Dangerous mistakes people make when installing baby car seats

Brooke Rolfe
·News Reporter

A disturbing number of baby car seats are incorrectly installed every day, putting infants and children in unnecessary danger, a NSW authorised car seat fitter says.

Of the dozens of new parents that pass through Mark Hely’s business Jax Tyres in Sydney each month to have their baby care seats approved for use, 90 per cent have to be removed and re-installed properly.

“When people fit them themselves, we basically take them out and re-install them so we know it’s done correctly,” Mr Hely told Yahoo News Australia.

The biggest baby car seat mistakes

He said some of the biggest mistakes people made was not pulling straps tight enough to secure the carrier in place, and not attaching belts to the Isofix - an international standard attachment point - in the car.

“They put the seatbelt across and think ‘it’s all fine’, but they’re never tight enough. Then they will give it a jiggle up the top and go ‘it’s all ok’ but when you do them properly, the base should be locked in tight and shouldn’t move at all,” Mr Hely said.

Child in car baby seat restraint as parents are warned about dangers of not securing them properly.
A baby strapped into a rear-facing restraint in the back seat of a car. Source: File/Getty Images

“In station wagons people will clip the belts into cargo barriers instead of an Isofix, which sometimes has to be installed in the car before a seat can be put in.”

He said in the event of an accident, an incorrectly installed baby seat would not protect the child, leaving them at risk of serious injury or in the worst case, death.

Professional installation

“We can’t stress enough to parents that they need to be installed by a technician that’s certified, and the installation needs to be certified for them,” Mr Hely said.

“It is an added expense, but we’re talking about priceless cargo.”

Kidsafe NSW executive officer Christine Erskine told Yahoo News Australia there were nationally consistent guidelines in place when it came to ensuring the safety of children in carrier seats.

“We strongly recommend parents have their baby seats installed by an authorised fitter, however there is no law that says they have to,” Ms Erskine said.

“It’s best practice to have the seat checked by a professional before using it, but there are now some very informative videos on YouTube produced by manufacturers to take people through the correct installation.”

Child asleep in car booster seat as parents are warned about dangers of improper car restraints.
A sleeping traveller propped up on a booster seat. Source: File/Getty Images

National legal requirements

Up to the age of six months, children must be secured in an approved rear facing carrier, and over six months to four years, they need to be in a rear or front-facing restraint with an inbuilt harness.

Children aged under four years are not allowed to travel in the front seat of a vehicle with two or more rows.

Kids aged four to seven must be secured in a forward facing approved child restraint, with an inbuilt harness or an approved booster seat. They cannot travel in the front seat with two or more rows, unless all other back seats are occupied by children younger than seven years in an approved child restraint or booster seat

Children between seven and 16, who are too small to be restrained by a seatbelt properly adjusted and fastened, are strongly recommended to use an approved booster seat

Transport NSW graphic of age-appropriate child car seat restraints.
Graphic depicting a guideline on age-appropriate child car restraints. Source: Transport NSW

Kids 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.

Children too small for the child restraint specified for their age should be kept in their current child restraint until it is safe for them to move to the next level.

Those that are too large for the child restraint specified for their age may move to the next level of child restraint.

infringements can be issued to drivers if the child restraint in their vehicle is not correctly fitted.

When to move kids to a regular car seat

The minimum suggested height for children to move out of a booster seat and into the regular car seat is 145 centimetres.

A five-step process has also been developed by parenting website Raising Children to help parents determine when their child is ready to graduate out of a restraint and into a regular car seat.

Baby pictured in car seat in vehicle as parents are warned of baby seat dangers.
Babies like this one need to be restrained in an approved rear-facing child car seat. Source: File/Getty Images

If kids can sit with their backs firmly against the seat back, bend their knees comfortably over the front of the seat cushion and sit with the sash belt across their mid-shoulder, they are ready for an adult seatbelt.

They should also be able to sit with the lap belt across the top of their thighs and stay in that position for an entire car trip.

Restraint laws when travelling by taxi or bus

When taking a taxi, children can travel without an appropriate child restraint if there are none available, but must sit on an adults lap on a back set if they are under the age of one.

Kids older than one and younger than seven must sit in the back unless those seats are already occupied by children under the age of seven.

If no appropriate child restraint is available, they must be restrained by a seatbelt that is properly adjusted and fastened as best as possible.

Children younger than one in NSW must use a child restraint or booster seat when travelling in a taxi.

People younger than 16 don’t legally need to use child restraints or booster seats in buses, but it’s recommended they do.

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