Restraints are one of those things that look easy but are in fact surprisingly tricky, rather like baking something presentable for the school fete. Here are some useful tips:
STEP 1: KNOW THE LAWS.
Essentially, babies must be rearward facing until minimum 6 months, then in a seat with an internal harness until minimum 4 years, and then boosted or harnessed until minimum 7 years. However, the child restraint regulations were federalised back in 2010, and things have changed significantly since then. Ideally, you would keep your child rear facing for 1-2 years, then keep them harnessed to 7-8 years, and then boosted until they reach 145cms in height. There are exceptions – see Step 6.
STEP 2: SEAT OR CARRIER/CAPSULE?
This is a personal preference. It is cheaper to go straight to a seat, although using a carrier allows parents greater mobility during sleep times. This is indescribably useful if there are older siblings with commitments such as school or activities. Capsules and carriers can be rented for about 1/3 the cost of buying, and this saves both money and storage space – see Step 6.
STEP 3: CAPSULE + 0-4 SEAT VERSUS CAPSULE + 6m-8yrs SEAT?
The decision here is whether to buy an infant (0-4) seat when you have grown out of the capsule, or go straight from a capsule to a 6m-8yrs seat. Our very strong recommendation would be to have an infant (0-4) seat, because this will allow your child to rear face for another year or more, in line with current recommendations. If you are lucky enough to have a second child, then you might purchase a 6m-8yrs harnessed seat for the older child, and swing their infant seat back around to rear face for the baby. This way you have a logical progression of seats for the kids to work their way through.
STEP 4: WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A SEAT?
It must fit in the car. Sounds obvious, right? But do you know how big your family will be? How many and where are your anchor points? How practical is third row access? Will your restraints need to come in and out of the car? All of these issues will affect your choice of seat, and are why good advice really is priceless at this point – see Step 6.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind. Are the harness straps height adjustable from the front, or does the seat have to come in and out of the car each time? I would really recommend the former kind. Does the seat have added side impact protection that looks like a helmet inside the frame? I would also recommend this if possible. Does it have a Aus/NZ standards sticker on it? Australian safety regulations are stricter than almost anywhere in the world, and seats are more stringently tested here. Most European seats have had to add safety features such as side wings and tether straps before they can be sold here. Also look for a seat that can be rearward facing for at least one year.
STEP 5: HOW MUCH TO SPEND?
Within reason – as much as you can afford. However, there is no point in having an expensive seat if you are not using it correctly, every trip. Would you buy your own seatbelt at Kmart? Keep in mind that this is the one purchase that could be called on to save a life. Again, good advice is what you need here – see Step 6.
STEP 6: PEARCE’S CHILD RESTRAINTS
We have installed over 70,000 seats in the last 13 years. We know seats. We sell seats. We rent seats. Carriers and capsules too, including short term holiday rentals. Best of all, we love what we do. Come and see us, we know what we’re talking about!