Australian Standard (AS/NZS 1754:2013 published 7 June 2013) allows for ISOFIX-compatible lower attachment connectors in some types of child car restraints, and these restraints will also have a top tether strap.
Child car restraints with ISOFIX connectors purchased anywhere BUT Australia and not complying to the Australian Standard are illegal to use and must not be used here. The car restraints meeting the revised Australian Standard are not for sale yet and may not be available for another 6 to 12 months.
The Australian attachment connectors will be required to provide a clear indication of correct installation. This has been a problem for some ISOFIX compatible connectors. That is, it was easy to think that the connectors have engaged without them actually being locked in. Therefore Kidsafe Queensland believes that the Australian Standard ISOFIX-compatible child restraints with indicators of correct installation and with a top tether strap child car restraint will be superior to the systems currently used overseas.
This revised Standard also allows for rearward facing car restraints taking children up to about 2 to 3 years of age and has revised testing methods to determine car restraints suitable for low-birth-weight babies.
What we have for sale in the shops today are child car restraints that meet the 2010 Australian Standard. These restraints have minimum and/or maximum shoulder height markers. There are no weight limitations on these restraints - which is great - because we were seeing heavy toddlers in booster seats prematurely and heavy kids sitting on the adult seat because they had exceeded the weight limitation of the booster. The restraints meeting the 2010 standard also have greater side impact protection.
Toddler restraint and boosters have a minimum shoulder height marking indicating that the child must reach the mark before using the restraint and a maximum shoulder height marking to indicate when the child has outgrown the restraint. Restraints that begin rear-facing and turn forward facing – that take a baby from birth to approximately 4 years – do not have a minimum shoulder height marking. Instead the shoulder height mark indicates that if the baby’s shoulder is below the marker it must stay rear-facing. The seat also has a shoulder height mark indicating when the child has outgrown the restraint.
HOWEVER... there are a lot of child car restraints in use that do not have height markers but are weight limited because they were manufactured to the previous Australian Standard. These older rearward facing restraints have maximum weight limits of 9 or 12kg (this will be indicated in the instruction booklet and also on a sticker on the side of the restraint). The in-built forward-facing toddler seats have a minimum requirement of 8kg and a maximum weight limitation of 18kg. For a 4-year old to go into the older standard booster seat they had to weigh a minimum of 14kg and the restraint had a maximum weight limit of 26kg.
No wonder parents are confused! Here at Kidsafe we are often asked “What are the rules? Is it about age, weight or height?”
Firstly it is about the rules - so it is about the age. The rules give parents the minimum age for transitions. There are provisions though for if a child has outgrown by weight (in the older standard restraints) or by height. Kidsafe Queensland advises that unless the child has outgrown its car restraint – leave it in there.
Here is a brief recap of the Queensland child car restraint rules:
- All children under seven years of age must use a child car restraint when travelling in a car in Queensland.
- Birth to six months – babies must be rear facing and are safer rear facing as long as possible.
- Six months to four years - can be rear-facing or forward-facing in a restraint with an in-built harness.
- Four years to seven years - children must use a booster seat.
- If the child is small there is no need to move to the next level of restraint – just because they have reached the minimum recommended age.
- If the child’s legs do not hang over the edge of the vehicle seat, then continue to use a booster seat, even if they are over 7 years of age.