Adelaidean - News from the University of Adelaide The University of Adelaide Australia
July 2007 Issue
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Age indicator for child restraints

 Automotive Safety

Proposals to introduce new national standards for child restraints in cars had their genesis at the University of Adelaide - and the timing was perfect.

Earlier this year the Deputy Director of the University's Centre for Automotive Safety Research (CASR), Dr Robert Anderson, helped prepare a report for the National Transport Commission (NTC) examining current and proposed amendments to the Australian Road Rules.

Some professionals in the area were advocating the inclusion of weight and height guidelines in the proposal in some form, until Dr Anderson threw a new report into the mix.

With colleagues Paul Hutchison and Sally Edwards he had just completed a study that strongly recommended age-based rules be adopted and used to influence future design standards.

The NTC did further analysis then released draft laws which would require children to be restrained in a rearward facing capsule up to six months of age, then a forward facing child seat until four years and a booster seat until seven. The public was given until the end of June to comment.

The proposal is significant because it is age-based and because it would require special restraints up to the age of seven. Current laws are less specific and, according to Dr Anderson, "were being misinterpreted as saying that it is not illegal to restrain a child over the age of one with an ordinary adult seat belt".

The CASR research, which is still awaiting publication, made two main findings.

The first was that many parents did not know a child's height and weight, or simply got them wrong, and often were confused about when the child would outgrow a restraint or booster seat. Consequently, a survey found 28% of children under six were in inappropriate restraints for their size.

The important second finding was that age-based rules could be adopted without changes to existing restraints because current Australian standards require significant overlap between restraints. A forward facing child seat must be rated up to 18kg (though tested for more), for example, but the next type of restraint (booster seat) must be suitable from 14kg.

"That means that age-based rules will work even though not all children are the same size at the same age," Dr Anderson said.

Story by Nick Carne

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University research recommends age-based rules for child car seats
Photo by David Ellis

University research recommends age-based rules for child car seats
Photo by David Ellis

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