Monday 13 February 2012

Riding High

OK - let me start by saying this is one of those parenting issues that polarises - much like the dummy, breastfeeding and controlled crying debates.

People tend to have very strong opinions on this topic, being either for or against.

The difference in this scenario - is that it's actually governed by law, and what you may consider is your personal choice - is in fact not.

In case you hadn't worked it out by the pictures - I'm talking about child car restraints.
Capsules, convertible car seats, boosters seats whatever is age appropriate for your child.

Do you want to your family to be treated like crash-test dummies??

I am very much for the appropriate and lawful use of child restraints.

A number of years ago I read this article - about the death of a little girl who was in a booster seat with an adult belt, in a very basic car accident.
Since that day I vowed to fit and correctly use the most appropriate restraints for our children, something her parents believed they were doing at the time.

Currently, in the state of Victoria, children must be restrained in a booster seat until they are either seven years old or 145cm tall.
That's the law.
Having two very tall nearly-six-year-olds - I can say that it probably doesn't happen too often that any child under seven would not require a restraint.

I've copped some criticism about this over the years.
Here are a few examples:
"Why do you put them in a booster - they're so tall - they must be as tall as a seven year old."
Yes, they are as tall, but their musculo-skeletal development is not that of a seven year old - you can see this if you watch them walk and run - they're like big puppies for want of a better description.
They're tall but not strong, and the law is clear on height and age being different - they must reach one of those two criteria.

"Oh when my kids were small we never bothered and they were all fine - just don't worry about it."
My parents put me on the back seat in a bassinette - with no seatbelt - that was the law then - they were doing nothing wrong.
Would you do that now?
Laws and safety regulations change all the time - with good reason; namely research and testing.
Think about seat belts, air bags and impact protection zones in cars - all very different to a few decades ago.

Have your restraints properly fitted by a professional
Yes it does make it hard when people want to have your child travel with theirs for fun - or are offering to help you out in some way having your kids over to their house to play.

I've had friends roll their eyes at me when I say that I can't simply transfer my seats into their car because after they have been professionally fitted I don't move them - only make appropriate adjustments to ensure the restraint is operating as when it was fitted.

It's not just babies that need restraints!

On a number of occasions I have allowed the girls to travel with someone else - against my gut feeling and based on peer-pressure, and every time I am filled with dread about what could happen.

Not because I don't trust the driver of the other car - but because there are others on the road who cause accidents and it can happen at any time.

And because if something happened, when I was knowingly not protecting my children to the best of my ability, I don't know if I could live with myself.

A few weeks back we had the next 'round' of car seats fitted.

I checked out the CREP (Child Restraint Evaluation Program) website and selected a seat that was good value and also very well reviewed.
The Infasecure Vario range.

Purchased two - brought them home and made an appointment with the mobile fitter.
He prepared to fit the two new ones and hand one of the existing Maxi-rider AHR seats we had down to Miss G - only to tell me that our kids were actually too tall for their new seats!

He gave us another to try, the Safe 'n' Sound Hi-Liner, apparently the tallest on the market and we were lucky that they fit.
Unfortunately for us they were $70 more expensive (each!) than the one we had hoped to use.
But they were the right ones.

So our girls are now riding high.
They can see out the windows.
They are comfortable.
Their seat belts fit them appropriately.
They have two cupholders each!

But most importantly - THEY ARE SAFE.

I am at a loss as to why anyone would not appropriately and lawfully restrain their children.

Sure it takes more time to get them all strapped in than letting them throw a seatbelt around themselves.

Yes it costs a bit of money - but look at all the things you spend money on and then decide if any, or all, of those items are more important than the safety of your child.
That's really what it comes down to.


Sweden has an amazing record of child safety compared to Australia.
Children ride rear-facing until four years of age.
Read about it here.

When random testing of the fitting of restraints was done by the RACV, they found 9 out of 10 car restraints were incorrectly fitted, thus diminishing their effectiveness.
The one in ten fitted correctly was done by a professional at a fitting station.

You don't need to leave home to get your seats fitted.
The link above is to Peter of Car Safe Kids and if you are in Melbourne and need a seat fitted give him a call.
Polite, professional and a wealth of information; he will come to your home or workplace and fit your restraints.

The requirements for your child will alter as they grow.
Miss G, while only 3.5 years old, is over 18kg (yep she's a tall one too!) and so cannot use her seat's in-built five-point harness, as it only caters up to 18kg.
Peter was able to advise what was appropriate for her and she is now in an H-harness/lap-belt combo with submarine clip.

Booster seats are not things you sit on the seat just under your child's backside so they can see out the window.
They are tethered to the car at the top and when not is use should be 'belted' in so they don't whip-up from the base in an accident.

OK - rant over.
I guess you know how I feel about this one.

What are the regulations where you live??
What's your perspective??
I'd love to hear from you whether you agree or disagree with me; healthy debate is always good in my opinion.


Margaret said...

Mentioning buses makes me think of Taxis. We rarely caught a taxi when we lived in Melbourne but I was astounded that you were unable to get a car seat in a standard taxi even if you prebooked. Here the same car seat laws apply for taxis as cars so with three kids we pretty much can't use them. When we go away on the trains my husband takes luggage in the taxi and I take kids on tram. Safer for all.

donna said...

I am with you Karen. My kids use the hi-liner. We have 4 - 2 in each car. My little girl turns 7 in a few months and she knows (from her friends) that she doesn't have to sit in a booster from then. She is average height and is slowly growing out of the seat. Not the back height but the seat part (thigh length). On long trips she does become quite uncomfortable.

Unknown said...

Karen you would shudder if you saw the roads here. There are NO LAWS about carseats so kids ride where ever they like. Often I have seen guys driving around with kids on their laps. You must wear a beslt in the front but that's the only law. If you saw the road statistics you would die, it's horrific. Just don't get me started.

Peta @ Pippiwillow said...

Continue to do what you know is right and safe and LAW. I have seen some horiffic injuries that children have sustained in motor vehicle accidents due to incorrect restraints/seating/ 6 & 4 yr olds are tall - they are in hi liners & much to their nan/Pa's confusion & very vocal opinion---they will stay in them until they are of suitable age wt height & physiological development to use the normal seat...

Jacinta said...

I don't have kids, but I am often astounded at kids in cars without restraint and arms out windows. Safety is surely number one, and thankfully the laws are tougher now - with good reason. Good for you for sticking to your beliefs, it might be all very well for friends to say "my kids were fine" as long as nothing ever went wrong.
Gone are the days of sleeping in the back of the station wagon on the road trip from Melbourne to QLD!

Judith said...

I am so pleased to read this post. I'm so so with you.
I have a 6 and a 7year old both with tall for age. More like 8 and 9 in size. However both are in seats like that you have shown. Mine are adjustable height so grow with them.
If I as mum can protect them in anyway I will. These seats provide so much more protection than just a booster.
Like you, I could not live with myself if I had not done my best to keep them safe in the car.
You see so many kids just jump in the car and not even put a belt on. And other parents who are happy to use their kids as air bags riding along with them on their laps. Mindless.
Children are a miracle and a gift, protect them as only you can.x

Kylie said...

We just bought the kids new seats too Karen. (the same as these ones) I am with you - I am happy to take Amelia to a friends place.
I have told Amelia that she will be in a seat until she is the right height:) Being that she will be 7 in September and only 105cm tall she might be in a normal seat by the time I let her go and get her license.